Thoughts, information and reflections about technology

With Meltdown and Spectre what happens to pending server purchases and how will companies address the performance issues of patches?

Spectre is hitting servers especially hard. The software updates to protect the servers are causing performance issues. In other words, when a patch is applied to address the vulnerability, performance decreases perhaps 30 percent.

To reiterate, Spectre does not affect systems that are based on an AMD or ARM processor. Many home systems use these processors. However, they do affect Intel processors which have a huge share of the server market.  Servers are where lots of sensitive information is stored.  They are also the machines that run government, business and commerce.

My guess is that will eat up any excess capacity of the patched servers.  The system administrators will be faced with choices.

  1. Accept performance issues as the servers bog down.
  2. Add more servers. In some cases that will mean re-engineering the systems if there is not enough availability. Also, purchasing servers now will mean that they are purchasing servers with the flaw.
I see some possible ways that this could play out:
  1. A CPU can be replaced. I don’t know if an Intel based server can accept a non Intel CPU or not. If it can, then this opens up a huge market for AMD/ARM.
  2. If it is not possible to switch CPU brands, then perhaps Intel will release replacement chips. This raises some issues
    1. Who will bear the cost, the user or Intel?
    2. How will this affect production of new systems? If chips are being produced as replacements for existing servers, then there will be a shortage of chips for new systems. I would assume  that chip production cannot be easily ramped up.
  3. I’m not sure if Intel is “Too big to fail” but this could be the next huge government bailout. I would really be annoyed to see my tax dollars pay for what was a deliberate decision by a company (i.e. foregoing security checks on the cache)
  4. As systems bog down, users will feel the results. Currently when I swipe a card at a POS, the card is approved in less than 5 seconds. With performance impacts on patched systems I would expect that time to lengthen.

See other posts from this blog regarding Meltdown 
See other posts from this blog regarding Spectre

Note – until things settle down the Meltdown tag will give all related posts (as of Jan 2018)

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