Intel Aims to Upgrade PCs with Virtual Appliances - Page 2

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The module, to be unveiled along with a new version of Rescue and Recovery on May 16, is one of Lenovos ThinkVantage Technologies. The manufacturer bundles the add-ons in its PCs in an effort to help cut management costs for businesses.

Rescue and Recovery 3.1, like its predecessors, will serve to back up a PCs data and then restore it upon a crash or after a malware attack.

A feature dubbed Antidote Delivery Engine, which works to patch software before its restored on a PC to ensure that a machine wont become immediately reinfected, will gain a virtualization module, said Lee Highsmith, program manager for ThinkVantage Technologies at Lenovo in Raleigh, N.C.

The module will turn Antidote Delivery Engine into a virtual appliance of sorts, allowing the application to reside in its own partition, making it more resistant to crashes and ensuring it can still be reached by IT managers even if the PCs operating system has been compromised, Highsmith said.

The engines virtualized state can also allow it to act as a gateway of sorts for network traffic and, among other things, allow it to ensure that an infected PC does not get back on to a companys main network without having been patched and rendered safe, Highsmith said.

Thus, the "virtualization Module is the way to improve the ability to lock down systems and extend the ability to recover them," he said.

However, "For what we do, the lack of standards wasnt an issue. I look at technologies like this as a kind of a ball of clay. What can you shape from it that saves customers money…or makes them more productive?"

But not everyone is sold on virtual appliances, yet.

Virtualization has been heralded as inherently safe. However, at least one analyst said that while Intels work around virtualization could provide major benefits for security, theres still some question about whether the appliance approach couldnt be exploited as an entry point for hackers.

"If someone did breach the device on this level, theyd have fresh access to the processor, and theres a good chance that you might never know that someone has gotten in there," Andrew Braunberg, analyst for Current Analysis, based in Port Washington, N.Y.

Braunberg also said that since Intels plans only allow for one partition and hence one virtual appliance, some companies may hold off on adopting the approach.

Symantec, for one, would support a virtualization standard effort by Intel, given the work its already undertaking for vPro, a company official said.

Symantec "always attempts to support industry standards," said Leo Cohen, vice president of architecture at Symantec in Cupertino, Calif.

But getting other industry players onboard with a standard virtual appliance approach might take some time, Astaros Neihaus said.

"Virtualization provides a standard environment in that it is already an abstract of a perfect machine. So really the hardware involved in creating that scenario is irrelevant," said Neihaus.

"There is a need to push virtualization into the physical hardware, but part of the beauty of this approach is that its not really a necessity."

Intel, no stranger to creating industry standards in both hardware and software, will seek to foster a broader crop of virtual appliance if it moves forward with the effort, according to Ferron-Jones.

Much of the companys work would then be in areas such as illuminating ways that developers could pair their software with its Intel Virtualization Technology, or on-chip virtualization support, all in the name of streamlining development.

Intel has also created its own software to establish partitions for virtual appliances—it uses that software to set up partitions for vPro.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about vPro.

The chip makers vPro Professional platform will be the only one to offer a security or a manageability appliance at first. Later on, Intel has indicated, it expects other companies will create virtual appliances for vPro PCs as well.

But, machines outside of the vPro Professional platform might not gain appliances in the near future, Ferron-Jones indicated.

Generally, Intel aims to keep more advanced features paired with its premium products. Although theres nothing to prevent PC makers like Lenovo from adding their own appliances to just about any model.

"Virtualization is a bit of a brave new world," Highsmith said. "There will be a lot of experimentation" early on. But standards will emerge over time, he predicted.

"Id imagine, over time, youll see standards emerge and more platforms emerge from folks like Intel and Microsoft and others," Highsmith said.

"I think that will only help virtualization. Itll low the bar for entry into the arena."

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