According to Intel, SDSi is designed to activate additional silicon features after a processor has been deployed, and for the time being at least, is meant for the upcoming Xeon processors (opens in new tab).
“Intel Software Defined Silicon (SDSi) is a post manufacturing mechanism for activating additional silicon features. Features are enabled through a license activation process,” wrote (opens in new tab) Intel engineer David E. Box as he put out the patch for review.
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Parsing through the patch, Tom’s Hardware notes that the patch does not mention any specific features it will help unlock, and only gives a general overview of the post-deployment feature-enablement mechanism.
Been there, done that
Interestingly, while SDSi seems to be a major initiative, Tom’s suggests it isn’t Intel’s first attempt at offering software upgrades to its processors.
One example is Intel's Virtual RAID on CPU (Intel VROC (opens in new tab)) technology, which banks on the Intel Volume Management Device (VMD) hardware built into the CPU, and is designed to be activated using a special key.
Phoronix chimes in (opens in new tab) to add that Intel tried a similar approach to offer software upgrades to its hardware with the Intel Upgrade Service about a decade ago, which never offered Linux support and eventually fizzled out.
The patch isn’t of much help either, since all it does currently is to lay the groundwork for the authentication process for SDSi, and doesn't expose what Intel may pursue in regards to the feature upgrades.
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Via Tom’s Hardware (opens in new tab)