In 1624, the poet John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island.” If John Donne had lived today, he might have written “No embedded system is an island” instead. Today’s systems are connected to the ‘Net, and customers want to use those connections to remotely manage their devices.
I recently asked three Premier members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance to share their insights on remote management, and to explain the relevance of Intel® vPro to this market need. (Intel vPro is a suite of management and security technologies built into select processors, chipsets, and networking hardware.) Here’s what I learned:
Where are you seeing demand for manageability?
Nigel Forrester, Market Development Manager, Embedded Computing, Emerson Network Power: We have seen a number of different market sectors and applications asking for remote management capability ranging from retail (signage and kiosks), medical (home, village and hospital based clinical equipment), gaming (slot machines) and enterprise communications.
Matt Wieborg, Product Manager, Kontron: Manageability is needed in industrial PC (IPC) systems that are often located in remote locations, functioning in a machine to machine capacity. For example, IPCs controlling infotainment or signage may be dispersed in various locations, yet need to receive software updates on a regular basis.
Scott Fabini, PLM and System Architect, Radisys: We are seeing demand for manageability from medical equipment manufacturers, such as for imaging machines. These firms have a high need to remotely manage and service their machines in order to reduce the number of live service calls.
What are the key needs in these applications?
Scott Fabini, Radisys:The ability to remotely run diagnostics on a system and locate the probable point of failure is a huge step in reducing the number of service calls required to bring back a down machine. Without remote management, a technician must arrive on site to run the diagnostics and determine the probable cause. In most instances they do not carry a large hardware inventory and don’t have the hardware required to repair the system. With remote management, the probable point of failure can be determined, and a technician can be sent with the needed hardware in hand.
Nigel Forrester, Emerson: We believe there are two main needs. Firstly, better manageability enables an improved level of service to the end customer with less downtime and speedy resolution of any issues; secondly there is an ever increasing requirement to reduce costs despite increasing levels of technology deployment and that can be achieved with a small number of experts using remote management technology.
How does Intel vPro address these needs?
Scott Fabini, Radisys: The Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) component of Intel vPro allows technicians to discover assets remotely, even when the device is powered off, the OS is unresponsive, or the software agents are disabled. Intel AMT also provides enhanced diagnostics and verification capabilities that allow system managers to repair problems without investing in field services.
Nigel Forrester, Emerson: Intel AMT has some very important attributes. It is embedded into specific Intel® architecture (IA) processors and chipsets, so it is effectively available for no additional cost or real estate on the design. This is very convenient and provides a solid platform for future deployments as customers trust that the feature will not be removed. Another key advantage is that Intel AMT works equally well across a wireless link when used with select Intel wireless Mini PCI Express* modules. This works very well in embedded applications that don’t or can’t offer wired Ethernet connectivity.
Matt Wieborg, Kontron: Intel vPro technologies provide the system integrity, secure isolation and remote systems management to enable the trusted system’s software to be updated or repaired without a truck roll repair.
Intel vPro also permits systems to become trusted by providing the building block technologies for system integrity with Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel TXT) along with Trusted Platform Module (TPM), secure isolation with Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT), and remote systems management with Intel AMT.
How are you leveraging vPro in your solutions?
Scott Fabini, Radisys: Intel vPro technology is available in select 2nd generation Intel Core processors and chipsets. These processors and chipsets are available in a range of off-the-shelf hardware such as the RadiSys CEQM67.
Matt Wieborg, Kontron: Kontron offers full Intel vPro support for high-end board products which can be used as platform building blocks in OEM systems, such as our COM Express* basic computer-on-modules ETXexpress-SC and ETXexpress-AI. We also offer products that implement Intel AMT and Intel TXT with TPM, such as the Kontron KTQM67 and KTQ45 families of motherboards and IPCs.
Nigel Forrester, Emerson: We are a strong advocate of vPro, not just the management part but also some of the other technologies such as Trusted Execution Technology. Customer’s needs are application specific, as a board and embedded computer supplier we are attempting to enable vPro capable solutions wherever we can. One example is the 2nd Generation Core based Mini-ITX motherboard. We have also been promoting Intel vPro in both internal and external publications such as the Digital Signage Gets Smart e-book and the Changing the Game e-book.
What do I need to know to successfully deploy vPro?
Nigel Forrester, Emerson: This does depend a bit on which vPro technology you are trying to implement. However, as a supplier of COTS products we always try to make this simple and have started to implement detailed instructions in our user documentation about enabling Intel AMT.
One key point to understand is that Intel vPro is not available on all platforms. If you want to deploy a range of products you need to plan ahead to make sure all of your platforms support Intel vPro.
Matt Wieborg, Kontron: OEMs need to confirm that Intel vPro technologies are needed, and understand the usage model that will be supported by their product so that the Kontron products that support Intel vPro can be utilized in their solution. OEMs must also be aware that some encryption from TPM can’t be shipped to selected countries, based on federal requirements. A solution without TPM may be needed for those restricted countries.
What kind of support do you offer customers using vPro?
Scott Fabini, Radisys: RadiSys eSP (embedded Software Platform) tools provide the support for a pre-boot environment which provides a diagnostic and recovery environment independent of OS functionality. A remote management console is typically used to gain remote access to the system; Intel provides a reference console in its Intel AMT Commander utility.
Matt Wieborg, Kontron: Kontron also offers simple to use tools to “turn on” the Intel vPro building block technologies in the BIOS. This effort can be done either by Kontron or by the OEM and is thoroughly documented in Kontron’s user manuals.
Nigel Forrester, Emerson: We started by offering some proof of concepts demonstrating the technologies. We’ve worked on a number of these including a secure medical drug dispensing cart and a fully integrated video analytic sign with remote wireless management. We offer detailed technical user manuals describing how to enable and setup the features provided and we also have some dedicated technical support people across the world.
For more information:
For more on reducing costs and downtime with Intel vPro technology, see intel.com/go/embedded-manageability
Emerson Network Power, Kontron, and RadiSys are Premier Members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance
Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine
Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston