Intel Corp. officially unveiled its upgraded vPro platform on Thursday in an effort mainly focused on boosting security and management capabilities for enterprise PCs administrators.

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The new vPro processor family — which consists of security, performance and management features built into a PC’s motherboard and hardware — is the fourth time the technology has been upgraded since 2004. The platform is based on the new Intel Q57 Express chipset, Intel’s 82577LM Gigabit Network Connection for notebooks and Intel’s 82578DM Network Connection for desktops.


The biggest upgrade to vPro might be Intel’s Anti-Theft Technology, which lets IT staff remotely lock a lost or stolen PC. The system will also disable access to “cryptographic keys through hardware to completely block access to data.”


Rick Echevarria, vice-president of Intel’s architecture group, said that PC managers can leave a message for the “thief or a good Samaritan” who finds the locked down laptop. If the computer is ever recovered, the process of reactivating has been simplified, he added.


Another security-related feature is Intel’s Keyboard-Video-Mouse Remote Control (KVM Remote Control), which is available with dual-core Intel Core i5 and i7 vPro processors. This feature will allow IT administrators to get a full view of a users’ machine while they remotely troubleshoot a problem, said Brian Tucker, director of marketing for Intel’s business client platform.


The vPro platform will also allow IT managers to access a users’ hard drive whether the PC is on or off.


Stephen Kleynhans, a Toronto-area research analyst covering end user computing environments for Gartner Inc., said Intel’s upgrade is taking vPro in the right direction, one in which Kleynhans himself has pushed the company to move toward. He added that vPro was initially hyped as a corporate management tool for desktop and notebooks, he said.


“Now, Intel is saying that ‘we’ve got a reasonably good management base, so we’re going to focus on security,’” said Kleynhans. He added that this is a wise choice considering how many more enterprise workers are now working on the road or from home.


One of the issues Kleynhans hopes Intel will address moving forward is getting small and medium-sized IT shops to actually understand the benefits of using vPro.


“If you’re a big enterprise with 10,000 seats you know what vPro is and you can get it set up and running,” he said. “But mid-sized companies can also benefit from the technology.”


Kleynhans said that some smaller shops have vPro-enabled systems but have not bothered to take advantage of its functionality. He said Intel has to work with its ecosystem of software providers to make vPro easier to activate and get working.


In addition to the security enhancements in the upgrade, Intel also hyped vPro’s Turbo Boost technology. Tucker said the feature will recognize when the processors are not working to capacity and then adjust itself to maximize performance.


“We call it ‘hurry up and get idle,’ he said, referring to Turbo Boost’s goal of delivering the best performance and then shutting down to save energy.


Intel said that enterprises interested in the upgraded platform should contact their OEMs or channel providers. The company said that computer manufacturers such as Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba are already rolling on PCs based on the 2010 Intel Core vPro processor platform to enterprises.

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