How Intel Thinks Partners Can Reap Sales From vPro CPUs For Business PCs, Old And New

The head of Intel’s commercial PC division, Stephanie Hallford, explains to CRN how the chipmaker’s commercial-grade vPro processors are giving partners opportunities to improve the security posture of their customers and to sell new software solutions into existing fleets of business PCs. ‘With vPro alone, we’ve got an over-150-million-unit install base,’ she says.


Intel’s Stephanie Hallford

The head of Intel’s commercial PC division said a growing need by businesses to harden the security of employee computers is opening a significant opportunity for channel partners to sell PCs with the chipmaker’s latest commercial-grade vPro processors.

But Stephanie Hallford, vice president and general manager of the commercial client division within Intel’s Client Computing Group, said the existing fleets of business PCs with vPro CPUs present opportunities for partners too in the form of new software to sell.

[Related: Intel vPro Is Making Big Bets On Partner, Ecosystem Enablement, Exec Says]

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That’s due to the growing number of ISVs that are using vPro’s security and management features to create new premium offerings for partners to sell, according to Hallford, who has led Intel’s commercial PC business since 2018.

“I think the ecosystem work that we have done is one of the things I’m most proud of because I truly believe we win together, and we’re providing more value by working with partners,” she said.

In an interview with CRN, Hallford talked about why this year’s launch of the 13th-gen Intel vPro CPUs is a prime opportunity for partners to push PC upgrades with customers, how Intel’s growing partnerships with ISVs are opening new sales opportunities for partners and what partners can expect with an upcoming vPro integration for VMware’s Workspace One platform.

Meeting Modern PC Security Needs With 13th-Gen vPro

While a slowing economy has hurt demand for PCs this year, Hallford said commercial activity has remained healthy as businesses have become increasingly concerned about the security of their IT environments, including employee computers.

“The need to have a more secure environment has become almost a requirement, a necessity,” she said.

Hallford said this is creating an opportunity for Intel’s channel partners to sell new business PCs with the chipmaker’s 13th-gen vPro processors because of how their silicon-based capabilities for security and management, along with their performance, have significantly improved over older generations.

“Most companies are recognizing that they need to be secure, so I think that the refresh message is really one that is driven by the fear of what could happen if you are not with your best posture,” she said.

Launched in March, the 13th-gen vPro processors come with commercial-grade management, security and stability features, and they are expected to go into more than 170 laptops, desktops and entry workstations for businesses this year from a variety of hardware vendors, including Asus, Dell Technologies, HP Inc., Lenovo and Samsung Electronics.

Compared with Intel’s ninth-gen vPro CPUs from 2020, the 13th-gen vPro chips reduce a computer’s attack surface—basically the points where a hacker could enter, affect or exfiltrate data from—by roughly 70 percent, according to an Intel-commissioned report by security research firm IOActive.

This major reduction in attack surface is made possible by several silicon-based security features that have been introduced to Intel vPro processors over the past few years.

These features include Intel Threat Detection Technology, which has received new capabilities in recent years to enable security vendors such as CrowdStrike to scan for cryptojacking and ransomware attacks faster using the vPro processor’s integrated graphics. With the feature relying on machine learning to detect attacks, Hallford said it’s the “only AI-based threat detection in the business PC market today.”

“They basically enhanced their ability to detect ransomware and cryptomining and then remediate. And every time there’s a new attack, the machine learning gets smarter and evolves at the speed of software,” she said.

With 13th-gen vPro, Intel added another feature to protect PCs from cyberattacks: virtualization-based security, which works with Windows 11 “out of the box,” according to Hallford.

“We’ve shown over 25 percent lower risk of security events because of our [remote provisioning clients] and the security that we’ve put in there,” she said, citing a figure from an Intel-sponsored report from research firm IDC that assessed the security capabilities of vPro-based PCs.

New Channel Opportunities Through ISV Integrations

CrowdStrike is among dozens of ISVs that are taking advantage of vPro’s security and management capabilities to introduce new products it can sell at different price points, according to Hallford.

With ISVs building on top of features available in multiple generations of vPro processors, there’s an opportunity for channel partners to expand sales with customers by selling an ISV’s vPro-enabled products into existing fleets of business PCs powered by vPro processors.

“With vPro alone, we’ve got an over-150-million-unit install base. And as we start to become more and more truly cloud-native, you can reach those install base units and upgrade,” Hallford said.

Other software partners working with Intel on the vPro platform include Microsoft, Google, BlackBerry, ConnectWise, Datto, Ivanti, Kaseya, ServiceNow, Zoom and SentinelOne.

“We’ve really upped our engagement,” Hallford said.

One upcoming vPro integration where Hallford sees a big opportunity for channel partners is around VMware’s Workspace One endpoint management platform.

With the integration expected to be released by the end of the year, Hallford said IT administrators using Workspace One to manage fleets of PCs will, over time, gain new security and management capabilities enabled by features in Intel’s vPro processors.

Among the vPro-enabled features expected in Workspace One later this year will be around enhanced security vulnerability insight, according to Hallford.

“If you’re a Workspace One customer and you’ve got vPros in your install base—maybe you’re buying new boxes too—but even reaching your existing boxes with that Workspace One license, we can detect states of vulnerability and certain aspects of the hardware,” Hallford said.

Workspace One will also gain out-of-band remote PC management capabilities in the coming months, thanks to the remote management capabilities of vPro.

“It, to me, is a game-changer. If we can reach our PCs in the wild, that is astronomically valuable to learn more about how they’re being operated,” Hallford said. “And [there are] big service opportunities coming down the road when you have that level of insight.”