Intel Tells IoT Customers To Transition To Revised Apollo Lake CPUs

The chipmaker also clarifies the reliability of an earlier version of the Apollo Lake processors after retracting a notice it sent to customers last week: 'When the B-1 Stepping is used in accordance to the published specifications and design guidelines, it meets PC Client Usage requirements.'


Intel is telling customers of the chipmaker's Internet of Things Group to transition to a revised version of its Apollo Lake processors for long lifecycle requirements.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company issued a Product Change Notification on Tuesday saying that its IOTG customers using Intel's Celeron N3350, J3355 and J3455 processors and its Pentium N4200 processors should place future orders for the new F-1 revision, or stepping, of the products.

[Related: How Intel Helps Partners Use AI, Vision Solutions With Regular CPUs]

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The earlier B-1 stepping of Intel's Celeron and Pentium processors were previously marketed to customers for having "long-life product availability" on the company's IOTG product roadmap, meaning the processors have an extended availability of 15 years to meet the needs of IoT deployments.

An Intel spokesperson told CRN that customers should continue to order the B-1 processors for PC client usage because they meet "all Intel quality" goals, but customers who want "Intel IOTG Long life Product Availability" for the Celeron and Pentium processors should transition to the F-1 stepping.

The decision to transition IOTG customers to the F-1 stepping "was an operational decision to converge onto a single package for all of the IOTG Apollo Lake processors to ensure long-life product availability of the entire product family," the spokesperson said.

Brad Haczynski, Intel's vice president and general manager of IoT global sales, explained the distinction between processors for PCs versus IoT devices in an interview with CRN earlier this year. He said Intel's IOTG division takes an "adopt and modify" approach, procuring processors from other units, such as the Client Computing Group or Data Center Group, and then modifying them for longer lifecycles.

"A lot of times what you'll have is you will adopt a specific SKU for, say, [Client Computing Group], and you'll then modify it to have a longer lifecycle, so that it can support say a seven-year or potentially 15-year lifespan. That is really required for IoT applications," he told CRN.

The push to move some clients to the new stepping comes as the company had to clarify the reliability of an earlier version of the processors after retracting an initial notice it sent to customers last week.

Intel issued an initial Product Change Notification on Sept. 3 for the Celeron and Pentium processors, stating that the B-1 stepping of the products were demonstrating signal degradations "at a rate higher than Intel's quality goals after multiple years in service." The notice told customers the F-1 stepping would replace the B-1 stepping on the IOTG product roadmap, but it did not state that customers could continue to use the B-1 processors for regular PC client usage.

But the Intel spokesperson told CRN that the company retracted the original Sept. 3 notice because it contained inaccurate information. The information was then reposted in the revised Product Change Notification that was published on Tuesday, but it did not reference the degradation issues. The spokesperson said the referenced signal degradation issues in the B-1 processors, referred to as Errata APL45, were addressed by a firmware update issued in 2017.

"Intel originally published a specification update in July 2017 outlining mitigations for Errata APL47 to avoid signal degradations under certain conditions in the outer years of use," the Intel spokesperson said. "When the B-1 Stepping is used in accordance to the published specifications and design guidelines, it meets PC Client Usage requirements."

The spokesperson said while the degradation issues did not have a bearing on the long-life product availability of the B-1 processors, the F-1 processors no longer require the firmware update to meet PC usage requirements, indicating that the revised processors now address the issues on a hardware level.

At least one company that uses Intel's Apollo Lake processors issued a statement about the notice.

Synology, a Taiwanese network-attached storage vendor, said in a Thursday statement that its products containing the Celeron and Pentium processors have not demonstrated "abnormal error rates" and that its product designs "conform to the vendor's latest design guidelines."