IBM Pushes Out Power, Mainframe Microcode Lockdown To 2014
July 22, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
It looks like IBM is getting pushback from customers and partners who are not happy about an announcement it made earlier this year to lock down access to licensed internal code for System z mainframes, Power Systems, and various storage arrays based on Power7 machinery.
As The Four Hundred reported back in February, in announcement letter 113-027, IBM said that it was tweaking the licensing of the machine code, often called licensed internal code or microcode, for selected high-end servers based on Power and System z processors. IBM has revised the terms and conditions to machine code on these machines, making it not only explicit that licenses to machine code cannot change hands, but that they may not do so without a customer signing a license acceptance agreement. These changes were supposed to go into effect on August 1, but in announcement letter 113-139 that it is now pushing that date out to April 1, 2014.
And apparently it is not an April Fool’s joke.
The new microcode licensing terms apply to the following machines:
No other new Power7+ machines have been added to the list, and there is a good reason for that. They don’t have capacity on demand upgrades for processors or main memory, and every one of the machines above does. And that seems to indicate that IBM is worried that someone may try to either access latent capacity in these boxes or transfer microcode settings that allow it. Or, it may be worried about the transferring of microcode to activate accelerator function on the processor complex (but not in the CPU) such as memory compression, hashing, encryption, or random number generation.
IBM never did explain why it was changing the microcode rules, just that it was. And in this announcement letter on July 16, it did not explain why it was pushing it out, either.
You can read the new License Agreement for Machine code here and see which makes and models have the “accepted by use” contract that is part of the tweaked licensing and which ones do not at this link.