Intel Posts Updated Driver & Sample Code For "Software Defined Silicon"

Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 7 December 2021 at 02:08 PM EST. 18 Comments
Back in September Intel originally posted Linux patches for "Software Defined Silicon" for being able to activate extra CPU features present in the processor's silicon but not exposed by default unless the cryptographically secure process with this SDSi driver was performed. Intel appears to be moving toward allowing licensable processor features that can be activated after the fact and today a new version of that SDSi Linux driver appeared.

Following the original September patches and the mixed feelings over this feature (Intel still hasn't made it clear when and what features would likely be incorporated into Software Defined Silicon), revised patches were posted last month. The SDSi kernel driver exposes the ability for user-space to provide a certificate that would be written to internal NVRAM and then to basically activate it as well as being able to read existing SDSi configuration state for a processor. The SDSi Linux patches haven't provided any indications around Intel's product intentions with this feature besides that it is server focused where margins are higher and unlike Intel's former "Intel Upgrade Service" from a decade ago that offered software-activated features for select Core processors.

With the SDSi "v2" Linux patches posted today, they have been rebased against the latest kernel code and most notably offer sample code and sysfs ABI testing support.

The new "sdsi-sample" code is a basic user-space program for interacting with the SDSi kernel driver via the exposed sysfs interface. The sample program allows specifying a particular CPU socket, reading license data, reading SDSi register data, and provisioning a socket with a given AKC/CAP file. Again, no real interesting bits revealed with this SDSi kernel driver just being the generic infrastructure for passing of certificates from the operating system to the CPU for dealing with it and activating any functionality.

The updated Intel SDSi Linux driver patches can be found on the kernel mailing list. Via GitHub is also the operating system interface specification around Software Defined Silicon.
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