Intel Finalizes 'Intel on Demand' Pay-As-You-Go Mechanism for CPUs

Sapphire Rapids
(Image credit: Intel)

This week, Intel revealed additional details about its Software Defined Silicon (SDSi) capability of its next-generation Xeon Scalable processors and the official brand name of this technology. The tech will unassumingly sport the 'Intel On Demand' moniker and allow system administrators to pay extra to enable special-purpose accelerators integrated into Intel's 4th Generation Xeon Scalable 'Sapphire Rapids' processors.

Intel this week released updates to SDSi patches (opens in new tab) merged in Linux 5.18 that reveal more details about this feature than the patches themselves, reports Phoronix (opens in new tab). The software that will enable specific built-in acceleration capabilities of Intel's 4th Generation Xeon Scalable Sapphire Rapids (opens in new tab) CPUs (and probably their successors) will be called Intel On Demand, and it will do the following:

  • Discover which features are physically present on a particular CPU.
  • Offer administrators to activate them.
  • Enable administrators to assess how often the feature is used.

The main intrigue about the Intel On Demand mechanism remains a mystery — we do not know which features Intel will allow for turning on post-purchase. However, we understand that Intel's Sapphire Rapids has several specific acceleration technologies. The list includes Advanced Matrix Extensions (AMX), Dynamic Load Balancer (DLB), Intel Data Streaming Accelerator (DSA), Intel In-Memory Analytics Accelerator (IAA), and Intel QuickAssist Technology (QAT) to accelerate specific workloads.

From previously uncovered beans about Intel's SDSi, or Intel On Demand if you prefer, we already know that the program enables access to the interface in the CPU to allow silicon features with an Authentication Key Certificate (AKC) and Capability Activation Payload (CAP) license. We also know that the program allows us to enable the specific feature on a particular CPU socket, not across all processors in the system or the data center itself.

Meanwhile, the fact that the software will need to discover which capabilities are physically supported by a processor and hide those not supported means that not all Intel Xeon Scalable 'Sapphire Rapids' processors will be created equal. Some CPU models may not gain support for certain features even by using Intel On Demand software.

Not all users will require AMX, DLB, DSA, IAA, and QAT at once. But which will be enabled by default on all SKUs and which will have to be activated using the IOD software is something that Intel will probably reveal on January 10, when it launches its next-generation Xeon Scalable CPUs officially.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • Math Geek
    so intel figured out a way to bring subscriptions to the cpu world.

    DIAF!!!!!

    they have always price gouged on enterprise level stuff and now they want to price gouge and then make you pay to use what you already purchased.

    again DIAF!!!!!
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    Ah, the happy days of having to juggle the features that are stock vs the features that are in-silicon but pay-walled vs the features that will require you to toss your current CPU for another one.

    Math Geek said:
    so intel figured out a way to bring subscriptions to the cpu world.
    This isn't Intel's first go at it, they tried it 10+ years ago too.
    Reply
  • punkncat
    @Math Geek if someone out there could figure a way to make subscription only air, they would. This should come as no surprise.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    They finally finalized their notes from the Oracle sales pitch.
    Reply
  • Eximo
    Interesting to see if the legislation against vehicle hardware subscriptions would apply here. Hopefully New Jersey succeeds in passing their bill and other states follow.

    Didn't they also have a physical license for a motherboard feature not too long ago? RAID license keys is popping up for the early 2000s, but I recall something more recent.
    Reply
  • Math Geek
    AMD is already taking market share away from intel in server world. does not take a genius to see how AMD could take advantage of this and gain some more.

    but sadly, they'll probably follow along until it steamrolls down to consumer products. want that extra 20 mb of juicy L3 cache?? yah that'll be $20 a month.....

    again DIAF!!!
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    This isn't what the hardware industry needs.

    Who's the bean counter who thought of this, we need to Tar & Feather him.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    I hope this pricing structure blows up in Intel's face. It's so wasteful of silicon during a "supply chain crisis", and frankly immoral. Unpatriotic. It's cynical, anti-customer, evil.
    Intel charges you to buy perfectly a perfectly working chip, and then wants to charge "infinite money forever" to use the thing you bought and own.
    What's worse is that if Intel can enable features at will, it means two additional things: They can remotely access bare-metal control of your hardware, and they have the capability to disable features at will. It's hardware-enabled blackmail. Maybe we trust intel to never-ever steal data, raise prices, recall features, prevent people from buying CPUs used, or to brick old systems entirely .... But if Intel is building themselves a backdoor, then it won't be long until (more) malicious parties find a way to use it for (more) evil.

    This is a prime example of why we need to fix property laws and get "Right to Own" laws in place before there is any point in fighting for "Right to Repair". We should fix anti-trust and truth-in-advertising laws while we're at it.
    We shouldn't be spending tax dollars to build foundries for Intel if they are just going to abuse their monopoly and take advantage of their customers like this.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    Giroro said:
    I hope this pricing structure blows up in Intel's face. It's so wasteful of silicon during a "supply chain crisis", and frankly immoral. Unpatriotic. It's cynical, anti-customer, evil.
    Intel charges you to buy perfectly a perfectly working chip, and then wants to charge "infinite money forever" to use the thing you bought and own.
    I'm pretty sure the vast majority of lower-end CPUs and GPUs that share dies with higher-end models sold over the past 20+ years have fully functional dies too and are being fused off or otherwise locked strictly for artificial market segmentation and profit maximization purposes. The only difference here is that you may be able to turn some of the disabled features that would still be in-silicon either way back on.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    InvalidError said:
    I'm pretty sure the vast majority of lower-end CPUs and GPUs that share dies with higher-end models sold over the past 20+ years have fully functional dies too and are being fused off or otherwise locked strictly for artificial market segmentation and profit maximization purposes. The only difference here is that you may be able to turn some of the disabled features that would still be in-silicon either way back on.
    486 DX and SX.
    Reply