Intel Preps Next Generation vPro

Intel is preparing its next generation of the vPro platform, codename “Weybridge,” for release in the second half of this year, featuring improved security and management capabilities.

vPro is for the corporate customer as Centrino is for mobile and Viiv is for the consumer. While vPro technology has hardly become a household name, analyst Roger Kay reasons that’s because it’s sold to business

“CIOs don’t like to talk about the sorts of things they consider it a competitive advantage and don’t want to tell you what they have,” Kay, principal analyst for Endpoint Technologies, told “I think at least some of that is the explanation for why [Intel] are talking about having a big ramp but we don’t know much about it.”

Mike Ferron-Jones, director of digital office platform marketing for Intel said: “We’re very satisfied with the ramp of vPro and the uptake we’re getting from everyone from customers to software providers.” At its Web site, Intel  claims vPro is its fastest ramping platform to date. The chip giant unveiled its vPro technology just about a year ago.

The updated vPro hardware will include a new CPU and chipset, updated Active Management Technology (AMT), support for the Desktop Mobile Working Group and WS-MAN standards and Intel Trusted Execution Technology, or TXT (formerly code named LaGrande Technology).

Weybridge consists of a Core2 Duo E6x50 processor, a new chipset called the Q35 Express w/ ICH9-DO and Intel82566DM gigabit networking. Ferron-Jones said Intel plans to refresh the components in the vPro family annually, but will retain backwards compatibility for driver and application compatibility.

AMT originally came with 64 filters settings to scan network traffic for malicious activity, but they did nothing in response. They were unprogrammed until set by third party software, such as LANDesk or Altiris.

Weybridge adds new sensoring technology to detect if one or multiple ports are being hammered an inordinate amount of time in a short period. If they are, the software security is alerted and an alarm goes off.

Kay called this a smart move. “They know they can’t catch every activity that’s going to come in, but they know some things about outbound activity. If there’s one port being pounded on, they’ll prevent that,” he said.

Also getting updated is remote management via the new WS-MAN Web service. The Alert Standard Format (ASF) technology defines how a central management console can contact a client computer, but never told it what to do beyond the wake-up command.

By adding support for DMWG, Intel has now standardized how a box will wake up. WS-MAN commands will tell the computer what to do on waking, so it describes what the processor, chipset and BIOS should do.

The Trusted Execution Technology features three components. The first examines an application when it is installed and makes a hash, or CRC  of the executable. Every time it’s run after that, it checks the hash against the original, and if they don’t match, the execution is halted. Ferron-Jones said the technology has an updating feature so if an application is legitimately patched or updated, the hash is renewed.

The second component is that it isolates applications within a virtual environment and only allows them to execute within that sandbox, essentially making it “fire-walled memory,” as Ferron-Jones called it.

The third element is purging memory space by closing software without exposing its data to the rest of the memory space. All data from the application is cleared from memory securely and in isolation of the other applications.

Kay believes these new features will enhance vPro’s appeal. “IT managers want this sort of stuff, particularly since it’s built in to the computers,” he said.

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