Thursday, August 23rd 2018

Intel Gags Customers from Publishing Performance Impact of Microcode Updates

Much of the secret sauce that made Intel processors faster than AMD is going sour, as the cybersecurity community is finding gaping security vulnerabilities by exploiting features such as speculative execution. Intel's microcode updates that mitigate these vulnerabilities impact performance. Intel isn't too happy about public performance numbers put out by its customers, which it fears could blunt the competitive edge of its products. The company has hence updated the license terms governing the microcode update distribution to explicitly forbid its users from publishing comparative "before/after" performance numbers of patched processors.

The updated license for the microcode update has this controversial sentence (pay attention to "v"):
"You will not, and will not allow any third party to (i) use, copy, distribute, sell or offer to sell the Software or associated documentation; (ii) modify, adapt, enhance, disassemble, decompile, reverse engineer, change or create derivative works from the Software except and only to the extent as specifically required by mandatory applicable laws or any applicable third party license terms accompanying the Software; (iii) use or make the Software available for the use or benefit of third parties; or (iv) use the Software on Your products other than those that include the Intel hardware product(s), platform(s), or software identified in the Software; or (v) publish or provide any Software benchmark or comparison test results."
Some of Intel's biggest enterprise customers are cloud computing providers such as AWS, Microsoft, and Google, who have made it their duty to keep their customers informed about the performance impact of microcode updated processors, since it impacts their cost/performance when the scale is big enough. This gag is both unethical, and probably even illegal. Source: Bruce Perens (Blog)
Add your own comment

78 Comments on Intel Gags Customers from Publishing Performance Impact of Microcode Updates

#1
Axaion
Well i guess this also kind of confirms that their "new" CPUs will have the exact same issues as the current ones.

Please save us, AMD.
Posted on Reply
#2
GoldenX
Heh, talk about being mediocre.
Posted on Reply
#3
Durvelle27
Just the same ole Intel shenanigans
Posted on Reply
#4
mcraygsx
"Axaion said:
Well i guess this also kind of confirms that their "new" CPUs will have the exact same issues as the current ones.

Please save us, AMD.
Never thought I would see this day when INTEL start to gang order its own customers.
Posted on Reply
#5
hat
Enthusiast
Incoming lawsuit detected. Impact in 3, 2...
Posted on Reply
#6
Zubasa
"mcraygsx said:
Never thought I would see this day when INTEL start to gang order its own customers.
This is the type of things that Intel have been known to do for a long time.
Posted on Reply
#7
Durvelle27
"Zubasa said:
This is the type of things that Intel have been known to do for a long time.
Over a decade to be exact
Posted on Reply
#8
R0H1T
FU Intel & good luck trying to enforce this anywhere outside the US, in the US Intel would even get away with the proverbial murder.
Posted on Reply
#9
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
"R0H1T said:
FU Intel & good luck trying to enforce this anywhere outside the US, in the US Intel would get away even with the proverbial murder.
I think this is targeted more at big cloud companies like AWS, Alibaba, Google, MS Azure, etc., who constantly keep posting performance numbers for each BIOS/microcode/driver update so their downstream customers can take update decisions. Intel worries those downstreamers will go "fuck it" and order EPYC. It takes mere hours make your cloud provider move your entire multi-billion-dollar business from a Xeon-powered service to an EPYC-powered one.
Posted on Reply
#10
Zubasa
"btarunr said:
I think this is targeted more at big companies like AWS, Alibaba, Google, MS Azure, etc., who constantly keep posting performance numbers for each BIOS/microcode/driver update so their downstream customers can take update decisions. Intel worries those downstreamers will go "fuck it" and order EPYC. It takes mere hours to move your entire multi-billion-dollar business from a Xeon-powered service to an EPYC-powered one.
Didn't Microsoft already ordered EPYC?
Posted on Reply
#11
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
"Zubasa said:
Didn't Microsoft already ordered EPYC?
I think all cloud providers offer EPYC.
Posted on Reply
#12
R0H1T
"btarunr said:
I think this is targeted more at big cloud companies like AWS, Alibaba, Google, MS Azure, etc., who constantly keep posting performance numbers for each BIOS/microcode/driver update so their downstream customers can take update decisions. Intel worries those downstreamers will go "fuck it" and order EPYC. It takes mere hours to move your entire multi-billion-dollar business from a Xeon-powered service to an EPYC-powered one.
Even then it will be hard(er) to enforce outside the US, at least it should be. And if it's not, then someone should just leak server benchmarks to reddit or pastebin.
There's no reason why the performance impact should not be visible to everyone, it's like Intel owns us now!
Posted on Reply
#13
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
"R0H1T said:
Even then it will be hard(er) to enforce outside the US, at least it should be. And if it's not, then someone should just leak server benchmarks to reddit or pastebin.
There's no reason why the performance impact should not be visible to everyone, it's like Intel owns us now!
IT managers will just look up benchmarks from third-party tech-sites like Tom's IT Pro or Phoronix, instead of numbers from their cloud providers. Cloud providers stay strictly legal with Intel, because they each have their own special volume pricing. So in gagging them, Intel may have shot itself in the foot. Now decisions will be made on performance numbers from more trustworthy sources.
Posted on Reply
#14
R0H1T
"btarunr said:
Cloud providers stay strictly legal with Intel, because they each have their own special volume pricing.

