Intel vPro tools come of age

New third-party tools from Ericsson, WinMagic and RealVNC are able to take advantage of Intel's chip-level security and management options
Written by Mary Branscombe, Contributor

Embedded features that Intel has been offering in its vPro enterprise chips for several years are getting more useful, as more software developers offer tools to take advantage of the features in the latest Core vPro models.

The new mobile broadband modules for notebooks and tablets that Ericsson announced at the Intel Developer Forum last week come with a Quick Connect setting that lets them get online in seconds rather than minutes. The first 21Mbps HSPA Evolution module, the F5521gw, supports Wake-on-Wireless capability. This capability allows the module to download content — such as patches and antivirus updates, as well as email and meeting requests — while the notebook it is connected to is in sleep mode.

Wake-on-Wireless also works with Version 3 of Intel's Anti-Theft technology, found in business models of laptops with Core processors. This means that users can remotely disable a notebook even when it is in sleep mode or the OS is not running.

"If the PC is lost or stolen, you can send an encrypted SMS to the notebook to turn it into a brick, so all the information is protected from people other than you," said Mats Norin, vice president of Ericsson's mobile broadband module team. If the user finds the laptop again, it can be unlocked with another text message.

The second mobile broadband module unveiled by Ericsson at the show is the 7.2Mbps F3307. It is designed for thin-and-light tablets based on Intel's Oak Trail Atom processor, which is due in 2011. Like the F5521gw, the F3307 supports Quick Connect, but without the Anti-Theft option.

The next version of WinMagic's SecureDoc full-disk encryption software will also work with Intel Anti-Theft 3 and the Ericsson modules. Users can send a 'poison pill' message to a notebook over 3G, and SecureDoc will scramble the encrypted drive so that it cannot be accessed even if someone takes it out and put it in another computer. Because SecureDoc works with Anti-Theft 3 in the chipset, it can still protect the data on the drive even if the OS is not running.

Core i5 vPro also has an embedded VNC server built into the chipset for remote access and control of a computer, with out-of-band KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) access. VNC Viewer Plus 1.1, an update to RealVNC's VNC tool announced at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), connects directly to the KVM so users can diagnose and support issues remotely, even if the PC is turned off.

"You can assess and remediate all kinds of issues below the level of the OS," explained Adam Byrne, vice president of RealVNC. "You can view the Bios remotely, watch the boot sequence and power the PC on or off, and reboot it. If the hard drive has failed, you can still get remote access because you've got this separate network going into the chip."

The new features in VNC Viewer Plus 1.1 include remote disk redirection so users can mount CS and DVD images on the VNC server. This lets users patch or install software remotely, which is ideal for software updates or re-installing the OS.

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