Intels vPro Business Desktop Chip Lifts Off

Platform incorporates Core 2 Duo and chip set.

Intel is aiming to help it managers with desktop PCs that help themselves.

The chip maker on Sept. 7 will officially unveil its vPro business desktop chip platform, which incorporates its Core 2 Duo processor and a newly minted supporting chip set with built-in management technology, sources familiar with Intels plans said.

Although Intel officials in Santa Clara, Calif., declined to comment on the launch date, they have said that the combination promises improvements in performance and even power consumption, while beefing up security and streamlining the remote management of desktops.

Improved security and management, the chip maker has said, will lend a hand to corporate IT managers and thus ultimately help companies cut PC management costs.

"We think its time to reinvent the desktop," Intel CEO Paul Otellini said during the companys April 24 vPro brand launch in San Francisco. "We think its time to reinvent those 85 million [desktops shipped per year] and help bring better manageability [and] better security into the business environment. Its all about driving costs down and driving productivity up for our employees."

The reason Intel is so confident about vPro—which extends the capabilities of its business desktop chip platform and therefore puts distance between it and rival Advanced Micro Devices—is its AMT (Active Management Technology).

Using AMT, PCs based on the platform can keep track of their own hardware and software—storing the information in nonvolatile memory—and perform other tasks, such as tracking anti-virus applications. AMT—essentially a hardware-software management engine—enables a PC to keep watch over its software inventory and alert IT staff should its anti-virus software be turned off or removed.

The vPro platform also allows PCs to be remotely booted and software to be remotely distributed to them, Intel has said. One additional feature, dubbed Circuit Breaker, can remove a vPro PC from a computer network if a malware attack is detected.

Several PC makers, including Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo Group, have pledged to launch at least one vPro desktop model for businesses. Some of them will support vPro with systems, sources familiar with Intels plans told eWeek.

Of those PC makers that will support vPro, HP may be one of the first to ship desktops using the platform. The Palo Alto, Calif., computer company plans to host a Sept. 6 client computer event in New York, at which its expected to detail several new business machines.

The arrival of the new vPro desktops could be a boon for corporations, said Richard Shim, an analyst at IDC, in San Mateo, Calif.

"Weve heard from corporate PC buyers that security and network manageability are high priorities," Shim said.

But some buyers have hesitated when it came time to buy technologies to beef up PC security or manageability.

"What vPro does is basically give them what they want without them having to pay extra for it," Shim said.

But some effort will be required on the part of customers.

While vPro includes several management and security features, most also are designed to work in-kind with third-party management software, such as CAs Unicenter or LANDesk Softwares LANDesk. Those applications must also be able to interface with Intels AMT.

To that end, Intel has been working with management and security software companies, including Altiris and BMC Software, as well as CA and LANDesk, to link AMT with their products.

Of those companies that already support AMT, most are expected to deliver support for vPro and its newer AMT 2.0 technology on or near the Sept. 7 release date.

Later, Intel intends to extend vPro PCs capabilities using virtualization technology.

The chip maker is working with partners to create software-based "appliances" that will reside in virtual partitions on a vPro PC, where they will perform specific functions such as enhancing security or, eventually, communications.

Intel selected Altiris and Symantec to create the first two vPro virtualized appliances for management and security, respectively. However, future efforts might include appliances for tools such as VOIP (voice over IP).

The Altiris and Symantec vPro appliances arent expected to arrive until the first half of 2007, said sources familiar with Intels plans.

Although Intel will position vPro as the platform for mainstream business desktops—machines that generally sell for about $800 to $1,000—not every vPro-brand machine will get the extra management and security features. So-called vPro Professional desktops will come with the full range of features. However, vPro Fundamental PCs will not, Intel has said.

What makes vPro go?

Intels new vPro business PC platform promises enhanced management and security features

  • Hardware Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Q965 chip set
  • Management AMT 2.0 management engine built into Q965 aids features such as remote PC boot and remote application of software updates
  • Software PC management software can link to AMT 2.0 functions
  • Virtualization Makes space for additional, specialized security and management "appliances"

Source: eWEEK reporting