Intel Tries to Stabilize Its Motherboards

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2002-06-03 Print this article Print

To achieve this nirvana, Intel must control the hardware and driver stacks.

Unless youre a gamer or loved heathkits as a kid, motherboards are about as interesting as a box of nails. That might even be too exciting for most IT administrators, who have been seeking platform stability since the inception of the PC.

Intel, finally succumbing to demand, has released motherboards it guarantees will remain stable for at least a year. The new boards, based on the 845 chip set, come in several configurations and include integrated graphics, support for a variety of SDRAM configurations, high-end audio and USB 2.0.

The most notable feature, besides stability, is Intels integrated AGP 4X graphics chip set, modestly called Intel Extreme Graphics. This chip sets graphics performance is much better than most corporate users need.

Otherwise, the 845-based motherboards are standard fare. Intel is hoping to bring about a stable technology platform, an encapsulation of several Intel technologies designed to enable IT administrators to pare their system configuration images to a manageable handful.

This isnt as easy as it sounds because even minor tweaks to a configuration usually render the images useless. Intel will ensure that the graphics drivers will not need to be changed, that new network card drivers will not blow away known and approved configurations, and that IT administrators will not have to upgrade any part of the system. Theres only one way to achieve this stable nirvana—Intel must control the hardware and driver stacks. It also has to run a boatload of tests to ensure that the configuration that is delivered will not need to be altered for at least a year.

Corporations have been clamoring for this kind of system stability for years. But heres where Im stumped: It seems that with the continual updates to the software stack, including vulnerability and application updates, organizations will not be able to establish system images, anyway. No matter how much work Intel puts into hardware platform stability, the software platform will always be in disarray.

Incidentally, it appears that Intel has spoofed the hardware platform to fool Microsofts Windows Activation scheme. Component replacements to an 845-based system will not trigger the dreaded Activation in Windows XP.

Whats your definition of platform stability? Write to me at

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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