Going back to late last year Intel began working on a new Linux driver for “Software Defined Silicon” as a means of activating licensed hardware features akin to what they tried a decade ago with the “Intel Upgrade Service” for unlocking extra CPU features. The SDSi driver was merged in Linux 5.18 while this afternoon they sent out a rather sizable update to this controversial driver / hardware feature.
As I wrote back at the end of September, Software Defined Silicon is what Intel is now promoting as “Intel On Demand”. Indeed, with today’s patches to update the SDSi driver it has begun to adjust the naming from Software Defined Silicon to calling it Intel On Demand.
Intel confirmed at the Innovation event in September that their forthcoming Xeon Scalable 4th Gen “Sapphire Rapids” processors do feature this On Demand option. Intel also noted at the event that through this Intel On Demand activation model, additional accelerators can be enabled and other features. But the pricing and exact details have yet to be made public beyond noting it will be around AI / analytics / networking / storage.
With today’s Linux kernel patches that just hit the mailing list a few minutes ago, the following adjustments are made to the open-source driver:
1. Identify the drivers/tools as Intel On Demand. Only text descriptions are changed. Kconfig and filenames remain the same.
2. Perform some attribute cleanup by preventing the showing of files when features are not supported.
3. Adds support for a new GUID. GUIDs are used to identify the layout of the On Demand registers in sysfs. Layouts are described in the documentation on github.
4. Add support for reading On Demand meter certificates in sysfs.
5. The rest of the patches modify the existing tool to support discovery and reading of On Demand registers and the meter certificate.
Intel has been working on the user-space size and some documentation via intel-sdsi on GitHub.
One of the new On Demand “SDSi” features enabled with the just-published patches is support for “meter certificates” as a means of checking in on the usage of the licensed, activated hardware features. So presumably for help customers assessing the value of any licensed features they have activated, the meter certificate will provide utilization metrics for On Demand features of that system.
If all goes well with the code review, the updated Linux SDSi / On Demand driver could be integrated as soon as the v6.2 merge window in December. In turn the Linux 6.2 kernel stable release will be out in February.