Update patches cause reboots in newer processing chips, too

EnlargeSimon Smith

Intel has revealed that even its newer CPUs are affected by the frequent reboot problems brought about by the Spectre/Meltdown patches. Thankfully, Intel VP Navin Shenoy said that they're close to identifying the problem's root issue.

While Intel says it has patched the exploits in 90 percent of the processors it has introduced in the last five years, it's clear there are still reliability issues affecting those processors. "But we have more work to do".

Patching: Performance ImpactTested: Server platforms running two-socket Intel Xeon Scalable systems (code-named Skylake), which is Intel's latest server microarchitecture.

The firmware updates do protect Intel chips against potential Spectre attacks, but machines with Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and Kaby Lake architecture processors are rebooting more frequently once the firmware has been updated, Intel said.

Intel and ARM insisted that the issue was not a design flaw, but it will require users to download a patch and update their operating system to fix. This means that the performance impact is far from a settled matter. The company tested Linpack, Stream, server-side Java, and raw integer and floating-point throughput-tests that it says are representative of common workloads for enterprise and cloud customers.

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Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is not as insulated from the recent central processing unit (CPU) security flaw debacle, as the CPU manufacturer is now facing two class action lawsuits like its competitor Intel.

And, while Intel's data centre tests replicating a stock exchange scenario show a performance slowdown of 4%, different scenarios can induce a considerably more significant slowdown.

There is a large variance in the fix's impact on data-storage systems depending on CPU utilization and other factors, such as the read-write mix, block size, and drives. After it was forced to acknowledge the flaws ahead of schedule, Intel insisted in a January 4th press release that "Industry Testing Shows Recently Released Security Updates Not Impacting Performance in Real-World Deployments". Using SPDK iSCSI, we saw as much as a 25% impact while using only a single core.

Shenoy highlighted Google's software-based Retpoline fix for the Variant 2 attack as another mitigation that "could yield less impact".

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