Supporting remote PC users has become super-important during the pandemic, and there’s every sign that it will remain just as important in the future.
A Gartner poll conducted last summer found that over 80% of company leaders plan to let their employees work remotely at least some of the time, even after he pandemic ends. Working from home, it seems, is here to stay. So is the need for remote PC support.
One tech provider fully engaged in supporting remote PC users is 365 Managed IT. Based in Tempe, Ariz., the company offers a full suite of managed services, including IT management, maintenance and support.
365 Managed IT also uses two Intel technologies for better IT functionality and lower service-delivery costs: the Intel vPro platform and Intel Endpoint Management Assistant (EMA).
With help from these two Intel technologies, 365 Managed IT has reduced the average time it needs to resolve a hardware problem by 50%. Lowered the average time needed to reduce a software problem by 66%. And cut the number of monthly desk-side visits by 60%.
To learn more, we spoke recently with 365 Managed IT’s founding co-partner and senior technical consultant, Ken Stewart. Following are edited highlights from our interview.
Ken Stewart, senior technical consultant, 365 Managed IT
You’ve used the Intel vPro platform for its remote management capabilities. How does adding Intel Endpoint Management Assistant make things even better?
It’s great that we don’t have to run a proxy server on our clients’ sites in order to manage PCs built on the Intel vPro platform. Now we only have to manage one server hosting Intel EMA. It simplifies things for us greatly, and that’s really huge for us.
About 40% of our client base is charter schools. They don’t have an on-site IT infrastructure because everything they use is cloud-based. Intel EMA lets us reach them.
This is a huge deal. A lot of the work we do at schools is done after-hours. So we need to be able to reach systems—and if we can’t, we need to be able to turn them on. Intel EMA lets us do this. In the education market, that’s a big advantage.
How does Intel EMA give you a better reach into the growing number of out-of-office workers?
The rest of our customer base went remote with COVID, and a few are just starting to transition back to offices. But based on what I’m seeing in the news, I think most companies won’t return soon.
With so many of our clients now working from home instead of in the office, our calls have increased. Intel EMA gives us the ability to reach systems not sitting on corporate networks.
How did you cut hardware-repair times by 40 percent?
Intel EMA allows us to diagnose PC problems remotely at the hardware level. That means letting us see an issue without rolling a truck.
It seems like many of our remote clients are locked out by forgetting their disk encryption password. With Intel EMA, we can access a PC’s desktop and use a new password to get past the disk encryption. This helps us resolve issues quickly and efficiently.
You’ve reduced on-site visits too, right?
With Intel EMA, we can make far fewer trips onsite. With our prior technology, we were able to resolve about 70% of our tickets remotely. But with Intel EMA access, we can complete up to 90% of our tickets remotely.
If our technicians aren’t spending time on the road, they can close more tickets in less time. We can work more quickly because the Intel vPro platform gives us remote access to the client’s desktop in ways we didn’t have access before.
You work closely with two other suppliers, Lenovo and Datto. Why them?
As a Lenovo partner, we appreciate the company’s customer support as well as the pricing. And our clients like the consistency of Lenovo’s products and how long-lasting they are. Since we’ve started working with Lenovo, our clients have not had any performance issues with the equipment.
As for Datto, they’re a one-stop shop with a focus on MSP markets. That’s been key for us as a Datto continuity partner. We’ve had very few issues, and the support has been excellent. If there was better integration with Intel EMA, that would make the tool even more helpful.
Get faster, too:
Intel’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger, has presented a bold new vision for the company’s future. If you’d like to hear that vision firsthand, you won’t want to miss an upcoming Intel event.
Called “How Wonderful Gets Done 2021,” this online event will offer expert insights from Intel and its ecosystem partners. The event is happening on Tuesday, April 6, starting at 8 a.m. PT / 11 a.m. ET.
Intel has also said that it will use the April 6 “Wonderful” event to introduce the new 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors, code-named Ice Lake. Other new products set for announcement that day include hardware and software for data centers, 5G networks and intelligent edge infrastructures.
