RealTime IT News

Intel's vPro Gives PCs a Professional Feel

SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel is getting down to business. Business branding that is.

With its new vPro brand, unveiled at an event here, Intel hopes to establish a business desktop brand distinguished by its built-in management and security features. Today's event was a step in a long process. The first systems to use vPro will be based on Intel's "Conroe" processor due out this summer.

Conroe offers about a four times energy savings over the installed base of Pentium 4 desktop systems in use purchased over the last three to four years, according to Intel CEO Paul Otellini.

Intel said it wants to get the word out now to promote the vPro brand and get mindshare with IT buyers even though the first vPro systems won't be out until the summer. The vPro security and management features will migrate to Intel's mobile platform in 2007.

Those features include Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT) and Virtualization Technology (VT) integrated on the processor. AMT is designed to help IT managers keep track of their PC inventory and diagnose and repair those systems from a remote console even when the systems are turned off or suffer an OS or hard drive crash.

This second version of AMT can isolate infected PCs before they impact other systems on the network and alert the IT department to the threat.

With VT Intel allows for a separate independent hardware-based partition inside a single PC that IT managers can set up as a dedicated, tamper-resistant service environment that runs independent of the OS or other activities on the PC and is invisible to the user.

Although Intel has faced its biggest competition from AMD on the server side, Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds sees vPro as Intel responding to the competition faster than it wanted to.

"Intel saw half a billion dollars of revenue go from them to AMD, and there's no indication its going to stop soon," Reynolds told internetnews.com.

"If Intel can convince enterprise customers this is the right package they will get a bump in sales. AMD's technology in these areas isn't as compelling, so Intel has a chance to push them off the table in some cases."

Symantec, one of several security software vendors at the event, is bullish on vPro. The company will be releasing vPro-specific security software later this year, Symantec vice president Leo Cohen told internetnews.com.

"The isolation feature is the best aspect of vPro for us because if malware gets in the system the security solution is isolated and we can trust that, it isn't dependent on the OS or the stack," said Cohen.

Desktops sporting the vPro logo won't be out until the second half of this year after Intel's Conroe ships. Conroe is an Intel codename for its newest Core microarchitecture dual-core processor.

Along with management and security features, Conroe gets Intel back to Basics. It's a very fast chip. Intel officials said Conroe-based desktops will run productivity applications over twice as fast as systems purchased last year based on the company's mainstay Pentium 4.

Akash Saraf, CEO of Zenith Infotech, has been testing Conroe and thinks it will significantly reduce the number of onsite support calls his company has to make.

Zenith Infotech offers enterprise-class IT management services via the Internet to small businesses with anywhere from a handful to several hundred PCs. The company charges $15 per PC per month for its services but the cost goes up to over $100 if they have to go onsite.

"Eight-five percent of the problems can be handled remotely, but we have to go onsite for the remaining 15 percent, which represents 50 percent of our costs," Saraf told internetnews.com.

Saraf said in his company's testing, almost all problems, about 97 percent, can be dealt with remotely and not require a site visit.

Giant IT management services outsourcer EDS has also been testing Conroe systems with positive results.

Kim Stevenson, vice president of outsourcing at EDS said they've been seeing a 50 percent drop in the need for desk-side visits with vPro and a 90 percent improvement in the time it takes to distribute security patches.