The Dream of a Managed Desktop

Often thought of as a marketing buzz word akin to Centrino and ViiV, Intel’s vPro processor technology brings a lot more opportunity to solution providers than many realize.

What makes vPro unique is that the management technology is built into the hardware and the fact that it does not rely on a software component or additional hardware to be effective. In other words, if you’re selling the latest generation of Intel business-class motherboards, you are already equipping your customers with the foundation for remote desktop management.

For solution providers, the key term to know here is “out of band management.” Why is that term so important? It all comes down to how a managed PC (or server) can be accessed. Out of band management has its roots in another term, LOM (lights out management), a technology that allows an administrator to manage a PC, even when it is turned off.

Intel’s take on the technology adds a few other capabilities to the mix that make the technology useful to the emerging managed services provider. The company has built into the vPro technology the ability to access the target PC’s bios, remote power on the PC, the ability to remotely load an operating system and more. Since all of that takes place over an IP connection, no additional hardware or LOM components are needed, no special management appliances are required and no additional software must be loaded onto the target PC.

That portion of the technology removes the need for site visits to handle most pre-boot related problems and also gives the ability to boot diagnostic media from the solution provider’s location of choice. Services-centric VARs no longer need to have trucks roll to handle a misconfigured bios, partition drives or to reload images. That is a big savings for both VARs and their customers, allowing VARs to offer improved response times, while increasing the billing per technician.

While vPro may sound perfect, there are some caveats. First, since the technology can only be fully leveraged in a Windows environment, those supporting Macs, Sun Workstations and, in some cases, Linux will have to look elsewhere.

Also, there is the specter of competition from tier one manufactures, especially Dell following its recent acquisition of SilverBack. Now that Dell’s technologies are married to vPro technology it allows the company to offer managed PC services. Only time will tell if Dell can pull that off and get the SME market to trust them.

Also, solution providers need to be aware of the infrastructure requirements associated with vPro. That infrastructure can consist of something as simple as a VPN into a customer’s network or be as advanced as a hosted management platform from the likes of Level Platforms.

While the overall future of vPro may be somewhat uncertain, solution providers can be sure that the managed desktop has arrived and is here to stay.

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