Featured Intel speakers at the April 6 event will include CEO Gelsinger; Navin Shenoy, GM of the data platforms group; and Lisa Spelman, GM of the Xeon and memory group.
The day will also include technical sessions on AI, IoT, 5G networking, high performance computing (HPC), and cloud infrastructure. These sessions will be led by Intel subject-matter experts.
All in all, it should be an exciting and informative event, and one that Intel partners will want to attend.
Learn more about the How Wonderful Gets Done 2021 event, and plan to join Intel’s tech elite on Tuesday, April 6 at 8 a.m. PT / 11 a.m. ET.
One important aspect of the new Intel Partner Alliance is what’s known as roles.
Every member of Intel Partner Alliance will be assigned a role based on their business competency. Each role has its own set of requirements and benefits. The new roles are also designed to unite partners in a program designed to meet their business needs and spur innovation.
Which role fits your company? Here’s a complete list of the 9 new Intel Partner Alliance roles, along with their official definitions:
> FPGA design services: Offers engineering services related to Intel field-programmable gate array products. These include RTL design, design optimization, IP integration, feasibility studies, testing and verification, and FPGA board design.
> Cloud service provider (CSP): Offers as-a-Service cloud offerings that include software (SaaS), infrastructure (IaaS), and platform (PaaS).
> Independent software vendor (ISV): Develops, sells and supports both branded and non-branded software and applications.
> Distributor: Sells the latest Intel processors, SSDs, server products and other components, all sourced directly from Intel.
> Manufacturer: Builds systems and subsystems (including motherboards) for both compute and IoT. These companies then provide these products to other partners (such as OEMs) in the value chain.
> OEM: Designs and brands their own products. Some have their own manufacturing, assembly and configuration operations. Others purchase from manufacturers and then resell under their own brand.
> Solution provider: Resells OEM systems and software, and providers of IT services. They provide solutions directly to customers, through channel networks and via storefront retail.
> Service integrator: Architects and implements business-process transformation and solution integrations. Also offer consulting by connecting and integrating software, hardware and cloud solutions.
> Guest: None of the above.
Intel will determine your role based on information you provide, information from Intel field staff, and information from public sources.
Most likely, you’ll qualify for just one role. But if multiple roles are appropriate, or if you believe you’ve been assigned an incorrect role, get in touch with your Intel field rep or customer-support person.
Intel Partner Alliance offers some powerful benefits. Make sure you’ve activated your account. And start enjoying your new partnership role.
Congratulations, you’ve made it to Friday. Here are some fun facts to help you and other tech providers wrap up the work week and get ready for the weekend.
AI backpack for the blind
An Intel developer has created an AI-powered backpack designed to help the visually impaired walk around safely.
The developer, Jagadesh Mahendran, says the backpack can detect traffic signs, hanging obstacles, moving objects, even changing elevations. Learn more.
Citi: Zoom-free Fridays
Who says bankers are uptight? Citibank CEO Jan Fraser this week launched Zoom-Free Fridays. She says they're aimed at giving Citi employees a break from Zoom fatigue.
Okay, Citi is a bit uptight. The bank also said that Friday calls with clients and regulators may still be done on Zoom. The new easing applies only to internal calls. But still. Check out the memo.
Bad news for cryptocurrency fans: Fraud-prevention company Bolster finds that the number of cryptocurrency-related scams nearly doubled last year.
This year, Bolster expects, suspicious activity around cryptocurrency will increase by an estimated 75%. Read more…
To remain competitive during these challenging times, tech providers need to enhance their skills. One way to do this is with training.
And one way to get trained is with the Competencies on Intel Partner University (IPU). Competencies are deeper training curriculums that can help you build expertise in a specific product, technology or business segment.
At least, that’s the theory. How about in practice?
