Intel is working on a feature that will allow for software-based processor upgrades.

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Linux systems powered by Xeon processors are currently in the works.

This week, a patch was discovered that indicates Intel is working on a new feature that can lock silicon features behind software-based activation. However, it does not appear to be rolling out to the majority of Intel hardware used by mainstream consumers right now.

The patch notes refer to the new feature as “Intel Software Defined Silicon” (SDSi). It should allow for additional features of a piece of silicon to be enabled after it has already been manufactured. It’s entirely software-based, working through the activation of a license that the user might purchase. Additional documentation, including information about its operating system interface, is available on GitHub.

The patch notes don’t mention what specific features SDSi may add. However, it is currently limited to Linux systems. According to Phoronix, which discovered the patch, Intel only intends to implement SDSi in its Xeon processors for now.

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Phoronix compares this to a feature Intel tried to introduce to its Core processors around 2010 called Intel Upgrade Service. However, that didn’t last long and never made it to Linux. Tom’s Hardware compares the new feature to the more recent Intel Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC), which uses an Intel CPU’s Volume Management Device (VMD) and is activated with a hardware-based key.

SDSi could be Intel’s attempt to sell processors at a lower cost by removing features that some users do not require. Then, if users discover that they do require the extras, they may pay for a software licence to obtain them without having to purchase an entirely new processor.


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