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Intel vPro: Three Generations Of Remote Management

Unique vPro Hardware Requirements

Intel vPro-enabled processor and motherboard combinations look very similar to their consumer counterparts. However, the hardware is only part of the equation. There's a software component involved as well, which exposes the comprising features to IT managers working remotely. A vPro-capable platform doesn't affect performance. Rather, the technology bundle is focused on improving security and augmenting manageability.

One thing you'd need to keep in mind before building a PC able to expose vPro's feature set is that compatible processors and motherboards are a requisite. You can't just go out and buy an H67- or Z68-based board and hope to flip a switch to turn vPro on. Instead, you'd need a board based on the Q67 chipset, which is specifically designed to enable vPro.

Additionally, there are a lot of processors in Intel's lineup that don't support vPro. For a list of the CPUs that are certified vPro-compatible, check this list on Intel's site. You'll notice a complete absence of Core i3 processors there, for starters. Intel does facilitate a great set of features. However, you end up paying a premium due to the Q-series chipset and higher-end processor requirements.

For our purposes, Intel sent along a Core 2 Duo E8500, a Core i5-670, and a Core i5-2500, along with motherboards to go along with each. The Core 2 Duo E8500 represents the now 15-quarter-old Wolfdale generation. It's a fairly common processor in systems nearing a three- to four-year replacement cycle (incidentally, it was also a fairly popular enthusiast chip, thanks to its modest overclockability). Intel's Clarkdale design is represented by the Core i5-670, which is the 32 nm follow-up based on Intel's Nehalem architecture with an on-package graphics/memory/PCIe controller etched at 45 nm. Representing the newest Sandy Bridge architecture is Intel's Core i5-2500.

These CPUs are neither the fastest in their respective product families, nor are they the slowest. Businesses, unlike enthusiasts, tend not to purchase as many top-of-the line CPUs due to ever-present budget constraints. 

Intel vPro CPU Comparison
CPUCore 2 Duo E8500Core i5-670Core i5-2500
SocketLGA 775LGA 1156LGA 1155
Process45 nm32 nm32 nm
Max TDP65 W73 W95 W
Cores224
Threads244
Base Clock3.16 GHz3.46 GHz3.3 GHz
Max Turbo ClockN/A3.73 GHz3.7 GHz
AES-NINoYesYes
VT-dYesYesYes
TXTYesYesYes

If you want a better idea of how these processor perform, check out Tom's CPU Charts. Performance isn't the issue here, though. Instead, we're interested in how the technologies these have evolved across three generations of hardware.

Along with a compatible CPU, exploiting vPro also requires a compatible motherboard. Generally speaking, the technology is enabled through Q-series motherboards. However, it's worth noting that not all Q-series chipsets support all of the features under the vPro umbrella. This is one of those areas where Intel could really help clarify for its partners, as it's currently difficult to get a clear bead on the precise demands for each piece of the vPro puzzle.

vPro Motherboard Comparison
MotherboardIntel DQ45CBIntel DQ57TMIntel DQ67SW
SocketLGA 775LGA 1156LGA 1155
Form FactorMicroATXMicroATXMicroATX
Memory TypeDDR2DDR3DDR3
Graphics OutputDVI-I, DVI-DDVI-I, DVI-D, DisplayPortDVI-I, DVI-D, DisplayPort
USB 2.0 Ports121412
USB 3.0 Ports002
SATA II Ports652
SATA III Ports002
eSATA Ports112
AMT Version5.x6.x7.x
TPMYesYesYes
10/100/1000 NICIntel 82567LMIntel 82578DMIntel 82574LM

Intel’s Q-series boards utilize Intel-branded network controllers to support vPro's out-of-band management capabilities (that is to say, features that still work, even when a PC is powered down). A quick glance at the controllers on the boards Intel submitted for evaluation reveals that each platform provides on-board gigabit-class connectivity. As part of the vPro platform, Intel requires that the system use the company's networking hardware instead of controllers from other vendors like Realtek, Marvell, and Broadcom.

  • cngledad
    Can I suggest an article comparing different remote access tools we can use? From the freeware TeamViewer, VNC Viewer to such things like WebEx? I think that would be a very good topic.
    Reply
  • ^^Don't forget Logmein Rescue which has vPro support.
    Reply
  • pro-gamer
    intel man please give me a job.
    Intels rock
    Reply
  • NirXY
    Glad to see you made it to publish day, was waiting for this piece.
    Looking great !
    Reply
  • One correction: DQ57TM *does* contain a v1.2 TPM, the same as found on DQ67SW and DQ67EP. It's required to be vPro compliant (necessary for Intel TXT).
    Reply
  • jhansonxi
    Nifty but I don't like the single-vendor lock-in. I can see real improvements in IT efficiency if this was combined with AoE. Would like to see SSH support, however.
    Reply
  • extremepcs
    Hopefully they have improved the activation mechanism. Kind of a PITA if you don't buy a certificate from a trusted CA. I used an internal cert and had to activate each machine by booting from a flash drive.
    Reply
  • chovav
    If my hard drive is encrypted using TrueCrypt pre-boot authentication, would I be able to fill in the password using Intels vPro?
    Reply
  • jowunger
    The voice of the guy in the video is bad. The guy talks like he is speedreading a book...
    Reply
  • cangelini
    cdw-vproOne correction: DQ57TM *does* contain a v1.2 TPM, the same as found on DQ67SW and DQ67EP. It's required to be vPro compliant (necessary for Intel TXT).
    Fixed, thanks!
    Reply