To find out, we spoke recently with Jas Batra. He’s VP of New Technologies at MJP Technologies, an IT services provider in Ventura, Calif. Jas is a good person to ask; he recently completed over a half-dozen IPU Competencies. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.
Jas Batra, VP of new technologies, MJP Technologies
What’s been the main benefit you’ve received from training with IPU Competencies?
The Intel trainings are short and sweet. That’s great. They go directly to what we need. For each technology, there are a half-dozen or so training modules—it varies by competency—they cover everything you need to know. You do it, you learn it, you take the test, and you’re done.
The Competencies are highly focused, and they get straight to the nitty-gritty. They avoid the basic stuff we covered years ago and don’t need to hear again. I hate sitting through an all-day class when I need just one component that they’re not going to cover until the end of the day.
With so many people now working from home, how do IPU Competencies fit in?
That’s another great thing about the short modules. When do you have time? I’m working from home, I’ve got so many things going on, and I can’t sit for an hour straight. Especially with a kid in the house. Shorter modules make that so much more convenient. Yet you’re still getting all the information you need.
Do Competencies help you serve your customers? If so, how?
Absolutely. I’m going to easily turn around the technology into something we can sell to our customers. Our customers don’t speak technology. They speak ROI. They want to know, “What’s it going to do for my business?”
Also, because the modules are so short—some are just 10 minutes—the information is easy to retain. When you have a two-hour class, it can be hard to remember the first 30 minutes, especially if some parts aren’t relevant to your needs. But with these short and to-the-point modules, retaining the information is easy.
For example, I took the Gaming Systems Competency training and was pleased to see that a course addressed overclocking some of Intel’s high-end processors with details on how to get the best tuning, rather than by trial and error. That’s exactly what I need to know.
How detailed are the IPU Competency trainings?
In the technical competencies, they get quite detailed. For example, in the Intel Optane Technology Data Center Technical competency, they have you go through the command-line details. That’s to make sure you understand which commands you have to run, and what the command will do. These are the details we’ll need to actually implement.
Can you give an example of how information from an IPU Competency training helped you serve or influence a customer?
Sure. I completed the Intel Optane Technology Data Center Solution and Technology Competencies, and I earned the badges. Then I realized that with VMware vSAN—we do a lot of VMware-based solutions—one customer’s implementation would actually be much different when using Intel Optane technology.
Compared with a regular 3D NAND, this would give the customer higher IOPS [input-output operations/sec.] with fewer drives. Their cost would be about the same, maybe even a little less. But the main benefit would be the speed with which they could get the VMs fired up. So now that I understand Intel Optane technology, I can offer not only this customer a better solution, but other customers as well, both now and in the future.
That also helped with the customer’s VMware vSAN solution, which we’re basing on Intel Optane technology. There were a couple commands in the training that we were able to use with the customer, too. Given how quick the modules are, they cover a lot of detail, which was a pleasant surprise.
For this customer, what’s been the main benefit?
We actually did a proof-of-concept for them. It was completed a few weeks ago, and now we’re waiting for the customer’s approval. We’re going with Intel Optane DC SSDs, rather than with 3D NAND SSDs as we’d have done in the past.
This customer serves K-12 students, and they have a VMware environment. So we used the same exact hardware; all we did was swap out the drives. When they saw how much faster things would fire up and respond with Intel Optane DC SSDs, they realized this solution could deliver results in a lot less time.
Also, we’ve done the testing, and we’ve had some calls with our Intel sales rep and technology leads to validate the solution. We wouldn’t have done that without the Intel Optane DC Technology training.
How important to customers are the Competency badges?
With new customers, someone you’re presenting to for the first time, it’s important. New customers want to know your background, your competencies, your areas of experience. This is where the badges really make a difference.
Have other MJP employees taken the trainings?
Yes, a few others have. Within just minutes, they had ideas about something new we could offer our customers. It’s a good use of our time, as it produces a return that’s almost immediate.
Intel’s newest server family has a split personality. And that’s a good thing.
