Jay Breakstone

CEO & Founder

Welcome to the inaugural blog entry in Liqid's Tech Talk series with the experts at GestaltIT, one of the industry's favorite publications focused on enterprise technology. Liqid is very pleased to be taking part. Next week, the Gestalt IT editorial team will provide their thoughts on the topic as this crisis continues to unfold.

The fallout after Intel's acknowledgement of the Meltdown and Spectre chip vulnerabilities, revealed just in time for the New Year, was swift, unrelenting, and well reported. This is not surprising. The chips responsible for these crises are in nearly every modern processor, and the global impact is potentially staggering.

The news has caused understandable chaos across several sectors affected: outraging the IT community, yet again rattling consumers uneasy about their digital identities and sensitive data being compromised, forcing U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee members to reach out to CEOs of leading tech firms with questions on the nature and scope of the vulnerabilities.

Fixing the problem is one of the major difficulties of Meltdown and Spectre, as infrastructure performance could take hits of up to 25 percent according to Intel, though initial testing with patches suggests data speeds will be reduced as little as seven percent or as high as 42 depending on the application, with those running Windows servers taking the bigger hit. Though much uncertainty remains about how these newly disclosed vulnerabilities will affect business overall, the performance figures suggest the potential to take billions out of the global economy due to lost productivity, unplanned infrastructure upgrades and other unforeseen circumstances possibly affecting growth for many years unless a satisfactory solution is found.

Complicating matters, Intel was forced to ask its customers to cease patching activities due to the erratic rebooting of computers and causing other "unpredictable" behavior. Obviously this has further eroded industry and market confidence that Intel can solve the problem in a timely and effective fashion.

Clearly the degradation of core infrastructure performance caused by patching these dangerous flaws has the potential to affect all verticals, regardless of the industry, in a contemporary digital marketplace fueled by and profitable because of fast access to data.

Consider the media and entertainment industry as an example: publicly traded media giants plot out release schedules years in advance. These schedules are announced with fanfare at Comic-Cons then leaned on heavily in quarterly reports against the profits of their franchised predecessors as incontrovertible evidence for rosy earnings forecasts into infinity.

Great as it might be for the CFO, the other reason for such long lead times is it really does take that much time to conceive, create, capture, render, and finalize VFX heavy cinema, television, gaming, quickly evolving options for immersive entertainment, and other high return content. Already these deadlines get pushed to their breaking point and (hopefully) only occasionally does production end up with showstoppers like this reverse-digital toupee meant to provide CG cover for Superman's contractually obligated mustache.

An industry-wide performance hit assuming the middle range of Intel's performance estimates could cause a ripple effect from Hollywood to Bollywood and make its presence very quickly known on Wall Street and other global exchanges with detrimental effects. Production houses could be forced to delay releases due to slowdowns in data flow or release content of diminished quality due to Meltdown and Spectre, damaging reputations with audiences rapidly. If this occurred, earnings forecasts would have to be revised and stock values for big players in content and distribution could face serious consequences on the trading floor, thus reflecting investors' loss of faith.

Apply this same general trajectory to finance, physical infrastructure, disaster recovery, military defense, scientific research, pharmaceuticals, energy, transportation, and logistics - basically any field that relies on contemporary digital infrastructure to drive innovation, strengthen economic growth, provide basic services and defense, and much more. The requirements in each instance are the same: no matter how quickly the issues associated with Meltdown and Spectre may be resolved significant segments of the global economy are at risk if IT organizations don't prepare their architectures to address prospective losses in performance.

Industry analysts such as IDC's Mario Morales suggested to news outlets that the impact of Meltdown and Spectre will result in IT users delaying their purchasing decisions as the crisis continues to unfolds. The exposure of the vulnerabilities has led those already questioning the ongoing effectiveness of traditional CPU architectures and suggest that it's time for a whole new approach to how hardware and software interact.

The revelations about Meltdown and Spectre are not happening in a vacuum which is why traditional compute architectures are now being questioned. Current data center architectures are beginning to show their age as applications utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) are dealing with growing volumes of data from increasingly ubiquitous IoT sensors and require massive data bandwidth to perform calculations.

I will further discuss architectural advancements and potential market opportunities in Liqid's next entry in this GestaltIT Tech Talk Series. For now, Russ White at GestaltIT will provide further insights, updates, and examples as developments unfold. Looking forward to his insights and continuing this conversation next week on their site.