Intel preps vPro platform upgrade

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Intel preps vPro platform upgrade

'Weybridge' security technology to debut in the second half of 2007.

Intel plans to ship an upgrade to its vPro platform for business desktop computers by the second half of this year.  

The 2007 'Weybridge' update will be the first to introduce Intel's hardware-based Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) formerly known as 'LeGrande'.

Intel also plans to include an updated version of its Active Management Technology and will build in support for the Desktop Mobile Working Group's WS-Man standard.

The latest vPro requires new TXT-enabled versions of the processor and chipset. No other changes are made to the hardware requirements.

Computer makers including Lenovo started shipping the first vPro platforms in September last year.

The platform aims to increase security for desktop computers inside enterprises and reduce system administration costs.

Mike Ferron-Jones, director for digital office platform marketing at Intel, said that the company is happy with current sales, claiming that early volumes exceeded that of Intel's Centrino platform when first launched.

Having management access built directly into the system allows administrators to remotely monitor, patch and boot up desktop computers.

The technology works with third-party management suites such as HP OpenView, LANdesk, Symantec's Altiris or Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager, formerly known as Systems Management Server.

One of the largest changes to the 2007 vPro platform is the inclusion of TXT. Working with the industry standard Trusted Platform Module security chip, TXT allows applications and processes to operate in a shielded environment and prevents code tampering.

TXT verifies an application's authenticity before it is executed by comparing a hash value for the current and past states. If attackers replace an application with infected code, TXT will prevent it from being executed.

The technology also allows applications to run in an isolated virtual compartment within the system, preventing other applications from affecting its performance or eavesdropping on its processes.

TXT furthermore ensures that all cached data from an application is removed from a system after the application is closed.

Application developers need to add support for TXT to their software. There are no applications that currently support the security technology, but Ferron-Jones said that virtualisation vendors have expressed interest.

The 2007 version of vPro is also scheduled to add support for the web services management (WS-Man) standard, which provides a framework for system management commands.

The technology essentially replaces the Alert Standard Format (ASF) used in the current vPro version.

ASF sets communication standards only for desktop systems. WS-Man also provides information on how commands are structured and executed, and can be used across desktop systems and servers.

The open nature of WS-Man could persuade Dell to start supporting the platform. The company is the only major computer maker that does not offer vPro systems.

Dell has previously indicated that it would not embrace vPro because it is lacking in openness.  

Intel suggested that Dell might unveil vPro 2007 systems in the near future. Dell did not immediately return a request for comment.
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