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Software Defined Silicon is Coming

Intel Xeon On Demand

Intel has launched Intel On Demand for its Xeon Scalable Sapphire Rapids processors. This billing method allows Intel to reduce the range of chips they sell but still provide a wide range of capabilities. The billing method also allows users to upgrade machines without the need to replace hardware.

Intel’s new 4th Generation Scalable Sapphire Rapids processors have capabilities that not all users need all the time. Instead of selling a range of chips for a variety of user needs, Intel can use software to offer one chip with capabilities disabled until users activate them.

This licensing mechanism has been dubbed Software Defined Silicon (SDSi). The capabilities and services that Intel plan to make available on demand include:

  • Software Guard Extensions
  • Dynamic Load Balancer (DLB)
  • Intel Data Streaming Accelerator (DSA)
  • Intel In-Memory Analytics Accelerator (IAA)
  • Intel In-Memory Analytics Accelerator
  • Intel QuickAssist Technology (QAT)

Intel On Demand comes in two models. The activation model allows you to unlock features such as security upgrades, storage capabilities, and analytics with a one-off payment, and the consumption model allows users to use these capabilities as and when needed.

Pay-As-You-Go for Non-Consumer Markets

Intel On Demand is currently aimed at the non-consumer market for servers and is offered through partners GreenLake, Lenovo TruScale, and PhoenixNAP’s Bare Metal Cloud. Lisa Spelman Corporate Vice President and General Manager Intel Xeon Products said:

4th Gen will be a great testing ground for Software Defined Silicon and we’ll see more and more use-cases start to get deployed. We’ll look to ramp Software Defined Silicone heavier in our next generation.

Although Intel On Demand is currently used only for Xeon products in the non-consumer market, with the growing Everything as a Service (XaaS) industry, it might not be long before Software Defined Silicon becomes part of everyday consumer products.

Plus, it’s not the first time Intel has used a subscription-based purchasing model. In 2010, Intel introduced the Intel Upgrade Service for Pentium G6951 processors.

For an added fee, users could have an extra megabyte of cache and hyper-threading. However, the upgrade service met criticism due to inefficient pricing and ethics — it was discontinued in 2011.

While the tech world has concerns about how Software Defined Silicon will shape the consumer landscape, Intel stress that SDSi is aimed at helping customers. At Intel Vision 2022 Pat Gelsinger Intel CEO said:

We are excited to share how we are applying our scale, resources and the magic of silicon, software and services to help customers and partners accelerate digital transformations in this complex environment.

James Capell

Technical editor and journalist. I have a particularly strong interest in NLP, AI ethics and cyber crime. Not too fond of cats.