IDF 2010: Intel pushing "hardware assisted workspace virtualization." Real use for vPro?

I've been having a hard time wrapping my head around Intel vPro in the context of desktop virtualization. It seems to me that most of the features of vPro are about remote admin access and management, which are the exact kind of features you need if you're not using desktop virtualization.

I've been having a hard time wrapping my head around Intel vPro in the context of desktop virtualization. It seems to me that most of the features of vPro are about remote admin access and management, which are the exact kind of features you need if you're not using desktop virtualization. It seems like you either need vPro or a desktop virtualization solution, but not both.

So it's weird that a lot of the various desktop virtualization products (Citrix XenClient, VMware CVP), require vPro. My guess is that this is less of a technical requirement and more of a business deal, where Intel's partners "require" vPro for their solutions just to make Intel happy since using these products means Intel can sell more expensive vPro-enabled client devices. (And to be clear, I'm sure these products do actually require vPro, but that's because they were developed to. They certainly didn't have to require it. Someone made a decision at some point.)

I attended Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2009 last year to learn a bit about what vPro could theoretically do for desktop virtualization, and while that was cool then I'm not sure that I've seen too much more in the real world.

So now it's a year later and IDF 2010 is going on. Today Intel and RingCube jointly announced the latest version of RingCube vDesk with something called "hardware assisted virtualization" (or "vDesk for vPro," as they're informally calling it). If you're not familiar with RingCube, they have a virtual desktop solution that boots a second secure desktop instance from the existing base Windows load. It's kinda-sorta like a Type 2 VM, except they don't actually have a second full instance of the OS running, meaning that they don't need multi-gigabyte VM images and they don't need all the memory of a second full VM. (Here's a video from the BriForum DEMO Lab of RingCube's founder Mike Larkin explaining it.)

This vDesk for vPro thing is supposed to let the VM run with 99% native performance (and on Win7 x64 nonetheless) with full security, central manageability, etc. So it seems cool, but then in the press release RingCube says that their new solution "runs initially on Intel® Core™ vPro™ family of processors, with broader support planned in a future release." So now it's like, "Wait.. what?!?" If they're going to add broader support later, then what part of this legitimately requires vPro? Is this just them being in bed with Intel and artificially designing their product around the vPro spec, or are there actual real features that simply cannot be done on non-vPro laptops?

It's too bad we're not moving towards an environment where customers can compare feature lists of checkboxes that show what is and isn't supported on vPro. (I would love this.) Unfortunately I'm afraid that Intel won't allow their partners to do this since it would quantitatively show customers exactly which features won't work without vPro, meaning that customers could weigh buying cheaper laptops that didn't (for example) only allow users to boot signed VMs.

I want to be clear that I'm not saying that vPro is bad or not worth it—it's just that when I see these kinds of joint press releases I wonder what really requires vPro and what's just a complex marketing agreement, and I'm trying to figure out what exactly customers get (in the desktop virtualization context) for the extra money they spend on vPro.

I guess since both Intel and RingCube are in the Bay Area that I should grab the video camera and ask some of these folks in person. In the meantime, can anyone shed more light on this? Awesome real features or emperor with no clothes?

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Brian -

Please visit to read the whitepaper for more details.

Also, this is an odd blog post considering you did not stop by to visit us (Intel & RingCube) at VMworld despite several of us reaching out to you. Whether it's Citrix, VMware, or RingCube, working with Intel as client-virtualization partners, we are all trying to help customers solve real-world problems. By doing such, we are looking at all options. In some situations, hardware-assistance is needed and in others software-only based solutions meet the needs. It depends on the use cases and the customer requirements.

On 32-bit (XP, Vista, Win7), RingCube vDesk has no hardware requirement. On 64-bit, we are leveraging hardware assistance. In the first phase, it's exclusive to Intel as they've helped us most over that past several quarters to get here but longer term it will expand beyond Intel.

We'll try again to reach out to you and see if you will actually stop by and speak with us (Intel & RingCube) this time around. You're doing a good thing for the industry to bring attention to new innovations in client / desktop virtualization but headlines like this seem a bit over-the-top and not the best approach from an education perspective.

If you have questions, then why not just ask some of the key technical contacts - Charlton, Mike, Kiran - you know all of them already. They all sent you emails that you didn't respond to. This post just seem like you have an axe to grind.  

If you do not have an axe to grind with us AND you truly are seeking knowledge, then let's objectively focus on the important questions - are there new approaches to desktop virtualization that really help customers solve key business problems? Is this one of them?




Wow, way to rip into an industry professional on a public website.  Seems like you could have just posted what features do and do not require vPro instead. Would put you one step ahead of other vendors perhaps?


@Doug @Brian

I'm also a bit uncertain of how exactly (and why) vPro interacts with the various Desktop Virtualization products, not just RingCube - and would therefore appreciate a video interview with the Intel folks and/or vendors on the topic.

Gonna check that vdeo in the mean time :)




We get it; Brian didn't visit with RingCube & Intel...enough already.

You said: "On 32-bit (XP, Vista, Win7), RingCube vDesk has no hardware requirement. On 64-bit, we are leveraging hardware assistance. "  The question is; why use hardware assistance on 64bit when your specifically not using it on 32bit?  Seems to me this decision only complicates deployment for end users.  

Rodd Ahrenstorff


Hey Doug, I just re-read my entire post, and I can't figure out which part you're referring to about an axe to grind. Frankly I didn't even see this as a negative post so I'm a bit surprised.. I was just wondering which exact features really requires vPro and why?