When you play at that level you must comply with every law and every license term, everywhere.
I'm not talking about big data or cloud per se, the updated ToS also seems to target individuals. So it'd be as if sites like TPU can't publish their own findings, I mean WTH?
Posted on Reply
#15
Prima.Vera
No way this is legal. Definitely the cannot put this stunt in Europe, or else they will get their arses screwed over by the EU commission.
Posted on Reply
#16
cyneater
Digs there own grave.
So now 1000 reviewers will do a review :P
It must be bad....
Posted on Reply
#17
3rold
This is typical Intel.
I feel sorry for my poor i5-2400. If this goes on, I'll have a Celeron at the end. :mad:
Posted on Reply
#18
R0H1T
btarunr Take a look at these for instance o_O

For companies like Google and Microsoft with the ability to get custom chips, and with custom schedulers that can ensure that VMs to not cross hyper-threading boundaries, this is something that can be relatively easily mitigated. For enterprise virtualization clouds, this may increase utilization of underutilized servers, and cause more server purchases in the future.

The more interesting impact is the average VPS provider. Very few users are running Linpack like workloads on VPS providers. For the average VPS provider without access to custom hardware and software, mitigation will mean turning off hyper-threading. These companies often run at a lower margin where seeing a 10-30% performance impact will kill their economic model. That means they will have to choose between turning off hyper-threading and mitigating L1TF / Foreshadow and keeping hyper-threading on to preserve their economic model. That is a dangerous wire to walk.
https://www.servethehome.com/intel-publishes-l1tf-and-foreshadow-performance-impacts/
Posted on Reply
#19
phanbuey
"Axaion said:
Well i guess this also kind of confirms that their "new" CPUs will have the exact same issues as the current ones.

Please save us, AMD.
ooooh they have... intel is screwed for 1.5 years at least. they do have some good peeps as of 2 months ago working on stuff so they will be back but zen is here to stay.
Posted on Reply
#20
Octopuss
This is a new low.
I hope someone sues them.
This is disgusting.
Posted on Reply
#21
c12038
That is unenforceable as that would impact on there own Benchmarks and lead to numerous claims for false advertising for a product that is flawed.

Plus most review sites will stay clear and teach Intel not to mess with the community and review sites who give the relevant information that helps consumers buy intel products
Posted on Reply
#22
bug
I'm not sure this is the smart thing to do with Zen breathing down their necks.
Withou that pressure it would still be a lousy thing to do. And btw, is this legal?
Posted on Reply
#23
Boosnie
Adding insult to injury, a few minutes ago Intel posted an additional modification to their EULA barring users from laying Intel CPUs empty boxes on the second shelf to the right of their monitor.
In case of breach they'll sue and lock user's drawer nearest to the floor.
Posted on Reply
#24
Vayra86
Things are really turning around in tech these days. AMD is just getting more and more opportunities to recover market share.

This move confirmed one thing for me: next build is red
Posted on Reply
#25
bug
"Vayra86 said:
Things are really turning around in tech these days. AMD is just getting more and more opportunities to recover market share.

This move confirmed one thing for me: next build is red
Ice Lake still has a chance to keep me in the blue camp, but the possibility gets slimmer and slimmer. Luckily I won't need to upgrade for a couple more years.
Posted on Reply
Add your own comment