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.