Tests Show Tiny PC Performance Hit From Meltdown, Spectre Fix

Isaac Cain
January 19, 2018

Intel confirmed that patches for the security flaws can cause higher-than-expected reboot rates in Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake and Kaby Lake processors, said Navin Shenoy, general manager of the data center group, in a statement on Intels website. "We have now issued firmware updates for 90 percent of Intel CPUs introduced in the past five years", Shenoy says. We don't know when an official patch for the problem will be launched, but Intel says it will be delivering microcode to its vendor partners for validation next week. As I noted in my blog post last week, while the firmware updates are effective at mitigating exposure to the security issues, customers have reported more frequent reboots on firmware updated systems. Intel and ARM insisted that the issue was not a design flaw, but it will require users to download a patch and update their operating system to fix. "Generally speaking, the workloads that incorporate a larger number of user/kernel privilege changes and spend a significant amount of time in privileged mode will be more adversely impacted", he said, which pretty much echoes what we've heard before. In addition, Intel is moving to get Retpoline, a security approach discovered by Google that helps address part of the Spectre vulnerability, and which is short for "return trampoline", into place. Results show "impact ranging from 0-2% on industry-standard measures of integer and floating point throughput, Linpack, STREAM, server-side Java and energy efficiency benchmarks", Shenoy writes. Another test that simulated online transactions at a stock brokerage showed a four percent slowdown, the company said.

The story was different with I/O loads, however.

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With low processor stress, there was no performance impact with patched systems, but CPU utilisation increased compared to unpatched servers. "For most consumer devices", Microsoft said in a statement, "the impact may not be noticeable, however, the specific impact varies by hardware generation and implementation by the chip manufacturer".

Shenoy has committed to sharing further information as it becomes available, including more performance data on additional older platforms.

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