Intel teams with Cisco on self-healing systems

SAN FRANCISCO – Intel Corp. wants IT managers to stop touching their PCs.

As part of its strategy to support what it calls the digital enterprise, executives at this week’s IDF said the chipmaker is trying to automate and

embed many of the support and troubleshooting tasks commonly performed by IT managers into its processors. Pat Gelsinger, senior vice-president and general manager of Intel’s digital enterprise group, used his keynote speech Wednesday to announce additional support for its Active Management Technology (AMT), including four of the world’s largest outsourcers and a collaboration with Cisco Systems Inc.

AMT includes motherboard firmware extensions which allow a system to be managed remotely and independent of the operating system. Gelsinger attempted to explain AMT through metaphor by showing an image of Intel’s CIO, Stacy Smith on an overhead screen and then shrinking it down so that it fit inside an image of an Intel processor.

“Boy, that’s exactly where I want Stacy to be,” Gelsinger joked. “We want to be able to take the IT manager and stuff them right into a piece of silicon.”

Gelsinger said EDS, CapGemini, Siemens and Atos Origin have all started to deploy AMT on the five million corporate PCs they collectively manage through various outsourcing contracts. The partnership with Cisco, meanwhile, will see Intel develop plug-ins that would exchange AMT information with software systems that are part of Cisco’s Network Access Control (NAC) program.

Jayshree Ullal, Cisco’s senior vice-president of data centre, switching and utilities, demonstrated how the partnership would work by hooking up a Cisco router to a Lenovo ThinkCentre machine, which the network then quarantined through a firewall after a security threat was detected. AMT was then used to help automatically repair the machine so that it could gain access to the network.

“You want to be able to use OS-independent tools,” Ullal said. “In this case we’re able to act out of band, whether the OS is plugged in or not.”

Ullal said the first fruits of the partnership with Intel should be available by the end of the year. Intel also formed a partnership with Cisco around wireless security at this week’s IDF.

Gelsinger also announced additional support for Intel’s Vanderpool technology (VT), which is used to “virtualize” a computer system by dividing its resources so that it essentially acts like two machines. Gelsinger said Microsoft would include VT in Virtual Server 2006, while VMWare will include it in its ESX product.

VT will be very important as enterprises seek to consolidate legacy applications and put them into a new environment, Gelsinger said.

“Some of these applications are so old, the guy who designed them, his kids have died,” Gelsinger said. “It’s hard to imagine migrating those forward.”

Intel on Wednesday also formed a partnership with Skype, which will see the two firms work toward improving the Web-based phone service on Intel clients. Gelsinger said Intel is hoping the emergence of voice-over-IP will see more integrated voice and data applications through features such as text to speech, adding that the chipmaker is also working on projects to perfect “business class audio” that will deliver twice the clarity of traditional PSTN networks.

“This is one of the most antiquated technologies that we use every day,” he said. “Can’t we do better?”

Although Intel once described its high-end Itanium processor as the linchpin of its long-term growth strategy, it has hardly been mentioned at this year’s IDF. Gelsinger discussed it briefly towards the end of his keynote, claiming it enjoyed support from 43 of the world’s 100 largest companies and the next version, Montecito, would prove a strong challenger to IBM’s Power line of processors.

IDF continues through Thursday.


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