January 8, 2018 // 11:27 a.m.
Companies are in disagreement over the precise impact of the workarounds required to protect systems from the Meltdown and Spectre speculative execution flaws revealed earlier this month, with some pointing to a doubling of CPU time in their workloads while others claim to have seen 'negligible impact'.
The ongoing release of patches and firmware updates will help to protect users, but they come at a cost: A performance impact of between five and 35 percent to selected server-centric workloads has been confirmed, with some companies reporting even higher hits from loss of the performance-boosting speculative execution instructions at the heart of the issue. Epic Games is among these: The company has issued a blog post blaming server congestion in its Fortnight multiplayer game on Meltdown, showing pre- and post-Meltdown-patch CPU usage doubling - meaning the company now has to spin up twice as many servers to support the same number of players, significantly increasing its costs.
Cloud computing companies, meanwhile, are claiming that performance impact warnings are over-egging the pudding. Microsoft has claimed that 'the majority of Azure [cloud platform] customers should not see a noticeable performance impact with this update [as] we've worked to optimise the CPU and disk I/O path and are not seeing noticeable performance impact after the fix has been applied,' while rival Amazon says similar of its own Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Google, too, claims to be witnessing 'negligible impact on performance' for 'most of our workloads'.