CHIPMAKER Intel has introduced its line of Vpro chips based on its Ivy Bridge architecture for business users.
Intel launched Ivy Bridge with much fanfare last month with a new process node and significantly improved graphics, but in the end relatively meagre performance gains and higher running temperatures have tempered Ivy Bridge's success. Now Intel has launched its Vpro Ivy Bridge chips that bring security and manageability features for businesses to Ivy Bridge.
Intel's Vpro branding is similar to that of the firm's Centrino mobile branding, and includes a Vpro chip range and a supporting chipset. The firm provided little in the way of processor model numbers but said on the desktop the only supporting chipset is the Q77, while on laptops the QM77 and QS77 chipsets will form part of the Vpro combo.
While Intel was cagey on processor product numbers for its Vpro processors, the firm did confirm to The INQUIRER that Vpro compatible processors have different silicon from that of consumer Ivy Bridge processors. However the firm didn't tell us what the balance between Vpro technology in the chip and the southbridge, known these days as the PCH is.
As part of Intel's Vpro umbrella branding, supporting devices will have the firm's identity protection technology, which includes the Intel's one-time password. Intel also introduced hardware storage of public keys, and perhaps surprisingly the launch partner for this technology is not Chipzilla's McAfee division but the rival security firm Symantec, with its Managed public key infrastructure (PKI) software.
Intel includes management tools for enterprises, including its AMT 8.0 allowing for remote machine management, while the firm's setup and configuration software allows remote configuration and application of patches. Intel also announced a module for Microsoft's Windows Powershell, a management interface that can be used to remotely fix software issues with Windows Vpro machines.
Unlike Intel's Small Business Advantage, which is found on all its Ivy Bridge processors, Vpro is supported on Linux. However Dan Russell, director of marketing at Intel's small business division told The INQUIRER that the firm has seen little demand for Linux support.
Russell said, "We have actually put our Vpro software into a Linux environment and we've got Linux drivers and Linux software on the market at this point, but we haven't found many people using it. Linux still continues to be primarily for server based implementation. We just haven't found that many folks put Vpro systems out with Linux".
Vpro is Intel's attempt to tack on a few more features and increase its margin on chips that will end up in business machines. The firm acknowledged that its attention typically reserved for Vpro on desktops and laptops will soon extend to tablets and smartphones, with Rick Echevarria, VP of Intel's Architecture Group and GM of the firm's Business Client Platforms Division saying, "Our intent with other form factors, specifically on the tablet front is to figure out how to take some of the learnings not only from a technology perspective, but from a business process perspective of Vpro in PCs and apply those in the future to tablet space, and eventually we will do the phone space."
Jason Kennedy, product line manager at Intel told The INQUIRER that Atom processors will be treated much like Core-branded chips in terms of features. Talking up the security features Vpro brings to machines, Kennedy said, "With our Atom product line - which is a lot of the focus on smartphone devices and some of our focus on tablet - we have a split focus similar to PCs and servers. [...] So that absolutely matters in the smartphone and tablets to raise the bar in terms of both security and some of the ability to manage [devices in] a more commercial type of environment."
Intel could score a minor victory in its upcoming smartphone campaign if it can create a chip that has enterprise management capabilities that are nearly identical to those found in desktops and laptops. Russell was even more direct regarding Vpro support in Atom processors, saying, "You will definitely see some of this technology in future versions of some of our smartphone and tablet devices."
In the more immediate future, Intel said Vpro branded ultrabooks will appear in the coming months. Lenovo is showing off a Thinkpad X1 Carbon that has a 14.1in screen, is 18mm thick and uses carbon fibre in its chassis. According to Lenovo, the Thinkpad X1 Carbon will tip up in August, though it revealed no pricing.
Echevarria said that while Vpro desktops are available at mainstream prices, laptops are still at the "higher-end of the [price] segment". Echevarria added that it will be "a little bit of time before it becomes part of the mainstream price segment".
Intel's Vpro CPUs and chipsets could become a big selling point for the firm if it wants to push tablet and smartphone managability in the enterprise. With Research in Motion's grip on the enterprise waning, Intel's Android smartphones and tablets could swoop in offering managability features that system administrators are looking for in devices that users actually want to use.
However Intel is saving Vpro smartphones and tablets for another day, and right now the firm's Ivy Bridge Vpro line concentrates on its bread and butter desktop and laptop machines. With Intel's partners readying Vpro ultrabooks to tip up in the next couple of months, it can finally see if all the effort it has put into pushing its design specifications really hits the big time. µ