BTW, when I tried to download the paper last night I went through the whole reg process, but then the landing page said that the paper was not yet available, so that's why I didn't read it before this post. But I'll check for it again now.


Hey again Doug, Everyone,

Ok, the white paper is there now and I just read it, but I feel like it does not answer my questions about why RingCube requires vPro and what features don't work without vPro.

For example, in the white paper on Page 3, there's a big chart with columns of processor types and rows of features, and then checkboxes to show what supports what. "Perfect!" I thought.. "This is exactly what I wanted!" But after reading it I realized this chart is NOT about the RingCube vDesk product and what it can and cannot do on each processor--this is just a generic vPro marketing chart.

The problem with this being generic is that many of the rows of features on the chart are the features that customers only need if they're NOT using desktop virtualization or RingCube. Like if I have a client VM, I can encrypt that VM with my virtualization software.. I don't need vPro for that feature. (Sure I know TxT could also ensure the VM only runs on a specific device too, but you don't need vPro for basic encryption.) And there's a section on the chart and in the white paper about remote power management with vPro, but I've always viewed that as a desktop-specific feature (power off the work desktops at night and power them on to patch them).. But I assume RingCube's whole market is remote laptop users, right? So for them, it's not like you're remotely powering on someone's laptop in their backpack to patch it. :) My point is that while vPro remote power management is cool, in the context of desktop virtualization for laptops, I don't "get" why I'm reading about that feature in this white paper?!?

And unfortunately the fine print under the chart directs the reader to see page 25 of the paper, but the paper only has 8 pages. So I assume the chart was just dropped in from some other generic vPro source and has nothing to do with RingCube specifically.. :( Of course later in the paper the text starts to go into it vPro more, but I'm still not clear what features are actually vPro-related. Like the text talks about "Isolation from Host PC with Intel VT," but basic VT is in all Intel processors, and vPro only gives advanced VT like Directed IO and stuff, right? So which VT does RingCube use?

So let me be clear on what I'm asking so that no one thinks I have an axe to grind:

It seems to me that many of the features of vPro provide advantages that can also be addressed with various desktop virtualization technologies and products. This leads me to believe that it's sort of an "either / or" thing, where I either want vPro OR I want desktop virtualization, but I shouldn't spend money on both. Now that desktop virtualization vendors are coming out with products that require vPro (and hence require me to buy "both,") I'm curious about which specific aspects of their products require vPro, and more importantly, what I can and cannot do with the products on non-vPro devices.



IMHO, vPro is not a *set of technologies*, it is a brand and sticker for your laptop.

But if laptop manufacturer wants to put this sticker on, he MUST enable all required features such as VT-d, VT-x and TXT.

This features are REQUIRED for XenClient, and vPro sticker is the only one guarantee that manufacturer not locked some of them in BIOS. For example, almost all SONY Vaio doesn't has an option to enable VT-d regardless of the fact that the chipset supports it.

Another point is competition: if some product requires vPro, it means that it runs only on Intel's integrated graphics. No Nvidia/ATI inside.



It's a legitimate question... you shouldn't take offense to it.  vPro contains many technologies such as VT, TXT, etc... but those technologies are also available individually on some processors without vPro.  So which do you use, which do you "need"?

btw, that last quesiton would go to all desktop virt vendors who claim their technology requires vPro.  I share the same thought as Brian that a lot of it is just marketing fud.... but prove us wrong if you can.


Brian I may be off base here but I think Intel is making all the right moves.  Imagine if you could give client side virtual desktops to consultants and untrusted third parties and manage the virtual desktop even if the PC is turned off.  VPro's out of band management allows for this! Factor in that if it's written into the bio's it's bomb proof what a security play.  What a masterful play Intel just made!  MCafee and Neocleus.  Intel knows VDI is a small use case and their customers are more concerned about security and manageability of their laptops.  By running controls in the chip they on the road to total control, something they have been going after for a very long time.


VPro is a combinaison of 2 things :

- hardware certification in which CPU, Networking and GPU are Intel ones.

- features of the CPU including VT-x, VT-d, TXT, TPM...

Generally, "client type I hypervisor" will require VT-x and VT-d (cpu and data virtualization)... TXT, TPM and others are value added feature for encryption, signature, certificat... and not always or yet used. Don't know what is the AMD side of the TXT, TMP and so on...


To the best of my knowlege Citrix XenClient requires the VT-x, VT-d and AMT technolgoies of the Intel vPro stack. While it is true that it is possible to find these technologies on some non-vPro chips, you will always find them with vPro chips. It is easier from both a supportability and customer research perspective to look for the vPro label opposed to digging down to find the specific technologies on the chips.

If you've ever done research to determine if a chip has VT-d and VT-x technologies for example you'll appreciate how much easier it is to know its there when you see the vPro label.


"If you've ever done research to determine if a chip has VT-d and VT-x technologies for example you'll appreciate how much easier it is to know its there when you see the vPro label."

What research???  You can simply go to Intel's site and view a simple matrix to see if a chip has those technologies.  For existing computers you can also download and run a simple utility that will tell you everything about the chip.


It is important to know that XenClient does not require vPro, though it is "highly recommended" in order to take advantage of all of the features of the product.  See the last line in the link below



Incorrect link there Patrick


What I do not get is why vpro can not be on a laptop with nvidia gpu?

I do not think anyone expects intel to have a gpu that is half as good as an ati  or nvidia gpu ever.

So for those that want the best gpu inside the box possible are left without the vpro tech that might be wonderful.  To be honest folks I want both.