News Intel Preps Software Defined Xeon CPUs: Buy Now, Add Features Later

escksu

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I guess all the people at Intel who learned the hard way this is a dumb idea the last time they tried it are all gone.
Not really. If this can help to lower the price of the CPU is a good thing. Not everyone needs every single feature that is available in the CPU. I am ok with them to even lower the number of PCIE lanes etc if this means lower cost. Features like AMX and DSA etc... not everyone needs them. These are also optional features that are added into CPU.
 

Giroro

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Not really. If this can help to lower the price of the CPU is a good thing.
But it wouldn't help to lower the price. It ensures that every single buyer will have to pay for fully functional hardware, that then gets software locked. The cost to produce the CPU does not go down, therefore the minimum price cannot go down. It just adds extra profit from users who would have previously had those features by default.

I remember Intel tried something like this in laptops. You would but a gimped budget PC, then get a popup along the lines of "pay us $100 to download a better CPU", which would unlock your CPU to run at the full clock rate that it was built for.
As I recall, it was a PR nightmare for Intel that they had to backtrack on immediately.

" Such upgradability ensures that Intel's clients do not go to AMD if they need an extra feature or two and will still pay Intel for its technologies. "

I would argue that this scheme guarantees that their clients go to AMD, and never look back.
I understand why Intel would think they could get away with this when they had a monopoly on server CPUs. But it's weird for them to pull this stunt when they're behind on tech and losing customers en masse.

I guess all the people at Intel who learned the hard way this is a dumb idea the last time they tried it are all gone.
Well, Brian Krzanich recently returned the Intel. Maybe it was always his bad idea.
 
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Intel are kings at artificial product segmentation, especially in the enterprise market, requiring certain CPU models for features which are supported in silicon by the entire range but are physically disabled, such as the number of PCIe lanes, SMT, unlocked multiplier, or certain instruction sets, whereas AMD typically segments based on core count, frequency, and TDP, leaving everything else the same across the stack.

To quote TH's Paul Acorn from an article last year:

"Intel's Cascade Lake Xeon lineup has one of the most complex product stacks we've ever seen, carved up by core count, base frequencies, PCIe connectivity, memory capacity/data rates, AVX-512 functionality, Hyper-Threading, UPI connections, and FMA units per core. Intel also excises Optane Persistent DIMM support on some of its Bronze models.

This strict segmentation policy assures that customers pay every penny for every single feature, but AMD's EPYC Rome processors proved to be a fly in Intel's high-margin ointment. That's largely because of AMD's standard value proposition of offering unrestricted feature sets on all of its processors."
Intel needs to start taking a page out of AMD's book and do the same before AMD eats up a large chunk of Intel's share, and drop these stupid ideas to monetize everything like it's a mobile game...
 
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jkflipflop98

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But it wouldn't help to lower the price. It ensures that every single buyer will have to pay for fully functional hardware, that then gets software locked. The cost to produce the CPU does not go down, therefore the minimum price cannot go down. It just adds extra profit from users who would have previously had those features by default.

I remember Intel tried something like this in laptops. You would but a gimped budget PC, then get a popup along the lines of "pay us $100 to download a better CPU", which would unlock your CPU to run at the full clock rate that it was built for.
As I recall, it was a PR nightmare for Intel that they had to backtrack on immediately.

" Such upgradability ensures that Intel's clients do not go to AMD if they need an extra feature or two and will still pay Intel for its technologies. "

I would argue that this scheme guarantees that their clients go to AMD, and never look back.
I understand why Intel would think they could get away with this when they had a monopoly on server CPUs. But it's weird for them to pull this stunt when they're behind on tech and losing customers en masse.



Well, Brian Krzanich recently returned the Intel. Maybe it was always his bad idea.

I don't understand this mentality at all.

Very very few customers buy the top-of-the-line CPU in any market. Every Xeon starts life as the best-of-the-best, but Intel makes more top-end silicon than there are customers to purchase it. So they cut down on features and clock speeds to make cheaper chips that fill the majority of the market. Same with Extreme Edition CPUs. Every CPU starts out as an Extreme Edition and then is cut down to the bin it needs to be sold.

At least with this scheme you can pay to unlock features and power later that you couldn't afford at initial purchase time instead of these features being perma-disabled via laser-slicing off circuitry.

Because that's really what you're arguing here. "I want my disabled features to STAY disabled!"
 

JWNoctis

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I'd expect similar...sales strategies to reappear in consumer space within the next two generations, for things like AVX-512 and its components and future enhancements.

If graphic card manufacturers can sell at a premium based on FP64 and driver capability, so can they.

Consumers are now willing to tolerate a lot more than they did. Remember when something as simple as processor serial number caused so much outcry back in PIII days?
 
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Kamen Rider Blade

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Because that's really what you're arguing here. "I want my disabled features to STAY disabled!"
No, we don't want Intel to waste a single transistor on a feature that isn't being sold to the customer.

That means don't build that feature into the silicon and artificially lock it behind a software lock.

Either give the customer access to the entire silicon, or don't put the stupid feature into the silicon.

