Through added support for the 802.1x standard for NAC and interoperability with Cisco's Admission Control guideline via its Intel Embedded Trust Agent, the chip maker claims that it can allow network security systems to garner device authentication information directly from desktops -- thereby eliminating the need for a PC to launch its operating system to interact with the tools.
"The inherent limits of security technologies are driving IT to make suboptimal buying decisions. Many of these decisions are driven by vulnerabilities in the security agents and operating systems," said Bryant. "Yesterday's processors are not capable of fostering security today."
Along with Cisco, Intel shared its launch with representatives from high-profile partners including Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Symantec, all of whom echoed the chip maker's assertion that its new security features will benefit the functionality and protection of their own products.
Representatives from massive government contractor General Dynamics said the virtualization protection tools in particular would drive sales of vPro-powered systems into the public sector and help agencies move to adopt the software approach more rapidly.
Industry experts observed that Intel's move to promote new security capabilities and interactivity in its products is both predictable and savvy, as nearly every other major IT platform provider has moved to increase their own interests in the area, including Cisco, EMC, Google, Oracle, and Microsoft.
"It's almost funny that security hasn't played a higher priority in PCs in the past. The potential is huge for loss and there are great opportunities to facilitate software technologies and their interaction with hardware, which is obviously critical," said James McGregor, analyst with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based research firm In-Stat.
"There's only so much that you can do in hardware, and no matter what you do someone can always find a way around it. The best way to protect yourself is to have a combination of hardware and software defenses," McGregor said. "But the areas that Intel gets into with the vPro aren't going to be adopted overnight; things like virtualization and NAC are being built into hardware and software adoption plans over time."
McGregor said it may take as long as five years for some of the vPro security features to prove their worth among large numbers of business customers, but he believes the tools should prove strategic for Intel to include nonetheless.
Roger Kay, analyst with Wayland, Mass.-based Endpoint Technologies, said that by moving to further embrace its role in securing the PC, Intel continues to align itself with important standards and IT trends that will help its products appeal to corporate IT buyers.
"Intel typically takes a strategy through which it creates or aligns itself with a platform and invites all the applications vendors to come in and build on top of that. They want to be the host of these industry standards, and they've been waiting for the right moment to introduce these security features," said Kay. "They're doing what they should and creating a platform for everyone else to play on, which should make the security software and PC makers happy and displace some existing hardware-level security providers whose technologies have been considered incomplete."