Intel has rolled out the latest update to its vPro technology, which is designed to give IT enterprise managers the ability to remotely manage all the PCs in the enterprise.
Targeting small businesses with little or no in-house IT management capabilities, Intel's 2008 vPro release now includes several automated features pertaining to PC maintenance, repair and security. Moreover, all the original vPro features that have delivered good performance within the firewall "will now work outside the firewall as well," noted Peter Kastner, vice president and research director at the Aberdeen Group.
"No matter where in the world the device is, the corporate laptops that workers take home or on business trips are all now manageable, fixable, and diagnosable," Kastner explained. "As long as you can get to a network, vPro and related technology can help to solve the problem."
One of the primary goals of Intel's revamped vPro, which combines the chipmaker's quad-core or dual-core processors with a new Intel chipset and gigabit network controller, is to enable small businesses to keep their PCs up and running while minimizing downtime and reducing the total cost of ownership, Kastner noted.
Five years ago, major service companies told Kastner that the TCO outcomes they saw were in the range of $700 to $3,000 per PC per year. On the low end, Intel's vPro technology has cut that down "to under $500 per PC per year, and that's not all that much more than just the device itself," Kastner said.
On the high end, the vPro has pushed the cost to less than $2,000, Kastner noted. "So that the not-quite-so-efficient companies have whacked out $1,000 per employee per year," which is a "huge savings that can go right to the bottom line," he explained.
The technology's new IT Director "dashboard," which is specifically designed for businesses with less than 25 notebooks or desktop PCs, provides smaller enterprises with status updates on key system settings and health parameters. It also incorporates a backup feature that will even enable users to work seamlessly through a hard-drive failure.
"If you look at the cost of maintaining and supporting PCs in the enterprise, one of the big components is having to get a human being to go and actually touch that computer," said Matthew Wilkins, a principal analyst at iSuppli. "So there has really been a big push to provide remote management and administration across the network."
Intel's 2008 vPro release also enables PCs to literally think and act for themselves. For example, vPro's new Remote Alert feature will enable a PC experiencing symptoms outside preset parameters to "call" for IT assistance on its own -- even when the device has been switched off.
Even better, vPro enables PC users to request immediate assistance, even when the PC's operating system has crashed or the hard disk has failed. To implement a fast call for help, users simply need to enter a predetermined key sequence on their machines.
Additionally, Intel and Symantec have been working together on vPro technology to help bring unreachable PCs into compliance and patch them quickly when threats emerge.
"This reduces time to patch PCs by as much as 86 percent," noted Kevin Unbedacht, the director of strategic alliances at Symantec. "Remote scheduled maintenance and remote alerts enable our IT customers to bring compliance to a whole new level and better protect their networks with tamper-resistant and proactive security features."