Intel Software Defined Silicon: Upgradeable Processors Might Return

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Intel Software Defined Silicon: Upgradeable Processors Might Return

Image: Intel

Intel already tried to upgrade CPUs to a higher model with a new product key, but that was more than ten years ago. Now it seems to be coming back, both in Linux first patches are included, parallel to this was a GitHub repository created to clarify further questions in this regard.

Intel SDSi for Xeon processors

Intel Software Defined Silicon (SDSi) is the name of the new program. It allows the activation of additional CPU features after entering a key. What exactly this can include has not yet been precisely defined, but the possibilities seem quite large. Many scenarios are conceivable, from activating idle caches to more clock speed and cores with increased TDP. This time, however, Intel has chosen the Xeon product family for professional users as the first solution and is thus taking a different path than it was a decade ago.

Intel Software Defined Silicon (SDSi) IIntel Software Defined Silicon (SDSi) (Image: Intel)

The subject is not entirely new. In 2010 and 2011, Intel made several attempts in this direction, and at the time the focus was primarily on the in-house entry-level processors.

In the first run, the Pentium G6951 was upgraded to the Pentium G6952 with more cache and Hyper-Threading using an upgrade card at a price of 50 US dollars.

In the following year, four processors followed with a similar procedure, now it was the turn of the Pentium and Intel Core i3 in the desktop and notebook. But that should be the last endeavor in this direction for the time being. After that it became quiet about the topic.

Upgrade card in stores Upgrade card in stores Intel upgrade also for Core i3 Intel upgrade also for Core i3

Intel has not yet officially attempted this with server processors, but the possibilities could go even further here. The purchase of a basic model and then also the activation of not only cores, cache and clock, but also additional features could have a far greater impact here.

Special models and custom SKUs

Now the CPU manufacturers AMD and Intel often have special models in their portfolio with a maximum cache with a few cores or a very high clock with only a few cores as a counterpart to the maximum configuration with a lower clock, such models would be suitable, for example.

Many custom SKUs that Intel produces for large manufacturers are ultimately just more or less strongly adapted normal models in terms of clock rate, number of cores and TDP, which could also be solved via such a service with certain parameters. The basis would always be that the CPU die is the same in its environment. It will be interesting to see how this will ultimately be implemented.

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