Intel offers technology to assist with IT asset tracking

Intel expects to save millions of dollars through a platform architectural enhancement being supported by management tools vendors such as BMC Software, Check Point, CA and several others.

Dubbed Active Management Technology (AMT),

the enhancement will download hardware and software asset management information into memory, which can be accessed by IT anytime, even if the PC is off, the hard drive has crashed or the operating system is locked.

In 2003, Intel started an inventory of its assets, which ended up taking five quarters and 40,000 hours of labour. The company had a trickle-down system where older computers would be passed down or retired, but it had no way of tracking those computers, said Doug Cooper, country manager for Intel of Canada Ltd.

The company found that 15 per cent of its assets were not “discoverable” because of the state of the operating system or because agents had been removed by users. It also discovered its hardware and software inventory was inaccurate, and it had been overpaying its software licensing fees.

In a survey of 50 corporations, Intel asked executives what kept them up at night. The top three issues were better asset management, reduced downtime and minimized desk-side visits.

With AMT, each machine has a unique identifier, said Tom Booth, president of Specialty Installations Inc., an Edmonton-based reseller. “AMT can discover all the machines on the network.”

“The identifier doesn’t have to be stuck on the outside of the box,” said Cooper. “You can image these systems in the field.”

The technology is also designed to reduce system maintenance costs and protect against viruses and worms. While five per cent of help desk calls result in desk-side support, that five per cent accounts for 52 per cent of support costs. 

AMT allows IT staff to access the platform for software management or remote diagnostics. If a computer picks up a virus, for example, IT staff can disable the PC on the network so the virus doesn’t spread, but still access the PC to fix the problem. “IT staff can determine the state of anybody connected to the system,” said Cooper.

This will also benefit small businesses, he says, that outsource management of their IT assets. Companies are cropping up to service small businesses, such as Nerds On Site or Geek Squad. But an outsourcer can’t guarantee the state of machines unless he or she physically goes on-site, which might not be cost-effective for small businesses.

This is the next phase of what’s possible, said Cooper, where outsourcers could offer services to small businesses to manage their desktops, without always having to send a technician on-site.

This is what Specialty Installations Inc. is already doing. “We’ve got a way to get to that machine without sending a technician,” said Booth. This means they can give their customers an option to send out a technician or “remote control” the problem. This not only speeds time to recovery, he says, but is more cost-effective.

The company offers a security scan service, but it can’t do that for customers unless they have a virtual private network. But Booth expects these types of capabilities to be available in the future, as management tools vendors develop applications around AMT.

Cooper said AMT will be a feature on every system, much like USB, but manufacturers will have a choice whether or not to include it. A variety of manufacturers will be introducing AMT this year, he said, and Intel will migrate the technology from desktops to notebooks next year. It’s primarily designed for business users, but down the road service providers could use it to provide an offering for consumers.

This is a template of what Intel is going to deliver in the future, said Cooper. “It’s a difficult proposition to deliver,” he says, which is why Intel needs broad industry support to pull it off.

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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