Intel: Meltdown, Spectre silicon fixes coming 2018; 3D XPoint RAM, not so much

A 3D XPoint wafer. (credit: Intel)

As part of Intel’s fourth quarter financials release, CEO Brian Krzanich promised that chips shipping this year would include true hardware fixes for the Spectre and Meltdown attacks.

The promise to ship chips immune to the attack leaves many questions unanswered. It’s not clear if the fixes will be revisions of current generation Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, and Skylake parts, or if the modifications will be constrained to the Cannon Lake processors that are expected to ship this year. Nor is it clear what form the fix will take: better, higher-performance versions of the microcode and workarounds already being rolled out, or deeper modifications to the processor’s speculative execution and branch prediction behavior.

The company’s delayed transition to a 10nm manufacturing process also remains murky. At CES, Intel claimed that it had shipped some unspecified chips built on 10nm last year. The first half of this year will see low volume production, ramping to high volume in the second half. But exactly what processors—in what configurations, when, and in what volumes—remains unknown. Both Cannon Lake, built on the 10nm process, and Ice Lake, built on the refined „10nm+“ process, are planned, but the company has said little concrete about exact timelines.

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