February 15, 2011

Why should bank technologists take a look at Intel's next-generation vPro, a set of business-oriented management features updated to work with company's latest Sandy Bridge (Core i5) processors, which Intel demoed for me yesterday? Three reasons struck me during the demonstration: improved performance, enhanced security and an ability to do faster Citrix downloads.

Performance -- in the demo, a vPro-equipped laptop rendered a 3D graphic in one window and displayed high-definition video in another; the Intel technologists said that these two applications were using only 30% of the processor's capacity. Performance is not the result of vPro, but rather to the latest Core processors, which have speeds ranging from 900 MHz to 1300 MHz and parallel processing. A bank that's rolling out videoconferencing might find this useful, to let employees communicate with each other via video while running other applications in the background.

Security -- Intel worked with Symantec and Verisign to build identity protection into the vPro feature set. Instead of requiring users to have a hardware security token that provides an encrypted password, this authentication function is built into the chip management features. If a laptop is stolen and the user reports it to IT, IT can use Intel's anti-theft technology, which includes a "3G Kill Pill" -- a mechanism through which IT sends a text message embedded with code to the machine over a 3G network that shuts it down. (The machine does have to be on and connected to a 3G network for this to work, of course.) A bank could potentially give or sell vPro laptops to its small business online banking customers to secure their transactions, and/or provide them to users who handle sensitive data and applications.

Faster Citrix downloads -- Some banks have had trouble with slow Citrix downloads, especially where networks are older. Intel and Citrix have together developed XenClient, a bare-metal client hypervisor that lets virtual desktops run directly on client devices. By separating the operating system from the underlying hardware, desktop images can be created, secured, deployed and moved across the hardware, rather than on top of an existing operating system, removing certain performance bottlenecks. This could help banks see faster booting and run times for its Citrix users.

vPro still has the remote control management features it's had from the beginning. KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse) remote control lets a remote administrator view what is on a client PC's display as well as control the user's keyboard and mouse.