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Intel unveils next-gen vPro

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Intel today formally launched the third generation of its vPro suite of business desktop technologies aimed at combating the three major bugbears of the industry at present – security, manageability and energy efficiency.

Although the formal announcement was only made today, journalists at last week's press briefing in Prague were briefed on the new technology by Boyd Davis, GM of Intel's Server Products Group.
"We've been working on vPro for several years now and it's been wonderful for me to watch the progress of our strategy in this area," Davis says. "The core of the business client strategy at Intel is similar to that of the server group: what's changing the nature of requirements from an IT perspective and how do we build in solutions to these into our silicon and firmware.
"There are a couple of critical needs that we are trying to address with the new version of vPro," he says. "First, security. We've seen the transformation of attacks from malicious, mischevious for fun to nefarious aimed solely at financial gain. There is also a considerable shrinking in the time space between the launch of new technology and hacks.
"The second issue is the rising costs of energy," Boyd continues. "We're taking steps to combat this in the server and datacentre arena, but notebooks and PCs are great consumers of energy too and this has to be addressed.
"And the third issue is manageability where it is very important that we lower the costs and increase the responsiveness," he says. "The cost of doing something on a PC or notebook remotely as opposed to physically visiting a desk is enormous and it must be remembered that half the total costs of maintenance are spent on this.
"These three areas are the foundations for our strategy in business computing and are the foundation for the vPro brand," he adds.
The new vPro technology (formerly codenamed “McCreary”) combines the energy-efficient performance of Intel Core 2 quad-core or dual-core processors with the new Q45 Express chipset and 2567LM Gigabit Network Connection, along with Active Management technology 5.0.
Among the new business-class technology innovations, this 2008 version for the first time extends IT organisations’ reach to secure and manage PCs beyond the corporate firewall. With the new Remote Alert feature, a suddenly ailing PC – even one that is turned off – that is experiencing symptoms outside preset parameters can “call” for IT assistance on its own.
Using the new Remote Scheduled Maintenance feature, IT administrators can program PCs for regular tune-ups that have the PCs automatically connecting to an IT management program for maintenance. With the new Fast Call for Help feature, the user can get immediate assistance over an out-of-band link by entering a key sequence, even if the computer is completely crippled with a failed operating system or hard drive.
In addition, Intel has beefed up access security with two new features. The new Access Monitor feature comprehensively and more securely logs IT activity on systems, further closing the door on potential internal security breaches. The platform also offers the first embedded technology to authenticate PCs using Microsoft's Network Access Protection, enabling secure out-of-band remote maintenance on Intel vPro-based systems.
For the first time, Intel has moulded Intel vPro technology in a form to specifically fit the needs of small businesses, those whose computer systems are likely managed by someone with no computer background at all. Designed for businesses with less than 25 notebooks or desktop PCs,  IT Director offers a user-friendly “dashboard” that provides status on key system settings and health parameters, capability to block connection to risky USB devices and a data back-up feature that enables users to work seamlessly through hard-drive failures.
For small businesses which periodically need immediate help with PC problems, Intel has also unveiled Remote PC Assist Technology that connects those businesses with service providers that can assist when an end-user enters a key sequence. Once connected, service providers can take full advantage of the out-of-band capabilities, and security and management features of vPro Technology to solve problems remotely. For the service provider, Intel Remote PC Assist Technology means enhanced service delivery, reduced operational costs and broader access to customers. Initially, Intel Remote PC Assist will be available in North America.
Many IT organisations are looking to new application delivery technologies to strengthen security, improve management and lower total cost of ownership. Dynamic Virtual Client technologies (DVC), Intel’s designation for a new group of computing models, work in conjunction with Intel vPro Technology to centralise data security and application management on a server, but “stream” applications on demand to a desktop or laptop PC where they run under the PCs own processing power. In this way, DVC preserves user mobility and performance, simplifies IT management and security, and, unlike thin-client models, does not require a large-scale burden on the datacenter. Lenovo, Citrix and Microsoft recently announced DVC products or programs that take advantage of Intel vPro technology.