Intel admits Spectre patch problems also affect newer Core chips

The chipmaker said it's working on a fix for its buggy Spectre/Meltdown patches.


Intel has revealed that even its newer CPUs are affected by the frequent reboot problems brought about by the Spectre/Meltdown patches. The chipmaker previously said that the reboot issue affects systems running Broadwell and Haswell. Now that it has managed to reproduce the problem internally in an effort to fix it, the company found that a similar behavior can occur in platforms powered by Skylake and Kaby Lake, which are newer than Haswell and Broadwell. Ivy Bridge- and Sandy Bridge-based systems, both older cores, are also susceptible to the bug. Thankfully, Intel VP Navin Shenoy said that they're close to identifying the problem's root issue. "In parallel," he added, "we will be providing beta microcode to vendors for validation by next week."

Shenoy also discussed how the Spectre and Meltdown fixes will affect servers, staying true to Intel's promise to be more transparent. He revealed the initial data the company got from benchmarking server platforms using two-socket Intel Xeon Scalable -- its latest microarchitecture -- systems. It found that the fixes don't affect servers' energy efficiency and it didn't detect a slowdown when running Java business applications. However, it detected minimal impact of around 2 to 4 percent in some cases and saw significant slowdowns when it ran tests simulating different types of input/output (I/O) loads.

When it stressed the CPU to use 100 percent of its power to read data, it didn't see a decrease in speed. But when it tasked the system to use 100 percent of its power to write data, its speed decreased by a whopping 18 percent. In addition, when the company tested the system using tools for writing high performance, scalable, user-mode storage applications, it saw a 25 percent decrease in speed when only using a single core.

Intel says it's working with partners and customers to address the areas where it saw significant slowdowns. One of the options it's looking at is Retpoline, the technique a Google engineer conjured up to protect the tech titan's systems from the second variant of Spectre without affecting performance.