On the one hand, the new servers—called the Intel Server System M70KLP family—are designed to run mainstream workloads. On the other, unlike most mainstream devices, Intel’s newest servers also provide extremely high levels of compute and memory density.
The Intel Server System M70KLP family can do this, in part, because it’s the first line of servers to support the 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors with up to 6 Ultra Path Interconnects (UPIs). It also offers the highest available memory capacity of any Intel server.
As a result, these new servers can handle compute- and memory-intensive workloads. That includes analytics, CRM, database, data mart/warehouse, ERP, OLTP, in-memory database and virtual-machine consolidation.
Yet these new servers can also reduce your customers’ total cost of ownership (TCO). They do this by consolidating workloads, in turn lowering costs for power, space, software licenses, networking components and management.
The Intel Server System M70KLP family offers a line of 4-socket servers, all in a 2U form factor. Four sockets provide some pretty impressive compute power. With each server able to take up to 4 CPUs, and each CPU offering up to 28 cores, that gives you a total maximum count of 112 cores per server.
And not just any CPU, but the 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors. They offer up to 40% higher performance than their predecessors.
That gives the Intel Server System M70KLP enough oomph for both enterprise private clouds and “next wave” cloud applications. Within the 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor line, the new servers can handle both the Platinum 83xx and Gold 63xx SKUs. Both are air-cooled.
Memory capacity for the new servers goes up to a max of 15TB per server. This enables larger datasets for in-memory databases. Some of this is achieved with support for the new Intel Optane 200 Series persistent memory (in App Direct mode), which has been optimized to work with the 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors.
Storage options are robust, too. The Intel Server System M70KLP supports both Intel Optane SSD and Intel 3D NAND SSD drives. In a single server, you can configure up to 24 drive bays.
The new servers are also certified to work with a wide range of third-party OSes and software. These include Windows Server, Oracle Linux, Ubuntu, VMware, SAP HANA (coming soon), SLES and RHEL.
AI, speed, I/O
This isn’t your father’s server. The new Intel servers boast some other, quite modern features.
That includes built-in AI acceleration. It comes from Intel Deep Learning Boost with VNNI, and the new BFloat16. Both can speed both AI training and inferencing on the server’s general-purpose CPUs.
Another modern feature on board is Intel Speed Select Technology. It lets users dial in Turbo Boost Tech frequencies, on CPU cores they select.
Yet another is an increase in Ultra Path Interconnects for I/O-intensive workloads. Each server can now have up to 6 UPIs, double the previous generation for greater inter-CPU bandwidth.
To keep the new Intel Server System M70KLP family safe and secure, Intel is also packing in hardware-enhanced security features. These help protect against malicious exploits and accelerate data encryption, yet also maintain workload integrity by reducing the server’s performance overhead.
Familiar look & feel
If you’ve already worked with other members of the Intel Server System portfolio, the new Intel Server System M70KLP servers should look and feel familiar. They use the same tools and utilities as the other family members, making your work easier and faster.
Enterprise-class server management tools are included, too. They’re designed to simplify deployment, monitoring, updating and debugging.
Do you have customers looking for servers that can handle just about anything today’s modern workloads can throw at them? Then tell them about the new Intel Server System M70KLP family.
Due to the popularity of Fitbit, Apple Watch and other similar devices, you might think the wearables category begins and ends with a tiny computer just north of your knuckles.
But tech designers and engineers are now burning the midnight oil, thinking up new silicon-powered toys to adorn our bodies.
When the fruits of their labor are realized, the wearables category will encompass thousands of futuristic devices. And they’ll be designed to enhance not just our wrists, but every body part from the bottom of our feet to the crowns of our heads.
Gatorade: The sweat measurer
Think you’ve seen everything? How about a sports-drink brand hawking a disposable, single-use smart patch that tells you when you need to drink more sports-drink?
