Partners Applaud Intel's vPro, VBI Plans

System builders gave a big thumbs-up to the chip giant's plans, saying it will invigorate their business in whitebooks and other systems.

At the Intel Solutions Summit in San Diego, company executives detailed for channel partners the next vPro desktop management platform, code-named Weybridge, which will be available in the third quarter.

Weybridge, based on the Intel Core 2 Duo E6x50 processor and Q35 Express chipset, is the first platform to incorporate Intel's Trusted Execution Technology, a security technology formerly code-named LaGrande, according to an Intel-authorized supplement distributed at the summit. Weybridge also will support the new management specifications DMWG 1.0 and WS-MAN and Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d), the supplement said.

Intel also told partners it will extend vPro to the "Santa Rosa" Centrino Duo chipset, based on the company's Core 2 architecture. The Santa Rosa platform consists of a faster Centrino Duo processor, support for 802.11n Wi-Fi, the new "Crestine" graphics chipset, vPro, and the new "Robson" non-volatile memory technology, designed to boost performance.

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The Santa Rosa platform is expected to make its debut in May, with the related vPro offering coming out soon thereafter.

Quad-core processor support for vPro also is due to be available next quarter with the release of Intel's Q35/33 chipset, code-named Bearlake, according to the supplement.

vPro, unveiled last summer, enables solution providers to quickly create a managed services business.

At a summit roundtable hosted by Intel and CRN, executives from solution providers and system builders Columbus Micro, Proactive Technologies, Coastline Micro and Paragon Development Systems said vPro has given them quick entry to the managed services business -- and the promise of strong margins in the near future.

The Intel partners declined to comment on Weybridge or the planned Santa Rosa vPro version. Still, many summit attendees said they're committed to supporting vPro as a way to get into managed services.

"What Intel has done with vPro is created margin opportunities for the channel," said Pat Taylor, president of Proactive Technologies. "Because the local [IT services] guy who manages all the law offices in town or takes care of the dentists in his area, those people trust him because he's local and knowledgeable and has some sense of control. Now he can take care of them quicker. He can be more proactive, if you will, as far as taking care of problems on-site increases his value to them.

"You can't shop this kind of service, the way you would a machine. There's mystery in that. And, of course, there is margin in mystery," he noted.

What's more, advancing the vPro technology on the server and mobile platforms will be "critical" to the value-add that solution providers bring their customers, Taylor explained.

"We are perceived as white-box builders; we are competing on price alone. When we can get into the storage side of things, the servers, the networking and then, of course, the periphery, we own these accounts," he said. "The value-add is obvious, and our value to the customer goes up, as does our margin. It's critical to the long-term success of the channel."

Another Intel partner at the summit, who didn't participate in the roundtable, said the vPro platform for Centrino will be big.

"I am very excited about Santa Rosa -- performance, 800Mhz FSB, 4MB cache, 802.11n, Intel Turbo Memory. The vPro aspects for Santa Rosa are important due to the ability to be able to support a client remotely in the field," said Jeff DiBella, vice president of sales at AOpen Center. "This is key for us being able to sell and support whitebooks. This gives us the ability to provide support for a customer, no matter where they are in the world."

NEXT: Intel details the next VBI Intel also detailed its next-gen VBI initiative, including plans to support Santa Rosa and more form factors and platforms, including blade servers and ultra-mobile PCs.

VBI is a barebones notebook program that enables system builders to buy, customize and sell whitebooks or channel-built notebooks, a fast-growing market that is now owned almost exclusively by larger OEMs. The new VBI form factors are intended to help drive more business for whitebook makers in 2007 and 2008, Intel executives said.

The current VBI offerings are for 14.1-inch and 15.4-inch form factors, but Intel is slated to unveil 12-, 13- and 17-inch form factors plus announce a new aggregator that can respond to partners' time-to-market requirements. In addition, Intel is preparing new VBI chipsets based on the Santa Rosa platform to simplify the development of whitebooks.

VBI is critical to all system builders because mobile PCs remain the biggest growth segment in the PC industry, said roundtable participant Steve Bohman, vice president of operations at Columbus Micro. "If you're not selling your own notebooks, you're running the very distinct risk of losing your customers," he said.

Bohman knows that for a fact, explaining that Columbus Micro experienced such a situation.

"We have a customer that we used to do all of their desktop, mobile and server [systems]. Unfortunately, we were not able to fulfill their mobile needs, lost that business and with it went their desktop business -- not because we fell down, but because they don't buy desktops anymore. So we completely lost their client business," Bohman said.

"Fortunately for us, we still have their server business. Mobile led the way to us losing all their client business. So if you get into the game, you've take the first step toward winning."