Intel pushes out vPro for Core i5, i7 processors

The platform uses hardware and software in order for support personnel to remotely solve PC problems

Intel on Thursday announced a new vPro platform for its Core processors to make remote maintenance and management of PCs easier in an enterprise.

Laptops and desktops with vPro technology enable IT administrators to use hardware-based technologies to manage and secure PCs through a wired or wireless network. The new vPro technologies will be in systems with Intel's Core i5 and Core i7 processors, which were announced earlier this year, Intel executives said during a webcast on Thursday.

The vPro platform includes new hardware that can solve a larger number of problems than prior vPro platforms. The technologies could help reduce support costs and the number of support visits to desktops, said Rick Echevarria, vice president of the Intel architecture group.

For example, a technology called Anti-Theft 2.0 uses software and hardware technology to remotely disable systems and lock access to data if a PC falls into wrong hands. A message can also be designed for disabled PCs that will be displayed after boot. This feature will be especially important to secure data on laptops, which can get easily stolen. The technology can also enable a disabled laptop remotely.

The new platform also includes technology called Keyboard-Video-Mouse Remote Control (KVM Remote Control), which gives support personnel better control of PCs remotely. Intel has introduced new hardware to enable the KVM capability, which helps establish a stable connection to remote PCs, Echevarria said. System administrators get pre-boot access to systems, which helps solve a larger set of problems including disk and operating system failure.

In order to maintain privacy, users will need to agree to start a KVM session with support personnel, Echevarria said. Built-in KVM technology also helps cut costs as it reduces the need for a KVM switch or software usually needed to enable such functionality.

As part of vPro, the new Core i5 and Core i7 chips will take advantage of a new instruction called Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for faster data encryption and decryption. That could help secure data residing in servers or virtualized environments.

Intel has worked with Microsoft to enable vPro features on Windows 7, said Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's server division, during the webcast. The platform enables Windows 7 to do things in System Center that previously required a desk-side visit from support, including remotely awakening and troubleshooting PCs.

Systems based on the latest vPro platform will include Intel's Q57 Express chipset. Close to 500 hardware and software vendors will take advantage of the latest vPro technology. PC makers including Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo will be releasing systems based on the platform, Intel said.

The company declined comment on whether the new platform will support systems with Advanced Micro Devices processors. But Echevarria said that there are scenarios that Intel has enabled with vPro that utilize specific Intel-developed technologies. For example, the new AES instructions are found only in Intel's new Core processors, and do not apply to platforms that don't include support for those instructions.

Advanced Micro Devices offers competitive tools to compete with vPro. It offers a tool to remotely fix PCs based on DASH (Desktop and Mobile Architecture for System Hardware), a suite of specifications set by Distributed Management Task Force for remote management of laptops and desktops.

Intel's Core vPro processor technology supports standards such as DASH, Echevarria said in an e-mail. "Intel is a contributor to the specifications from the DMTF. Remember that standards are necessary, but not always sufficient," he said.

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