You have now:
Gatorade’s smart patch tells when it’s time to chug
Available now for your saline measuring satisfaction, Gatorade’s Gx Sweat Patch comes two to a pack for around $25. An athlete’s profuse perspiration is measured by the patch and then reported via the free Gx app. The app is currently available for Apple iOS only. (Sorry, Android fanboys.)
Gatorade’s Gx app will tell you how much fluid and sodium you’ve lost during your workout, as well as the rate at which you sweated. Once the connected system feels you’ve output enough salt water, it will notify you that it’s time for some delicious electrolytes.
Looking for the app to recommend a Gatorade flavor? For that choice, you’re still on your own.
Behold the smart mask—because COVID
Famed gaming-gear maker Razer made headlines at the recent CES 2021 with a prototype of its new smart mask. Dubbed “Project Hazel,” the mask is the latest in personal protection equipment (PPE).
Razer Project Hazel smart masks: the future of PPE?
Hazel, according to Razer, is “the world’s smartest mask.” Well, it boasts a slew of gee-whiz features, including:
> Replaceable filters, providing filtration comparable to an N95 mask
> A translucent front panel with custom LED lighting to help people read your lips
> Active ventilation that adjusts automatically based on ambient air quality
> Auto-sterilization via UV lights in the carrying case
> Voice amplification technology—because masks (ugh!)
However, Razer has made it clear that this smart mask has not yet achieved FDA approval. Nor has Hazel been blessed by the CDC, OSHA or any other official body.
That could change soon. Razer says it’s working with a team of scientists and medical professionals to develop Project Hazel into a top-of-the-line, medical-grade smart mask that meets the company’s vision. So far, that’s all we know.
But even if Project Hazel never makes it into production, the concept is a harbinger of smart things to come. COVID-19 was not our first viral pandemic, and it likely won’t be our last. Smart masks like Project Hazel could save lives while also making the day-to-day pandemic slog a little easier.
In which fabric grows a brain
The Apple patent junkies over at PatentlyApple.com recently delivered some intriguing news about Apple’s latest patent for smart fabric buttons. That may sound like small potatoes, but the implications are far-reaching
Apple’s patent filing noted that fabric buttons may contain capacitive and resistive sensors. These sensors, in turn, can detect various types of light, sound, motion, gyroscopic readings, and inertial measurements.
Technical drawing from Apple’s patent filing for smart fabric buttons
When added to clothing and accessories, these miniature devices could fulfill thousands of varied functions. For instance, smart buttons could help improve personal safety by warning the wearer of a would-be attacker or an unseen speeding car. Similarly, a sensor could automatically activate a parka’s battery-operated heating system, switching it on when the air temperature falls below a user-defined level.
Smart fabric buttons could also help find lost children, send EMTs to the location of a fallen senior, or translate the hand movements of a deaf person’s sign language into an amplified, virtual voice. That’s pretty smart.
Change the channel to wearables
For the channel, emerging smart wearable tech should be an epic opportunity.
Smartwatches helped prove that wearables were a popular and lucrative market. But it’s the wearables of tomorrow that will separate the channel winners from the channel also-rans.
Perhaps the path to the gold medal is as much a question of anthropology and biology as technology. All human beings sweat, breathe and wear clothes of some sort.
These fundamentals of human nature powered the imaginations of Gatorade, Razer and Apple. The rest was simply the logistics of filling our needs and desires.
Surely there’s a lesson in their example.
“Together, moving the world forward” is the theme for this year’s Intel Partner Connect.
This partner event will be held virtually on April 22 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. PT / 11 a.m. to 4:30 pm ET. You're invited to attend.
Join this year’s Virtual Intel Partner Connect, and you’ll connect with the industry’s premier ecosystem to create innovative solutions, grow your business faster, and take advantage of new opportunities.
You’ll also learn about the latest tech trends, hear Intel’s product priorities, and discover how the new Intel Partner Alliance can help you grow your business.
The agenda for Intel Partner Connect 2021 features regional sessions, breakouts, and sponsor sessions. This year’s sponsors include Accenture, Dell, HP, Microsoft and VMware.
