Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT ) is a set of hardware and firmware features that lets administrator access and manage remote systems such as digital signage, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, kiosks, and ATMs. Among other features, Intel AMT allows administrators to power remote systems on and off, install software updates, and troubleshoot problems. The recently-released Intel® AMT 6.0 adds a number of important new features to this list. In this blog I’ll explain the new features in version 6.0, review Intel AMT-enabled embedded systems, and point you to design resources that will help you get started.
The biggest new feature in Intel AMT 6.0 is the remote KVM support. This feature uses a proprietary VNC server (also known as a Remote Frame Buffer) to let an administrator see a duplicate copy of a remote monitor. This is a great trouble-shooting feature, as it lets the administrator see exactly what is happening on the other end. And by building the feature into hardware, Intel AMT 6.0 makes it possible to control a remote terminal without an OS running. This is a big deal—it means you can manage the remote terminal even if there is a drive failure or a “blue screen of death” (BSoD). (As a point of comparison, you could get VNC software packages before the release of Intel AMT 6.0, but these packages could only run after the OS booted.) The following video explains how the remote KVM feature works:
One of the interesting aspects of the KVM feature is that it uses open and widely available standards. As a result, remote viewers are available for a wide range of platforms. You can even run a viewer on an iPad! Just for fun, here’s a demo of that:
Intel AMT 6.0 also introduces a new alarm clock feature. As the name implies, this feature lets you schedule recurring tasks. For example, you could schedule POS terminals to power on just before business starts and then shut down after business ends. You could also use this feature to schedule patching. In this scenario, you might have the machines power on at 2:00 AM, check for software updates, and then shut down.
Another notable new feature is support for Intel AMT over wireless networks. Until now, Intel AMT only supported wireless connections if the connection was made within a corporate intranet. Intel AMT 6.0 removes that restriction and allows you to use Intel AMT over any wireless connection. (This feature is known as Client Initiated Remote Access (CIRA) or as Fast Call for Help.)
Finally, Intel AMT 6.0 adds support for IPv6. This may seem like a minor consideration, as the vast majority of systems still use IPv4. However, the supply of IPv4 address is expected to run out by 2011. Thus, the IPv6 is a rather important future-proofing feature.
For more reading on Intel AMT, I highly recommend reading the in-depth technical article Building and Deploying Better Embedded Systems with Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT). Note that this article predates AMT 6.0 and thus does not cover the features discussed in this blog. However, the article is a great way to learn about using Intel AMT in embedded systems. I also recommend visiting the Intel® vPro™ Expert Center. This site has tons of info on configuring and using Intel AMT, such as handy reference designs that show how to perform common tasks. Here’s an example reference design that shows how to set up the KVM feature:
Now let’s look at a few example systems. You can get Intel AMT 6.0 in boards and modules from a variety of vendors. For the full list, see Intel® AMT 6.0 Platform Ready Boards. Here are a few examples intended for retail and digital signage applications:
First up is the Avalue EPI-QM57 shown in Figure 1. This EPIC board comes is notable mainly for its built-in touch screen support. The EPIQM-57 also boasts a rich set of IO, including eight USB 2.0 ports, four SATA ports, and an external CF socket. Its target applications include POS/kiosks and digital signage.
Figure 1. The Avalue EPI-QM57 includes built-in touch screen support.
Next up is the Axiomtek SHB103 (Figure 2). This full-size PICMG 1.3 single board computer comes with a long list of high-performance features, including 8 GB of DDR3 1066/1333memory; six SATA ports; a PCIe x16 graphics port; and four PCIe x1 ports that can be combined into a single PCIe x4 port. The board targets applications including gaming and digital signage.
Figure 2. The Axiomtek SHB103 includes a long list of high-performance features.
I also like the Portwell PEB-9738VGA, a microATX motherboard designed for POS and kiosk applications. This board’s IO options include six powered USB ports (four 12V and two 24V) that ease connection of POS peripherals (see Figure 3). The board recently won an Editor’s Choice award as a kiosk solution from PC/104 and Small Form Factors magazine.
Figure 3. The Portwell PEB-9738VGA includes powered USB and other POS-friendly IO.
Finally, I have to mention the IEI KINO-QM57A Mini-ITX single-board computer, which targets digital signage. The board itself is a robust piece of hardware, but what really impresses me is IEI’s remote management software. Their IEI Easy Manager software provides a single graphical interface for a wide range of remote control and maintenance tasks. Example tasks include one-key remote system recovery and power scheduling to set shut down and wake up times. I haven’t seen management software like this anywhere else.
Now that you know what Intel AMT 6.0 can do—and who has Intel AMT hardware—I hope you’ll be inspired to put this new technology to work. I encourage you to share your experiences as you try out the new features.
Axiomtek, IEI, and Portwell are Associate members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. Avalue is an Affiliate member of the Alliance.
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