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?