The vPro processor technology that Intel created to embed management and security functions that reduce the total cost of providing managed services is one of those technology gifts that keeps on giving.
This week Intel unveiled its 7th Generation Intel Core vPro processor, which is already slated in 2017 to find its way into 80 different types of notebooks, 24 different types of desktops, and 24 new 2-in-1 hybrid systems capable of functioning as both a notebook and a tablet.
From a managed service provider perspective, the most compelling new capability of this version of vPro is Intel Manageability Commander, which makes it simpler to discover, diagnose, and remediate remote PC issues by enabling IT staffs to take direct control of the device.
Intel Manageability Commander is designed to work with PCs configured with Intel Active Management Technology (AMT), which provides firmware making it possible to manage the PC out of band. Accenture estimates that when AMT is employed to facilitate operating system imaging companies see a 34-percent cost savings. With this latest release of vPro, Intel is aiming to make AMT more accessible by providing a set of tools for managing AMT-enabled devices.
Other new capabilities include an Intel Data Guard tool for encrypting documents that will be available on sixth- and seventh-generation processors by the middle of this year. Intel Data Guard allows MSPs to embed protections and permissions that are directly attached to a document wherever it ends up being stored.
Finally, Intel also revealed this week the fruits of a collaboration with Microsoft under which Intel Authenticate multi-factor authentication software will be integrated with Microsoft Hello, which allows end users to use fingerprints, the face, or the iris of their eyes to unlock endpoint devices running Windows 10.
Benefits for MSPs
Intel is clearly trying to make sure MSPs have a vested interest in the type of endpoints their customers deploy by reducing the cost of managing and securing those devices. The best way MSPs can facilitate that is to pass some of the cost savings generated by vPro devices back to customers. End customers, for example, that adopt vPro systems that tend to cost a little more than the average PC would be charged less than end customers that don’t on the assumption that the cost of managing a vPro device is going to be less over time.
Of course, Intel has been prodding MSPs to push adoption of vPro processors for years now. What appears to be changing is that Intel is significantly expanding the level of firmware investments it's making around vPro to address a broader range of security issues. In fact, Intel is betting that security concerns will drive a wave of PC upgrades in 2017.
For MSPs that tend to live and die by the quality of the endpoints they are tasked with managing, the amount of intelligence that can be embedded in any device directly impacts their bottom line. Many legacy PCs simply cost more to support than they are worth to either the customer or the MSP.
Naturally, not every customer fully appreciates the capabilities of vPro. But in terms of reducing the total cost of support, vPro may very well be the difference between turning a profit or not at a time when margins for providing managed endpoint services are already razor thin.