Technical sessions will cover Intel’s data center portfolio, cloud computing, memory tech, intelligent edge, SmartNICs, and Intel’s Optane PMem and Optane SSD solutions,
Several of these sessions will be hosted by Intel executives. They’ll include John Kalvin, Intel’s new GM of the global scale and partner organization; Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s new CEO; and Julie Malloy, Intel’s GM of global partner marketing.
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger will be among the day's speakers
The day’s guest speaker will be Simon Sinek, a TED Talk celebrity and author of five books, including the bestseller, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Simon will be interviewed by Intel’s John Kalvin in a session entitled “Better Together.”
Mark your calendar for April 22. Register to attend. And connect, innovate and grow at Intel Partner Connect 2021.
The pandemic is transforming tech. Even after it ends, as many as 1 in 4 jobs could still be done remotely. Meanwhile, hardware sales are hot, hot, hot. That certainly includes gaming—just in time for the creation of a new PC category.
Sound intriguing? Then watch the latest video discussion between Ed Hannan, senior digital content manager at The Channel Co., and me, the editor of Tech Provider Zone.
In our latest “In the Zone” video, Ed and I discuss the changing face of tech work during the pandemic, why hardware is so hot, and the technology behind the ultraportable gaming PC.
Get in the groove with Tech Provider Zone. Watch our new video now:
Lots of tech providers may brag about their systems being bulletproof. But only a few can say they offer military-grade IT. One of them is G6 Communications.
Based in Bluffton, Ind., G6 was founded in 2007 by two veterans of the U.S. Marine Corps. In fact, their company’s name, “G6,” refers to the Marines’ communications unit. Today G6 offers managed IT services, consulting, compliance audits, cybersecurity, cloud and more. All of it military grade.
One of G6’s newest offerings is Device as a Service (DaaS). To offer this, G6 has standardized on Lenovo business PCs built with Intel Core vPro processors. As a result, the company has cut the average time to resolve a hardware problem in half, to just 60 minutes; reduced the average time needed to resolve a software problem by 88%, to 10 minutes; and cut the number of deskside visits by more than 80%.
To learn more, we spoke recently with G6’s director of operations, David Cox. Here are highlights from our interview.
David Cox of G6 Communications
You recommend PCs built on the Intel vPro platform. Why is that?
We have standardized on business-class PCs built with Intel Core vPro processors. In order to deliver business-class IT support, we need the remote management capabilities provided by Intel vPro. With the addition of Intel Endpoint Management Assistant [Intel EMA], vPro-based PCs just got even easier to manage. We can now fully configure PCs remotely, without touching the machine.
How has Intel vPro tech helped you cut hardware-repair times in half?
Because Intel vPro technology lets us diagnose a hardware issue remotely, we can take the right part with us on the first visit, and avoid a second truck roll. This saves us time and labor costs. It also reduces the amount of downtime the customer has to sit through.
How has Intel’s KVM [keyboard/video/mouse] Remote Control reduced your OS repair times by 87%?
The ability to remotely get into the PC’s BIOS is a lifesaver. It lets us repair OS issues without a truck roll, which is more cost effective and much faster. With the integration of Intel EMA into our management console software, this gets even better, as we can fully configure machines remotely and maintain Admin Control Mode. This helps us fix issues more quickly without having to involve the customer in a clunky over-the-phone diagnosis. This is huge for customer satisfaction.
You recommend Lenovo PCs to your customers. Why Lenovo?
We use Lenovo PCs—and we have since I started with G6 ten years ago—because their systems are rock-solid and run with virtually no problems. And if we ever do need their support, the Lenovo rep is out there the next day—direct to our client site.
What about Connectwise Automate remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform? How do you use it, and why?
We use ConnectWise Automate because it’s the most flexible RMM we’ve seen. We can write scripts for any process. Honestly, we haven’t even scratched the surface of everything the software can do. And with the new integration of Intel EMA, Connectwise continues to keep us ahead of the curve.