Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 20th Jan 2018 00:13 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

The disclosure of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities has brought a new level of attention to the security bugs that can lurk at the hardware level. Massive amounts of work have gone into improving the (still poor) security of our software, but all of that is in vain if the hardware gives away the game. The CPUs that we run in our systems are highly proprietary and have been shown to contain unpleasant surprises (the Intel management engine, for example). It is thus natural to wonder whether it is time to make a move to open-source hardware, much like we have done with our software. Such a move may well be possible, and it would certainly offer some benefits, but it would be no panacea.

Given the complexity of modern CPUs and the fierceness of the market in which they are sold, it might be surprising to think that they could be developed in an open manner. But there are serious initiatives working in this area; the idea of an open CPU design is not pure fantasy. A quick look around turns up several efforts; the following list is necessarily incomplete.

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lsatenstein
Member since:
2006-04-07

The subject line says it all. We would be better off if one of AMD or Intel would open source their existing CPUs. But that is not likely.

The time and cost to develop the fabrication masks and the cost to setup labs to do the testing. Testing prototype cpus, and sample cpus would likely cost into the hundreds of millions.

And like every design, software or hardware, there thousands of states in which the CPU can be found. A state is where the cpu is now after executing an instruction, and what is the next instruction to be executed. Think of the states as a set of points, a polygon, where the transition from one state to the other is a connected line. Some lines just can't exist, and some lines are yet undiscovered.

Back to rolling your own design. You must find funding and you can't be in a hurry. The x86 started with the simple 8088 back in 1980. Almost 40 years later we still find bugs in CPU's.

Reply Parent Score: 1

dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

A physical CPU is a finite machine, Isatenstein. If bugs remaining on the 8088 DESIGN, is about not enough testing.

Think of it as of a very long stair-cased signal processor.

Reply Parent Score: 2