Intel Tries And Then Backtracks On Restricting Benchmarking Of CPU Fixes

Since the Spectre and Meltdown CPU flaws first became public, Intel has been on the case to fix them. The thing is their fixes have the effect of slowing down the CPU’s ability to process data, and various people and media outlets have documented that. And it appears that Intel is none too pleased about that because thanks to a reader who tipped me off about this, they tried to restrict benchmarking of their fixes:

Intel is updating its loadable CPU microcode to handle various side-channel and timing attacks. There is a new license term applied to the new microcode:

You will not, and will not allow any third party to (i) use, copy, distribute, sell or offer to sell the Software or associated documentation; (ii) modify, adapt, enhance, disassemble, decompile, reverse engineer, change or create derivative works from the Software except and only to the extent as specifically required by mandatory applicable laws or any applicable third party license terms accompanying the Software; (iii) use or make the Software available for the use or benefit of third parties; or (iv) use the Software on Your products other than those that include the Intel hardware product(s), platform(s), or software identified in the Software; or (v) publish or provide any Software benchmark or comparison test results.

Since the microcode is running for every instruction, this seems to be a use restriction on the entire processor. Don’t run your benchmarker at all, not even on your own software, if you “provide” or publish the results.

I say tried because once this became public, there was an epic backlash as one would expect. That forced the CPU giant to go into damage control mode via Imad Sousou, the GM of Intel’s Open-Source Technology Center:

Well at least they listened and took action quickly. But one has to wonder why they even tried to do this in the first place as you would have to imagine that this was going to be the outcome 100 times out of 100. I guess that the fact that their CPUs take a performance hit to some degree or another because of these fixes is a really touchy subject over at Intel.


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