Intel Gags Customers from Publishing Performance Impact of Microcode Updates

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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.

Intel Gags Customers from Publishing Performance Impact of Microcode Updates

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.

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