When a hard drive fails or the reimaging process will provide too much disruption to a worker's day, having the ability to deliver a temporary work environment is often desired. Today this is commonly done by issuing a temporary PC to the user. Using Intel vPro Technology, Altiris Client Management Suite, and a bootable ISO image - a temporary work environment could be loaded into the memory of the target PC.
The following image provide an overview of what is shown in this video demonstration. Delivery of the temporary work environment occurs within minutes without requiring the user to move to a different PC.
The downtime impact to the end-user is minimized, while still providing them with the processing power of a full client system. Connectivity to network based applications and data enables the user to function, while further actions can be taken to repair the harddrive or related items.
How could you utilize this capability within your own environment? I'm interest to hear about it
In this episode of Tech 10, Florence Lo, Intel vPro engineer, shows how to reimage the OS of a remote computer. She takes advantage of the OOB functionality of Intel vPro technology, as well as the KVM Remote Control feature. For instructions on how to do this yourself, check out this reference design:
At California University of Pennsylvania, the computers weren't left on 24/7—and the IT department’s software-only management solution provided no way for IT administrators to power up the PCs and manage them remotely. IT also could not remotely wake up, authenticate, and manage laptops that were disconnected from network cables or placed in standby mode. This led to a lot of extra work to track and ensure patching was completed.
Cal U conducted a two-quarter ROI investigation using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager* (SCCM*) to manage 45 desktop and laptop PCs based on Intel® Core™ vPro™ processors. This combination enabled Cal U’s IT department to consistently power on desktops and wake wireless laptops remotely to issue patches and apply software and BIOS updates. IT was also able to access clients remotely and troubleshoot issues even when the operating system or network stack was not functioning correctly.
“Using SCCM with the Intel Core vPro processors will allow our IT team to maintain high efficiency while supporting both desktop and mobile users. Our calculations show that we’d see a positive ROI of 144 percent over five years and would break even in two-and-a-half years,” explained Andrew M. Caudill, director of IT operations for Cal U.
Terry Cutler wrote a really nice article about hardware-based alerts in Intel AMT and the Symantec Management Platform. He included information and a video on using Fast Call for Help with Symantec to create a Self Help Portal. Here’s Terry’s post: Using Out-of-Band Alerts with Symantec Management Platform.
This inspired me to extend my “Using Intel AMT Remotely from a Command Line” series. You see, in order to use Terry’s Self Help Portal, Fast Call for Help from inside the intranet must first be enabled. One easy way to automate this would be via a batch file using WinRM. I’ll assume you’re familiar with the basic concepts:
From an AMT perspective, enabling Fast Call for Help in the Intranet requires two things. First, you must turn it on. Second, you must tell AMT where to send the alerts generated by Fast Call for Help. These can be done in any order. The second part is easy with Symantec. Terry covers this here: Part 1 - Using Out-of-Band Events and Alerts with Intel vPro Technology. Just subscribe to the AMT Notification alert.
The first part is a little harder. The good news is that, if you configure AMT for Fast Call for Help from the Internet, then it’s also automatically turned on for the Intranet. But what if you don’t use Fast Call for Help from the Internet? Try this WinRM command:
Be sure to replace the IP with your system’s IP or FQDN and adjust the credentials as needed. Take note of RequestedState="32771”. This is the on/off value for Fast Call for Help. There are actually four options:
32768 – Disable Fast Call for help from the BIOS and the Operating System
32769 – Enable Fast Call for help from the BIOS interface only
32770 – Enable Fast Call for help from the Operating System Interface only
32771 – Enable Fast Call for help from the BIOS and the Operating System interfaces
One you have a working command to turn on Fast Call for help, use Symantec to schedule it to run on all you AMT systems.
Now that you can turn on Fast Call for Help for all your AMT >=4 systems, add Symantec Management Platform and you have everything you need to deploy an out of band self help portal. Please let us know if you have any questions or if you get your self help portal up and running. Anyone have any other ideas for ways to use Fast Call for Help?
A little known or utilized feature within the Intel vPro Technology platform is hardware based alerts. The feature can be a key component to proactively notifying the administrator about a hardware event. Examples include system reboots, non-responsive operating systems, system cases being opened, and even a user initiated request for assistance.
When used in connection with appropriate tools and processes, out-of-band alerts could enable an automated response\remedation to key events within the environment. A few key items are needed:
Subscribing to the appropriate events\alerts
Target for the receiving of alert message
Event engine to filter and act upon the alert.
