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Acer Veriton 3900 Pro With VPro

Remote PC Management with Intel's vPro
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Since we had trouble getting the MSI Q965MDO up and running at first, we decided to also get a fully-featured, vPro-enabled PC. Acer was so kind to provide a current product, the Veriton 3900 Pro. It isn’t quite a sophisticated system, as it came with an outdated Pentium D processor and only 512 MB of memory (DDR2-533, running single-channel mode). Also, you cannot install regular expansion cards, as the micro tower case will only accept low-profile add-on cards. Clearly, this is an office PC, which should not be put on the test bench and which doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility. But it supports vPro, which is what we wanted in the first place. And it even does so by using the 945G chipset, which shows that vPro simply is a marketing buzzword, whose requirements effectively aren’t tied to particular hardware.

The system worked well and allowed us to play around with the vPro management features intensively. However, we found something to criticize. The CPU fan noise at startup, or without temperature control if disabled in the BIOS, was the loudest, rudest noise we’ve ever heard. Obviously, this system will never overheat. But it can make as much noise as a vacuum cleaner.

Conclusion

I have issues talking about vPro as if it were the great new invention. It also does not require Intel’s latest-generation hardware, nor does it offer features that weren’t available before (AMT is not new at all). vPro is a smart marketing initiative that combines several individual features enabling Intel to sell as many silicon products as possible under a sexy brand name. This approach worked well with Centrino, and it’s working somewhat well with Viiv. But again, it’s important to know that vPro doesn’t really require the latest chipset or the latest Core 2 processor to experience the pleasures of Intel’s management technology. You should, however, pay attention that you get up-to-date hardware if you intend to use specific management features that may require certain product features, or if you want future AMT/vPro updates. For example, running vPro via wireless connections should be possible soon, but it will require compatible hardware

From a technology standpoint, there are no real negative bullet points to mention. If you know what you have to pay attention to, you’ll setup vPro PCs for remote management easily within minutes. Larger deployments require the enterprise provisioning model, which provides additional security via a provisioning server in charge of certificates, but this solution is manageable for experienced administrators.

I found it very helpful to be able to deploy a battery of vPro-enabled PCs into existing networks, being able to run existing management tools on them and conveniently switching PCs to vPro/AMT. It is clearly possible to invest in new equipment right away, and then turn on the management features at a later point.

vPro also looks very interesting for enthusiast users, because it adds a new level of control over your system. You can turn it on or off and reboot it over any network, and I can even imagine customizable vPro solutions, that could allow the user to customize the Web interface to run certain simple services while the computer is switched off. However, if you care a lot about performance, features and overclocking, you’ll have to decide between them and vPro, because we haven’t found motherboards that can cater to both management-hungry business clients while maintaining the sophisticated features that enthusiasts want.

My opinion is that each and every PC should have remote management features built-in without a hefty price tag attached. Enterprises will be glad to spend money on somewhat customized or more flexible management solutions, but the end user should get the features without high additional costs.

Setup Table

System I

Socket 775

Intel Core 2 Extreme E6300 (Allendale 65 nm, 1.86 GHz, 2 MB L2 Cache)

Motherboard

MSI Q965MDO

Chipset : Intel Q965, BIOS : 2006-12-19

RAM

2x 1024 MB DDR2-667 (CL 5.0-5-5-15) Corsair CM2X1024-6400C3 XMS6403v1.1

Graphics Card

Intel GMA 3000

Hard Drive

160 GB 7,200 RPM, 8 MB Cache, SATA/300

Western Digital WD1600AAJS

DVD-ROM

Gigabyte GO-D1600C (16x) System II

Socket 775

Intel Pentium D 925 (Presler 65 nm, 3.0 GHz, 2x2 MB L2 Cache)

Motherboard

Acer FQ965M

Chipset : Intel Q965, BIOS : R01-A3

RAM

1x 512 MB DDR2-533 (CL 5.0-4-4-12)

Apacer

Graphics Card

Intel GMA 3000

Hard Drive

80 GB 7,200 RPM, 8 MB Cache, SATA/150

Western Digital WD800JD

DVD-ROM

Gigabyte GO-D1600C (16x) Software

Platform Drivers Intel

INF-Treiber 8.1.1.1010

DirectX

Version : 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)

OS

Windows XP, Build 2600 SP2

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