Intel Outlines Plans for Cascade Lake Xeon Scalable Processors

by Sean Michael Kerner

New silicon due out later this year will include integrated capabilities to mitigate the Spectre CPU vulnerabilities.

Security is often a feature of new Intel CPUs, though it isn't often that a security feature is the highlight of a new Intel chip.

Intel is currently developing its next generation of the Xeon Scalable Processors product portfolio, code-named Cascade Lake, which is set to begin shipping in the second half of 2018. The new chips are built on a 14-nanometer process and will be the successor to the Skylake generation of Xeon Scalable processors.

Intel first announced the Xeon Scalable Processors lineup back in July 2017, promising improved performance. The first generation of Xeon Scalable Processors also included the QuickAssist encryption technology.

With the Cascade Lake CPUs, Intel is taking direct aim at the Spectre vulnerabilities that were first publicly reported in January 2018. Spectre is a class of side-channel memory vulnerability that could potentially enable an attacker to get access to private information.

There are currently two variants of the Spectre vulnerability (known as Variants 2 and 3), as well as a related fix for a different vulnerability known as Meltdown (also known as Variant 1). To date, Intel has been attempting to mitigate all three variants with firmware patches, but is aiming to provide even better protection with Cascade Lake silicon for variants 2 and 3.

"We have redesigned parts of the processor to introduce new levels of protection through partitioning that will protect against both Variants 2 and 3," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich wrote in a blog post. "Think of this partitioning as additional 'protective walls' between applications and user privilege levels to create an obstacle for bad actors."

Full details on other capabilities set to be integrated in the Cascade Lake CPU have not been fully disclosed. There are likely to be at least three different Cascade Lake product groups, with the Cascade Lake X aimed at high-end desktops, the W at enterprise workstations and the SP targeted at server and data center workloads.

"As we bring these new products to market, ensuring that they deliver the performance improvements people expect from us is critical," Krzanich stated. "Our goal is to offer not only the best performance, but also the best secure performance."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

This article was originally published on Friday Mar 16th 2018
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