If that means making more waffer masks to segment your product, that's a Intel specific problem, not a customer problem.

Intel is the one that loves nickle & diming the customer.

The customer hates that kind of behavior.
 
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spongiemaster

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The customer hates that kind of behavior.
Is this something you talk to non enthusiasts about often? I've never had a conversation with any non enthusiast, which is the overwhelming percentage of people I interact with regularly, that complained about CPU market segmentation. People don't care. They have been conditioned to accept market segmentation in practically all markets because it doesn't always work against them. Some times it benefits them as well. What people almost universally truly don't like is being forced to pay for extras or features they don't want.
 

JWNoctis

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Is this something you talk to non enthusiasts about often? I've never had a conversation with any non enthusiast, which is the overwhelming percentage of people I interact with regularly, that complained about CPU market segmentation. People don't care. They have been conditioned to accept market segmentation in practically all markets because it doesn't always work against them. Some times it benefits them as well. What people almost universally truly don't like is being forced to pay for extras or features they don't want.
To be fair, Intel tried that once before a decade ago with cache and hyperthreading capability, for which they suffered widespread displeasure and ridicule in the media.

Now they just sell plain Core i3, or Pentium, or Celeron, which must be upgraded by replacement.

There's nothing wrong with being on guard against this sort of stuff again though. How would you feel like, say, paying $50 for 16MB more L3, $20 per core for double the L2 and "performance-optimized" microcode, and another $20-$100 per core for AVX-512 or something else depending on exact feature set, quite possibly bundled with the software license of those actually needing said instructions, if you didn't pay them off in whole for what's otherwise the same chip with a higher model number, that came with more of these already enabled? Even though this is actually par for the course for the industry as others have mentioned?

But yes, for most users this shouldn't matter much.
 
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The sad part about this is that theres people who believe this is a good idea. This product segmentation^2. I guess intel can do this if they manage to keep its large server costumer base.

But in a world where Nvidia, AMD and some other non-x86 techs are getting larger pieces of the server base (at a slow rate but its happening), Im not sure how good this new software segmentation will be in the near future for intel.
 
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wirefire

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I don't understand this mentality at all.

Very very few customers buy the top-of-the-line CPU in any market. Every Xeon starts life as the best-of-the-best, but Intel makes more top-end silicon than there are customers to purchase it. So they cut down on features and clock speeds to make cheaper chips that fill the majority of the market. Same with Extreme Edition CPUs. Every CPU starts out as an Extreme Edition and then is cut down to the bin it needs to be sold.

At least with this scheme you can pay to unlock features and power later that you couldn't afford at initial purchase time instead of these features being perma-disabled via laser-slicing off circuitry.

Because that's really what you're arguing here. "I want my disabled features to STAY disabled!"
every cpu is manufactured with the intent of it being a top of the line cpu, but that doesn’t work. For many reason some cpus are not capable of being the top part so they are marked down (imperfections, errors, etc). In order for intel to support this model they can ONLY sell the chips that are capable of performing all the software unlocks. If the unlock is a hardware component (cores, cache, pci lanes, etc) then intel can only sell those cpus that are fully functional with all features enabled…. There is no “step down” to bin them to. It is an all or nothing deal and as such would increase costs, mostly as waste because some cpus would be usable but are scrapped because there is a feature that can’t be unlocked without failure.
 
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logainofhades

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Is this something you talk to non enthusiasts about often? I've never had a conversation with any non enthusiast, which is the overwhelming percentage of people I interact with regularly, that complained about CPU market segmentation. People don't care. They have been conditioned to accept market segmentation in practically all markets because it doesn't always work against them. Some times it benefits them as well. What people almost universally truly don't like is being forced to pay for extras or features they don't want.
I do not know of anyone that likes to be nickeled and dimed to death, which I believe is the behavior they meant.

This is Intel being Intel, again. They never really do learn anything. They keep doing the same old things, while their competition leaves them behind. I was hoping with the new CEO, things would change, but it appears to be business as usual.
 
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kal326

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I’m sort of torn on this one. On one hand it’s not like Intel is necessarily adding new segmentation. They are just simply changing where the lock is by changing some of it to software. In the Enterprise space this isn’t really new or unexpected. Change a license key and now your out of bounds management or raid card, etc how has this new or enhanced functionality. It was already there, it was just pay walled.

So if this reduces enterprise socket or other requirements I could see this being a net good. Especially in situations where silicon production could continue to be strained. There isn’t a line in the sand that X chip is this functionality, speed, cores etc. It could give OEMs and system integrators more build flexibility and effectively use less desirable chips if added functionality can be enabled. Now that the purely optimistic view.

Now for the pessimist view. What is Intels end game here really. By easily allowing enterprise customers to squeeze a little more out of their existing investments by unlocking dormant functionality, Intel is effectively undercutting themselves. A whole new set of chips, chipsets, maybe even Optane DIMMs has to have more margin in it than selling a chip DLC. Is this more of a keep the nickel and dime segments while appeasing system builders that don’t want to keep a myriad of physical chips around to support them all?
 
