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Intel Small Business Advantage: The Hardware

Intel vPro In 2012, Small Business Advantage, And Anti-Theft Tech.
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The hardware requirements for Small Business Advantage are frankly pretty light. You do need a Q77 or B75 chipset on the desktop, or a QM77-, HM77-, UM77-, or QS77-based mobile platform. If you're using Q77, your accompanying CPU choices are limited to a vPro-capable Core i7 or Core i5. However, the other chipsets accommodate Core i3s, Core i5, and Core i7s. That's good news because it makes the technology suite more accessible than vPro, which doesn't fit into the same mainstream budgets and is less likely to turn up in a cost-conscious small business anyway.

Small Business Advantage Hardware Requirements

Q77 Express
B75 Express
Mobile QM77 Express
Mobile HM77 Express
Mobile UM77 Express
Mobile QS77 Express
Core i7
Not Supported
SupportedSupportedSupportedSupportedSupported
Core i5
Not SupportedSupportedSupportedSupportedSupportedSupported
Core i3
Not SupportedSupportedSupportedSupportedSupportedSupported
Core i7 w/ vPro
Supported
SupportedSupportedSupportedSupportedSupported
Core i5 w/ vPro
SupportedSupportedSupportedSupportedSupportedSupported


Intel sent us a Core i5-3450 and its DB75EN motherboard, part of the company's Executive series, for testing. Combined, the platform supports Small Business Advantage and Anti-Theft Technology. It's a cost-effective match-up that keeps with the theme of enabling PC health and automation without the intervention of a "tech guy." The quad-core processor sells for less than $200 at retail, and Intel's home-grown motherboard costs right around $90. Dip down to a Core i3, though, and you're looking at prices as low as $125 or so for an SBA-capable CPU.

It's easy to see that the microATX-based DB75EN was built with support for legacy devices in mind.

Two PCI slots sit next to a PCI Express x1 and x16 slot. Enthusiasts certainly won't be excited; we want to see lots of PCIe for graphics, after all. In the business world, though, it's probable that those four slots won't even be filled. Remember, Intel is aiming this platform at the low-cost business desktop market likely to use integrated graphics, on-board sound, and value-added I/O.

Legacy connectivity abounds around back, too. The rear I/O panel sports a combination PS/2 connector able to take a mouse or keyboard. That PS/2 connector first surfaced in 1987, around the same time as the DB75EN's VGA output. In essence, these are 25 year-old interfaces that support an infrastructure of gear that used to be popular in enterprises. Another throw-back to days gone by is a parallel port, which dates back to 1970. To be fair, I will admit that I just recycled my HP LaserJet 5, a must-have printer from the '90s that spat out nearly one million pages. It was a great printer, and they're still out there attached to parallel ports.

Not everything about the DB75EN's rear panel is legacy, of course. Four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports accommodate some of the latest peripherals. DVI display output complements the older VGA connector. And gigabit-class Ethernet serves up completely modern networking performance.

In addition to the on-board USB, the motherboard includes one front-panel USB 3.0 header and two extra USB 2.0 headers.

The boxed Core i5-3450 that Intel sent came with a retail heat sink and fan. We're quite familiar with the combination, which is easy to install via push-pins, quiet, and effective on the 77 W processor.

Aside from chipset and processor compatibility, the only other requirements to support SBA are a 5 MB firmware image and 90 MB of available hard drive space. Drivers need to be installed for the local Manageability Service and Intel's Management Engine Interface too, but that's really part of the install process anyway.

With all of the requisite hardware compiled, take a quick moment to consider supported operating systems. Intel claims that SBA is currently only validated on Windows 7 (the 32- and 64-bit versions), but not Windows 7 Starter Edition. We expect to see Windows 8 support added around Microsoft's upcoming launch, but have no indication from Intel if or when that will happen.

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  • 2 Hide
    bit_user , September 21, 2012 5:06 AM
    Toms, you really need to blow the lid off the incredibly dangerous security flaws in vPro that can enable undetectable and irremovable rootkits. semiaccurate.com did some reporting on this. Please alert the mainstream. The exploit was already demonstrated some time ago.

    Thanks.
  • 5 Hide
    bit_user , September 21, 2012 5:10 AM
    I don't know if it's allowed, but here's the link:

    http://semiaccurate.com/2012/05/15/intel-small-business-advantage-is-a-security-nightmare/

    Maybe the editors will read it before they remove this post. It's not a terribly well-written article. That's where you can help, Tom's.
  • 3 Hide
    freggo , September 21, 2012 2:17 PM
    Why not integrate a GPS receiver into the motherboard and than have an option to define 'allowed' active areas for the system. For desktops that should be no problem as they do not get moved much.

    For laptops you may have to take a bit more time defining your typical usage area of course; you could even let the laptop track your typical usage location patterns so it can make recommendations for the best setup.

    If the systems is outside the area either request a special password or some other form of identification to unlock the machine either for one time or for inclusions of the current location into the allowed area.

    Damn, I should get that patented :-)

  • 2 Hide
    bigdragon , September 21, 2012 2:50 PM
    I have a hard time reading this lengthy article after all the trouble I've had with Intel's DBS1200KP and DBS1200KPR. Intel keeps promoting virtualization, but they failed to implement VT-d on that product even though there's no reason for it not to be supported.
  • 0 Hide
    StitchExperiment626 , September 22, 2012 3:25 AM
    Backup is my complaint! Doing a full backup every night there isn't enough time. [This is my preference backup the disk and then do incremental with verification and a new backup every 7 days of work drives with ~175GB of used space.]
  • 0 Hide
    calgary computer repair , September 24, 2012 12:45 PM
    Quote:
    I don't know if it's allowed, but here's the link:

    http://semiaccurate.com/2012/05/15/intel-small-business-advantage-is-a-security-nightmare/

    Maybe the editors will read it before they remove this post. It's not a terribly well-written article. That's where you can help, Tom's.


    Thanks for this. I'd like more information.
  • 0 Hide
    jkflipflop98 , September 29, 2012 7:39 AM
    Keep in mind, all the garbage you read on that site is by Charlie Demerjian. . . who honestly doesn't know much about anything.
  • 0 Hide
    labtech drew , October 10, 2012 4:58 PM
    Having owned an MSP (Managed Service Provider), with hundreds of customers, and thousands of machines under management, vPro add's enormous cost savings when implemented.

    Customer has a blue screen? No problem, you can KVM right in and see the issue.

    Workstation hung after remotely applying patches - calling the user and saying "Can you go over and hold the power button for me?" is no longer necessary. Simply shutdown the machine via vPro and power it back on. Even remotely re-imagine a machine from backup is possible.

    However, my favorite use case is the instant back to work use case. End user hard drive fails - obviously a truck roll is needed, but the most important thing is to get the user productive again. Leverage vPro's ability to redirect IDE (IDEr) to a network Live Linux CD at least gets the user in to Web Outlook, if not 100% back in business.

    How about power savings? Schedule machines to auto shutdown at night, and for your patch window, use vPro to power up the workstations, apply the patches, power down (from windows) and if a machine hangs on shutdown use the vPro power off command. Allows for nightly maintenance and keeps costs savings maximized.

    Rolling out vPro can be a bit of work using native tools, but there are solutions available (shameless plug) like LabTech Software (http://www.labtechsoftware.com) which can remotely provision and manage vPro along with any other IT management function you can think of.

    -Drew

    Full disclosure: Having ran an MSP and worked with many enterprises, out of band management tools were critical in every mature organization I worked with. As a co-founder of LabTech Software, I have engaged Intel and we are working closely to build out solutions that vPro truly solves for.