Intel vPro In 2012, Small Business Advantage, And Anti-Theft Tech.

Tom's Hardware Revisits vPro, Tests Anti-Theft, And Explores SBA

Intel is already well-known for its hardware, from x86 processing cores, graphics engines (the company still has the highest graphics market share), network controllers, chipsets, solid-state storage, and full server systems.

What many enthusiasts tend to overlook is the fact that Intel continues moving beyond just manufacturing hardware and is now tackling more of the software stack. It's currently putting a big emphasis on management, but is also heavily involved in security, a proposition supported by the McAfee acquisition. On the back of its Ivy Bridge architecture and platforms built with supporting technologies, such as the Ultrabook initiative, we're seeing Intel add more value by enabling new capabilities.

Almost exactly one year ago, we reviewed three consecutive generations of Intel's enterprise-oriented vPro platform in Intel vPro: Three Generations Of Remote Management, covering the hardware used to enable remote management, the software used to control that hardware, and some of the unique features available in vPro-enabled components. We even went so far as to quiz AMD on its plans to combat vPro with its own DASH initiative, discovering that Intel is pretty much on its own in this space, unfortunately.

More recently, the vPro platform was updated, expanded, and then distilled down for a broader audience. So, today we're exploring vPro in 2012, Intel's new Small Business Advantage platform, and Anti-Theft technology, which we've previously discussed, but never really tested.

Small Business Advantage (SBA) is a new development accompanying the third-generation Core CPUs and their complementary core logic. Unlike vPro, SBA isn't meant for organizations with IT staff hanging around to manage technology. Rather, it's for home users and small businesses without anyone responsible for taking care of their PCs. SBA includes a PC Health Center able to perform maintenance tasks after hours, a Software Monitor to ensure critical services don't go down, a Data Backup and Restore feature to schedule regular save points that execute even if a machine was previously shut down, an Energy Saver function to automatically turn systems off and on when they aren't in use, and a USB Blocker that prevents data theft via easily-attachable mass storage devices. 

Moreover, incremental improvements to vPro make the technology more powerful and easier to use. We got our hands on a new processor and motherboard in order to test some of the new things vPro can do this time around.

One of the most notable components of the platform to receive attention is Anti-Theft Technology. The timing here isn't coincidental. With thin and light Ultrabooks getting more of the spotlight, businesses want to do everything they can to avoid losing them. Vendors that choose to support the feature can enable Anti-Theft Technology on their Ultrabooks. In fact, McAfee just introduced a new version of its security software enabling location tracking, file protection, lock-down modes, and reactivation. In addition to exposing Anti-Theft Technology on its Ultrabooks, Intel also makes the feature available on its desktop platforms, and we'll be looking at how that works, too.

  • bit_user
    Toms, you really need to blow the lid off the incredibly dangerous security flaws in vPro that can enable undetectable and irremovable rootkits. did some reporting on this. Please alert the mainstream. The exploit was already demonstrated some time ago.

  • bit_user
    I don't know if it's allowed, but here's the link:

    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.
  • freggo
    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 :-)

  • bigdragon
    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.
  • StitchExperiment626
    Backup is my complaint! Doing a full backup every night there isn't enough time.
  • jkflipflop98
    Keep in mind, all the garbage you read on that site is by Charlie Demerjian. . . who honestly doesn't know much about anything.
  • labtech drew
    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 ( which can remotely provision and manage vPro along with any other IT management function you can think of.


    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.