Data centre storage performance hurt by Meltdown-Spectre patches

Data centre storage performance hurt by Meltdown-Spectre patches


Intel has admitted that the problems caused by patching the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities in its chips affect newer models as well as the older ones it had previously admitted to.

The chip giant then added that "similar behavior" occurs on some machines which have still-older Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge (2nd and 3rd-gen) processors, but more worryingly, newer Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs (6th and 7th-gen). "We have reproduced these issues internally and are making progress toward identifying the root cause".

While Intel says it has patched the exploits in 90 percent of the processors it has introduced in the last five years, it's clear there are still reliability issues affecting those processors.

"While the firmware updates are effective at mitigating exposure to the security issues, customers have reported more frequent reboots on firmware updated systems", Intel's Navin Shenoy wrote. The firm also noted that it will be providing a fresh beta microcode patch to manufacturers and software developers next week for testing.

Infosec firm Bridgeway has found that only four per cent of enterprise smartphones and tablets in the United Kingdom have been patched against Meltdown and Spectre, the chip vulnerabilities that were disclosed earlier this month.

In fact, many vendors are continuing to develop and distribute patches for Spectre and Meltdown.

"Most users are going to hear things like security flaw, or performance issues and be very concerned so I would really like to see Intel do more to address those topics", said one partner, who wished to remain anonymous.

Meanwhile, patches for operating systems as well as unaffected chips from AMD, Nvidia and IBM continue to roll out.

Intel disclosed the security vulnerability earlier this month but disputed initial reports that the patch slowed chip performance by 30 percent. For common tasks such as running website servers, the patches caused a 2 per cent slowdown, Intel said.

Intel has already said that it believes that there are other options that will mitigate the performance drop, most notably Google's Retpoline patch, which is said to have an nearly zero impact. "For example, there are other mitigations options that could yield less impact", Shenoy says, pointing to an Intel white paper for more information.

  • Terrell Bush