‘Small But Mighty’ Intel Team Is Helping Partners Win With vPro

Intel’s nascent vPro ecosystem enablement team is helping partners identify new ways to monetize the vPro platform while leading integration efforts with MSP vendors like Datto. ‘We recognized over the years that we need to lean in more and we need to understand how we help the channel sell,’ Intel’s Carla Rodriguez says.

Intel wants the enterprise world to run on vPro, and to make that happen, the chipmaker has deployed a “small but mighty” team that is dedicated to helping partners uncover new opportunities and find new ways to monetize the hardware-based IT management platform.

The “small but mighty” descriptor is courtesy of Carla Rodriguez, a 14-year Intel veteran who leads the team as senior director of ecosystem enablement—a role she came into more than a year ago that is becoming critical to how vPro gets buy-in from a variety of partners, whether they’re independent software vendors, systems integrators or managed service providers.

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

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The increased focus on vPro, which is enabled at the silicon level through vPro processors, is especially important right now as Intel’s rival, AMD, is starting to “aggressively” incentivize partners to use its own Ryzen Pro platform for commercial laptops.

“There’s been reinvestment in this area,” Rodriguez said, “because we recognized over the years, even though vPro’s a 14-year-old franchise, that we need to lean in more, we need to understand how we help the channel sell and also how we help integrate some of our technologies— sometimes things require some coding, some tweaking—and we realized no one was there to play that part.”

This realization happened before the coronavirus pandemic happened and made vPro’s remote manageability and maintenance features more critical than ever since many large enterprises continue to have most of their employees work from home, creating new security and IT challenges.

“It forced us to really highlight the benefits that have always been in vPro,” Rodriguez said. “It just kind of brought them to the forefront because everybody’s in this situation.”

The vPro ecosystem enablement team—which also includes Caitlin Anderson as head of commercial sales, Kate Porter as director of segmentation and scale and Pam Tenorio as director of marketing—is largely focused on three aspects of vPro enablement.

The first is technical enabling with partners, and a lot of current efforts are focused on getting partners set up with vPro’s Endpoint Management Assistant, which allows managed services providers and IT teams to manage fleets of vPro computers from the cloud, eliminating the need for on-premises servers.

“That’s really unlocked a lot of capabilities for our partners in the channel,” Rodriguez said. “Some of that technical enabling can be fairly simple, and it’s a matter of light training from our end. Some of it is a lot more entailed and requires a lot more know how knowledge-share, engineer-to-engineer talking as well as potentially some coding and some workarounds, all of which my team can help with.”

Another area where the team helps with technical enablement is vPro’s Threat Detection Technology, which offloads some security workloads to the CPU’s integrated graphics, reducing the performance hit typically associated with running security software.

One important constituency for these enablement efforts are independent software vendors like Datto and Kaseya, which are building integrations with vPro and, in turn, giving their own customers better ways to take advantage of the Intel platform.

“They’re able to become more competitive themselves by offering this, and then, in turn, the service providers that are utilizing these tools know that that integration is even smoother,” Rodriguez said, “That’s why my team has been great at tackling both sides of that equation, the ISV side of the equation as well as the service provider, system integrator.”

The second aspect of enablement is sales and marketing efforts with partners, including includes training, white papers and other ways to raise awareness of the vPro platform.

“We often work with our partners to do a white paper on it and proliferate that across the partner ecosystem so that others can learn,” Rodriguez said.

The third and final aspect that gets a lot of attention is partner success, which means ensuring that partners are maximizing the benefits of the vPro platform and, as a result, potentially creating new streams of revenue for partners.

Rodriguez said there are times when partners or customers don’t understand all the features in the vPro platform, which can lead some to develop capabilities in-house that would be made redundant by vPro, so her team’s goal is to stop partners and customers before they waste too many resources.

For example, Intel is working with a solution provider in Sweden on vPro deployments, and the solution provider had been developing their own solutions that closely mirrored capabilities that were already available to them, according to Rodriguez. That prompted her team to raise the issue with the solution provider, which enabled them to drop the project and allocate resources elsewhere.

“It was one of those [situations] where we all felt great. We all felt giddy. We’re like, ‘Oh my God. We’re truly allowing them to take advantage of these capabilities and repurpose resources to something else that their business needs,’” Rodriguez said.

Another instance of how Intel is helping partners uncover new revenue streams through vPro is a new feature that is in testing called the battery life optimization tool.

“We have shared this battery life optimization tool with a handful of partners, such that they can turn around and hopefully implement, tweak to what they’re trying to do—and potentially charge their customers to say, ‘I’m putting in this tool, which will act as a diagnostic and tell you what is dragging your system down or send that information back to the service provider,’” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said her team also helps partners test vPro and even goes as far as setting up pilots for them with end customers, which can help them identify the different ways they can monetize the platform or consider how vPro can lower the total cost of ownership for IT environments.

Jason LaPorte, CTO and CISO at Power Consulting Group, a New York-based Intel partner, said he sees vPro as a “huge upsell” opportunity and not just with enterprises but managed service providers like Power Consulting Group. That’s largely because vPro no longer requires on-premise servers, and it can now be used in the cloud of the roughly year-old Endpoint Management Assistant.

“It’s turned it into a much more useful tool,” he said. “vPro previously had problems with enterprises, [where] it works great in the office, but as soon as you stepped out, you had a problem.”

“Now, vPro becomes ‘worldwide:’ go anywhere, use it anywhere, which is a much, much more usable technology,” he added. “And so I think it’s going to be a huge upsell for them, not just to enterprises, but to MSPs and even [small to midsize businesses].”

LaPorte said it’s important for Intel to integrate vPro with remote management and monitoring tools from vendors like Datto and Kaseya because it can make implementing new capabilities simpler, which will make vPro an even more valuable platform.

“From an MSP perspective, the more pieces you have that don’t work together, the more complex your environment is to manage,” he said. “So we like things that work together. We like things that are in a singles pane of glass, because [not having that takes] engineering time, training time and maintenance time—all those things that we have to put into it. And enterprises feel the same way.”

LaPorte said vPro’s improved remote management and maintenance capabilities are especially important now, in the middle of a pandemic, because of how it eliminates the need to send technicians out in the field to pick up repair computers, reducing the potential for the coronavirus to spread.

“If it prevents one person going to another person’s house or going into an office and meeting with a tech who was at three other offices that day—that is exactly the way things spread,” he said. “So avoiding interactions, when possible, is ideal for stopping the spread of COVID. And it worked out for us from business perspective, because it costs us less money.”

Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech Enterprise, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based Intel partner that sells to enterprises, said about half of his customers have bought into vPro because of the extra security and manageability features that come with the processors. But he said the impetus is on Intel to drive home the value that vPro processors provide versus standard Intel processors.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a business value for vPro. It’s really just uncovering what that value is in the specific use cases and then aligning and driving to the end results and the [return on investment] associated with each one of those applications,” he said.