Intel has revealed plans to ship its mysterious software-defined silicon plans in the next version of the Linux kernel.
The existence of software-defined silicon (SDSI) emerged in October 2021 when Intel staffers posted on the Linux Kernel mailing list advice on new features that would allow users to purchase licenses that enable the capabilities physically present in the processors, but which are not available. to use out of the box.
Intel then updated its SDSI code, but kept quiet about all of its capabilities, said nothing about what processors it would work with, and even suggested it might not be tied to an actual product.
The register never found this position believable: Linux kernel maintainers don’t like unwanted code being pushed into the project, and SDSI is too complex and enticing an idea to be an Intel thought bubble.
Last week, those arguments got harder to believe with a new Publish to the Linux kernel mailing list in which Red Hat staffer Hans de Goede reported that the IBM subsidiary had reviewed SDSI and intended to add it to the Linux kernel “before the merge window 5.18”. The message was addressed to the folks at Intel and the Linux Foundation.
Linux 5.18 is next off the production line: 5.17 reached the fourth release candidate this week, with Linux overlord Linus Torvalds writing the new version looks “pretty normal”. That means another three or four more build candidates, and the merge window for 5.18 will open in March and probably start in May or June.
With SDSI therefore likely to be present in Linux in the first half of 2022, we’re back to speculating what Intel silicon might be software defined. We know that Intel plans to bring its Alder Lake technology – which mixes different types of cores on a single die – to its Xeon processors for servers. Xeons with unused cores that could be activated to upgrade a processor permanently, or on demand to handle burst workloads, certainly have appeal. The same goes for occasional access to CPU features meant for particular workloads like AI that organizations may not be running every day, or all day.
The register again asked Intel to say more about SDSI. If Chipzilla is willing to offer meaningful information, we will report it. ®