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Intel patches buggy Sapphire Rapids Xeons, resumes shipments

Relax, says chip giant, it's an easy fix

Anyone running Intel's 4th-Gen Xeon Scalable processors should be on the lookout for a firmware update to address the issue that briefly forced the x86 giant to halt shipments of mid-core-count chips.

According to Intel, the mystery bug, discovered late last month, could "interrupt system operation" on Sapphire Rapids processors with between eight and 32 cores under certain undefined conditions. While Intel evaluated a firmware mitigation, the manufacturer said it paused shipments out of an “abundance of caution.”

It now appears that Intel has succeeded, telling The Register that shipments have resumed after determining a firmware update was sufficient to prevent the bug from rearing its ugly head.

"We are now confident the firmware mitigation addresses the issue. We have resumed shipping all versions of SPR-MCC and are working with customers to deploy the firmware as needed." — an Intel spokesperson said in a statement.

Unfortunately, Intel didn't address our questions on the cause of the issue or under what conditions it first arose. In a previous statement the x86 giant did say that the issue didn't appear when the processors were "running commercially available software," which is somewhat reassuring.

It's not uncommon for bugs to be discovered after chips are shipped to customers. Chipmakers, including Intel, routinely issue errata notices for all manner of unexpected behaviors. However, this particular issue was concerning enough for Intel to make the decision to pause shipments of the long delayed processor family.

In any case, customers running medium-core-count Sapphire Rapids Xeons should patch their systems just in case. We're told that Intel's high-core-count and high-bandwidth memory (HBM) equipped Xeons aren't affected by this particular issue.

The chips, which would have been among the first to support PCIe 5.0, DDR5, and CXL 1.1 had they shipped in 2021 as originally planned, only arrived this January long after Amazon and AMD had beat them to the punch.

Intel hopes to put this debacle behind it with the launch of its 5th-Gen Xeon Scalable processors, codenamed Emerald Rapids, later this year. The chip is drop-in compatible with Sapphire Rapids platforms and, according to Intel, will offer higher core counts and better performance per watt. ®

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