Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker Intel Corp. is rolling out its second-generation Core VPro processor line, formerly codenamed Sandy Bridge, with new features baked into the chipset itself, including updated anti-theft technology that locks down wayward laptops via 3G text message.

Matt Primrose, a software engineer with Intel’s business client division, who gave ComputerWorld Canada sneak peek (see video) at the chipset’s capabilities, explained that Anti-Theft 3.0 now has the capability to lock down a missing laptop by sending it a 3G text message and receive confirmation of receipt.

“You’re not wondering, ‘Did I lock down?’ You know,” said Primrose. “You have that confirmation that comes back from the system.”
The previous version of the anti-theft technology relied on wireless and wired connection. But with laptops increasingly being built with 3G capabilities, Primrose said IT admins can have better remote control.

Core VPro also comes with host-based configuration that doesn’t rely on the usual server to client interaction. Instead, it’s “more of a software patch method,” said Primrose. When the IT admin runs a configuration utility, an XML file is encrypted with the configuration settings and sent securely to target systems.

The new chipset also grants remote KVM (keyboard, visual and mouse) access so IT admins can troubleshoot problems such as network drivers and bad hard drives.

With desktop virtualization, Primrose said the management console allows for control of virtual machines on the network that are used by, for instance, contractors and temporary staff. He also demoed Sandy Bridge processor graphics running a video game in a virtual machine.

Moreover, the management console runs not only in the Windows operating system, but “gives remote access to any point when system is running,” said Primrose.

If users decide to do some online banking or visit an e-commerce site, the Core VPro chipset has a built-in key fob with security key tied to that user’s Web site account. “If someone were to get a hold of my username and password and try to log in to my account on a different machine, it’s not going to work,” said Primrose.

Security and manageability aside, Primrose said the Core VPro-based system can easily run 3D model rendering while a high-definition video plays in the background. The updated Turbo Mode, now version 2.0, can over-volt the processor in addition to frequency over-clocking.

“We can go to a higher level of performance, get the job done, then drop back down to low-power mode quicker,” said Primrose.

Also built in to the chipset are processor graphics for users who need to perform heavy computations. “You don’t need to go and buy that $150-200 graphics card … processor graphics built into the processor already have the capability,” said Primrose.

Doug Cooper, country manager for Intel Canada, said the new Core VPro chipset is, in a nutshell, about flexibility, manageability and security. “This is a brand new design that we have taken everything that we’ve learned from past generations and we’ve taken it up a level completely,” said Cooper.

The enhanced performance works well for the business user whose workloads may be unpredictable, but needs manageability on the system, said Cooper. “There’s nothing more frustrating than switching to a presentation and having to wait because you’ve got too many things open at the same time,” he said.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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