Intel Boosts VPro Toolkit For New Westmere Chips

“We started thinking beyond the business,” said Brian Tucker, director of marketing for Intel’s business client platforms, at a Tuesday demo session of the company’s next-generation vPro hardware held in San Francisco.

Tucker said that vPro, first conceived in 2004 as a business-oriented desktop platform enabling out-of-band provisioning of system updates and better power management, has evolved to include a notebook-tuned version with anti-theft safeguards, BIOS-level remote control capabilities, and acceleration of encryption and decryption tasks.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant this month released the first client processors produced with its 32-nanometer process technology, codenamed Westmere. Of those next-generation chips, select 32nm Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors are specifically tuned to Intel’s third-generation mobile vPro platform.

The desktop version of vPro is in its fourth generation, according to Intel.

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New vPro capabilities that are baked right into the latest Core i5 and Core i7 notebook chips includes Anti-Theft Technology 2.0 and the addition of a set of Advanced Encryption Set (AES) instructions for faster data encryption and decryption.

The anti-theft technology disables laptops that have been stolen or gone missing via a “poison pill” sent over a network or after timing out from contact with their management console after a preset period. This is accomplished by blocking the operating system from loading and disabling access to hard disk encryption keys, with no subsequent damage or data loss after the PC in question has been recovered, according to Intel.

Six new AES instructions have also been added to Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors, a feature Intel calls AES-NI. This technology greatly accelerates data encryption and decryption -- in Tuesday’s demonstration, a Core i5-based notebook was able to uncompress a 100MB zip file four times faster than an older system sporting a Core 2 Duo chip, though Intel is only promising 3.5x acceleration in standard settings.

On the desktop side of things, Intel has added KVM Remote Control, a tool that potentially all but eliminates the need for deskside visits by IT administrators and managed service providers. Earlier vPro desktops required that the operating system be booted to take over the system, but KVM Remote Control now allows admins and MSPs to do so, in the extreme example, even when the hard disk has been disabled or removed.