I’m sort of torn on this one. On one hand it’s not like Intel is necessarily adding new segmentation. They are just simply changing where the lock is by changing some of it to software. In the Enterprise space this isn’t really new or unexpected. Change a license key and now your out of bounds management or raid card, etc how has this new or enhanced functionality. It was already there, it was just pay walled.

So if this reduces enterprise socket or other requirements I could see this being a net good. Especially in situations where silicon production could continue to be strained. There isn’t a line in the sand that X chip is this functionality, speed, cores etc. It could give OEMs and system integrators more build flexibility and effectively use less desirable chips if added functionality can be enabled. Now that the purely optimistic view.

Now for the pessimist view. What is Intels end game here really. By easily allowing enterprise customers to squeeze a little more out of their existing investments by unlocking dormant functionality, Intel is effectively undercutting themselves. A whole new set of chips, chipsets, maybe even Optane DIMMs has to have more margin in it than selling a chip DLC. Is this more of a keep the nickel and dime segments while appeasing system builders that don’t want to keep a myriad of physical chips around to support them all?
I can undertand your point of view, but intel its adding a new segmentation because hardware segmentation won't go away with this "new-old" software segmentation... sorry if that sounds strange....

Making chips out of silicon is not a perfect science. Intel will get amazing, better, good and worst cpus. So there will be hardware segmentation no matter what. And if intel does what they always do, they will artificially disable functions or capabilities (hardware wise) to create even more segments.

Saldy this software defined Xeons will just add a new layer of segmentation to those already segmented product lines.

Intel will find a way to squeeze a little bit more money and it will make you think you were smart picking that CPU with a "dormant power".

Bascially one will pay probably the same or a little more than what we pay now for a Xeon, which will have software defined features just because maybe, you may need those features in the future. And then, in the future you will pay again to enable those features and perhaps squeeze a little extra performance and life time.

Oh well, nevermind me... its been a log work day and Im probably writting nonsenses.
 

spongiemaster

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I do not know of anyone that likes to be nickeled and dimed to death, which I believe is the behavior they meant.

This is Intel being Intel, again. They never really do learn anything. They keep doing the same old things, while their competition leaves them behind. I was hoping with the new CEO, things would change, but it appears to be business as usual.
This is for Xeon's. No one is buying these new for personal use. Tiered pricing and artificial market segmentation in the corporate world is not Intel being Intel. It's enterprise pricing 101. Intel keeps doing it because that's how business is done. Intel is losing server market share because AMD has a vastly superior product for most use cases, not because Intel charges more for additional features and capabilities.
 

logainofhades

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AMD also doesn't do stupid segmentation, like this. The earlier nickel and dime comment is pretty accurate. Especially in the Covid era, companies are more cautious with their money, than in years past. Intel thinks it can still get away with pricing, that they used to do, when AMD was down. Even if AMD was just as fast, as Intel, the AMD chip would probably still be chosen, as you get all the features, for less than what Intel will provide. Intel's problem isn't necessarily performance, it is price/performance related. This is something Intel does, across most of its product stack. They have gotten better, at least, in the enthusiast space, as they were forced to reduce pricing.
 
AMD also doesn't do stupid segmentation, like this. The earlier nickel and dime comment is pretty accurate. Especially in the Covid era, companies are more cautious with their money, than in years past. Intel thinks it can still get away with pricing, that they used to do, when AMD was down. Even if AMD was just as fast, as Intel, the AMD chip would probably still be chosen, as you get all the features, for less than what Intel will provide. Intel's problem isn't necessarily performance, it is price/performance related. This is something Intel does, across most of its product stack. They have gotten better, at least, in the enthusiast space, as they were forced to reduce pricing.
Yes, in the home/enthusiast space not only they adjusted the price down, but also added (a few years ago) features to the lower segmeents, like HT for the Pentium G, Core i3 and I5.
 
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jkflipflop98

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How would you feel like, say, paying $50 for 16MB more L3, $20 per core for double the L2 and "performance-optimized" microcode, and another $20-$100 per core for AVX-512 or something else depending on exact feature set, quite possibly bundled with the software license of those actually needing said instructions, if you didn't pay them off in whole for what's otherwise the same chip with a higher model number, that came with more of these already enabled? Even though this is actually par for the course for the industry as others have mentioned?

But yes, for most users this shouldn't matter much.
That's what you're already doing. This just gives you the option to do it later instead of at initial purchase time.
 
That's what you're already doing. This just gives you the option to do it later instead of at initial purchase time.
Difference is: there's always been an understanding that for the lesser products, it is because they didn't make the cut to be the fully enabled die. While you could argue that is not such the case anymore, it is still a hard pill to swallow for many I'd say? Regardless, DLC for CPUs: you get the full thing behind a paywall instead of the "best you could get" right off the bat.

Regards.
 
Regardless, DLC for CPUs: you get the full thing behind a paywall instead of the "best you could get" right off the bat.

Regards.
Yeah, but doesn't this go both ways?!
If I have a business where the base model is the exact same as the one with all the DLC because none of my software needs any of the extras, now I get to pay much less for the exact same performance.
 

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