It looks like DLC-style microtransactions might be creeping into the semiconductor market. The latest Linux driver for “Intel Software Defined Silicon” appears to allow for the secure activation of features baked into the processor’s silicon but only after additional payments subscriptions.
Intel’s Software Defined Silicon will allow the activation of otherwise unavailable hardware upgrades. This will be made possible using a license of sorts for the SKU. The exact details are murky at the moment, especially when it comes to just what kinds of updates Intel will be offering post-purchase.
The Intel Software Defined Silicon Support looks to be focused on the Xeon processors, and we don’t expect it to be extended to the consumer-grade Core processors. The SDSi driver is for supporting the “post-manufacturing mechanism for activating additional silicon features” in official terms.
The SDSi kernel driver exposes a per-socket interface so their user-space application can allow an authentication key certificate that is written to internal NVRAM, provision their “capability activation payload”, and reading of the SDSi state certificate that shows the CPU configuration state for a given processor.
This Software Defined Silicon driver is just about the authentication and dealing with the SDSi handling but doesn’t expose what Intel may pursue in regards to license/paid upgrade features moving forward. There is the patch for this kernel driver currently undergoing review. Additionally is this GitHub repository now public that just outlines the operating system interface for SDSi. Intel currently doesn’t have an open-source user-space client or we’ll see if that ends up being a proprietary software package if it will allow built-in purchasing support, etc.