In the case of the Symantec Management Platform, most of the core ingredients and requirements are already in place. Since the Dell Management Console builds upon the same core Altiris infrastructure, the following information is applicable there also.
To learn more about how to enable and utility out-of-band alerts within a Symantec environment, see the following article series:
Part 1: Using Out-of-Band Events and Alerts with Intel vPro Technology
Part 2: Using Out-of-Band Events and Alerts with Intel vPro Technology
With that foundation, a better appreciation for the following scenario will occur.
What if a user needed to restore their system to the last successful backup? To complicate the situation - what if the user's system will not boot the local operating system or sufficient corruption of the local operating system prevents an backup\restore application to correct the problem? Without sending a technician to the user or leaving the user with a system for several hours - what role could Intel vPro Technology in connection with Symantec tools to address this type of situation?
The following diagram provides an overview (click to enlarge if needed):
In connection with diagram, see the following proof of concept demonstration video (for best viewing, access directly via YouTube at full screen with 720p setting in the viewer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VD7wAky3aU)
Components outside of the base Symantec solution tool set and Intel vPro Technology include the following:
Customized Symantec System Recovery Disk ISO image – The core ISO image optimizations are similar to steps described in the article, Optimizing SERT for Intel vPro Technology. Key differences include use of the Custom SRD wizard provided with Symantec System Recovery and removing unnecessary drivers. The two-stage boot redirection utility greatly improves the response time to regular boot redirection.
Enabling of Intranet Fast-Call-for-Help – Starting with Intel AMT 4.x platforms in the 2008 timeframe, a capability was introduced to Intel vPro Technology for a local user or process on the target computer to initiate a request for assistance. The request would be sent to a defined address as configured in the firmware. The Altiris Out-of-Band Management solution in connection with CheckPoint software can configure this Intel AMT feature for clients outside of the corporate environment (i.e. Internet address and usage). For intranet usage, a custom script or tool must be used as defined by the Intel AMT SDK to enable the AMT Notification alert subscription. An end-user example of this script will be posted in the coming months.
Further customizations of the Symantec Recovery Disk, using a base WinPE bootable ISO, could be made to automatically map the desired network drives, request user login credentials for file access permissions, and so forth. In addition, the process could be integrated into a Workflow process to further integrate into the target production environment.
In connection with the examples shown for out-of-band alerts and events, take a look back at a previous article posted on Integrating Intel vPro into a HelpDesk Environment. Much of the framework in that article is available natively within the Symantec Management Platform.
I am very interested to hear your ideas for integrating these features and components into a daily process.
As most seasoned MSPs know, power management can improve the client’s bottom line with the flip of a switch, but sometimes it’s hard to get users on board.
That’s why I’d like to focus on a hot topic in our industry today, green IT, and how you can boost your efficiency. There’s been a lot of hype around the word green—green living, green business, the new Green Lantern film…but let’s look at it in terms of the services we offer. How can MSPs help clients become more energy efficient and better utilize their existing resources? By establishing a comprehensive power management system through the capabilities of Intel vPro technology-based PCs accessed through their existing management console software.
A power-down script in your management console application combined with the remote power-on capabilities of Intel vPro technology-based PCs is all you need. That’s how I remotely power down my client’s PCs after hours and turn them on before the start of the next business day. This significantly lowers their energy consumption, which in turn reduces their operating costs. Overall, I save my clients around $100-300 per PC each year.
Haven't provisioned your Intel vPro systems yet? Check out this new and interactive tool. Complete the fields according to how you will manage and use your vPro systems and it will return a recommendation to help you plan out your activation.
When it comes to video games, speed is the word. And game developers are constantly looking for new ways to enhance the end-user experience, getting players into the game faster so they can enjoy more exciting, immersive game play.
A team of Intel engineers recently conducted tests to explore how Intel® Solid-State Drives (Intel® SSDs) might improve the end-user experience by accelerating game load times and increasing visual fidelity. The results were striking: Intel® SSDs sped up game loading by up to 78 percent while delivering more fluid character animation.
“With an Intel® SSD, we can add 20 to 40 textures per frame in real time during game play without any need for scheduling,” explained Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games. “Latency is low enough to load resources ‘just in time,’ immediately before they are accessed, so we can build fundamentally more detailed and interesting games.”