If you’ve looked over an EEPROM (yes, or NVM) things have really changed since the days of the old 82557 10/100 products. Back then, the whole image was 64 words, and most of them had no meaning. Now we have 128KB NVM and most of that is packed full of goodness. What happened?
We added Firmware code for the management engine into our devices and gave it the ability to be patched from sections in the EEPROM.. Having it in the EEPROM allows us to make continual updates to the quality without having to spin the silicon. Spinning silicon is expensive and we don’t want to pass that along. But all these extra features do come at a cost: the EEPROM size, and the EEPROM complexity. The old days of being able to look at an EEPROM and know what is going on are long gone. The EEPROM is now organized into sections and there are pointers to the sections. All these sections, pointers and checksum means doing a diff of an old image and a new image can be an exercise in futility. With more ports per EEPROM (four on the I350) and each section being able to be configured, you can end up with a lot of different images. For our LOM customers this means you should really leverage the development starter images. If you need a custom image, please see your Intel representative for helping developing a custom image. These images take time to develop and review, so please let us know as soon as possible, and leave some time in your schedule for us to make them. We have a band of EEPROM experts go over each custom image, so try to give us a week's notice.
Finally newer devices like the x540 do not use an EEPROM. They use a Flash device so there is single NVM which holds the legacy EEPROM data from past devices, Firmware for the PHY an Management engine and the Option ROM code.
And remember the law of EEPROM/NVM expansion: With the each generation of products, the EEPROM/NVM will get even more complex.
Consider yourself warned.
Future-proof your designs by letting us help you.