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In the Zone

Protect business PCs with 11th gen Intel Core vPro mobile platform security

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by Peter Krass on 02/18/2021
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With cyberthreats becoming more frequent and more sophisticated, and with so many end users now working remotely, your customers need PCs with the most robust security available.

Software alone often won’t cut it. That’s why it’s worth checking out the hardware-based security.

You’ll find hardware security capabilities on the 11th gen Intel Core vPro mobile processors. Introduced just last month, this family of Intel CPUs has been designed to power thin and light Windows-based mobile PCs used by businesses.

You may already know that the Intel vPro platform offers features for wireless remote management. That includes Intel Active Management Technology, hardware-based remote remediation that helps return a PC to a known good state, no matter where it’s located — even when the OS is down. With so many people now working from home, that’s important.

But the Intel vPro platform also offer three levels of powerful, hardware-based security features: protection below the OS; application and data security; and a new level of advanced threat detection.

Defense in depth

It all starts with Intel Hardware Shield. Available exclusively on all Intel vPro platform-based devices, this hardware-based solution aims to shut down an entire class of attacks that has long evaded software-only solutions.

With the new 11th gen processors, Intel Hardware Shield adds the industry’s first silicon-enabled AI threat detection. This helps stop ransomware and crypto-mining attacks.

Within the Intel Hardware Shield are 2 new and powerful security features:

> Intel Control-flow Enforcement Technology (CET): Prevents return- and jump-oriented programming (ROP/JOP) malware, in which hackers reuse existing code instead of injecting code to implement malware algorithms.

> Intel Threat Detection Technology (TDT): Helps software-based threat detection agents take full advantage of the advanced telemetry capabilities in Intel hardware to detect ransomware and crypto-mining. TDT also lowers the performance impact of security workloads by offloading memory scans to the graphics engine; this increases a PC’s battery life, too.

Business benefits

So much for the tech specs, which your business customers may not care about. But they should be interested in the Intel vPro platform’s new business and security benefits. These include:

> Protection of PC users with expanded below-the-OS security features that help ensure that both the OS and virtual environments are running securely on Intel hardware.

> Proactive detection of emerging threats, without sacrificing the user experience.

> Elimination of an entire class of attacks that have evaded software-only measures.

> Helping end users to stop worrying about security, and to instead focus on what’s most important — namely, their work.

> Saving both time and money, thanks to out-of-band remote management.

> A bug-bounty program that invites the security community to collaborate in order to discover and eliminate issues.

Today, PC security matters like never before. Check out the new, powerful security features of the 11th gen Intel vPro mobile processors — and tell your business customers about them, too.


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In the Zone

Video: Get ‘In the Zone’ to do business in a post-pandemic world

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by Peter Krass on 02/16/2021
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Fingers crossed, we’ll soon be living and working in a post-pandemic world. That’s most likely going to involve both new technologies and new ways of working with older technologies.

To learn more, check out my new video discussion with Ed Hannan, senior digital content manager at The Channel Co.

In our latest “In the Zone” video, Ed and I discuss the rise of contactless payments; how Intel EMA can help you remotely manage PCs; and a new, safer alternative to touch screens.

Get in the post-pandemic zone with Tech Provider Zone. Watch the new video now: 



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In the Zone

Catch the latest additions to Microsoft, HP, Intel partner programs

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by Peter Krass on 02/11/2021
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If you’re a partner of Microsoft, HP or Intel, you should know that all 3 companies have recently added to or enhanced their partner programs. Here’s your tech provider’s update.


Microsoft takes partners seriously. After all, partners influence 95% of Microsoft’s commercial revenue.

Microsoft’s partner ecosystem now includes more than 800 ISVs, 17 device makers and some 1,000 systems integrators. It’s big.

As part of Microsoft’s partner support, the company offers what it calls “advanced specializations.” These programs let partners demonstrate their expertise in specific technical areas.

Microsoft already offers advanced specializations in three areas: modern workplace, Azure, AI and security. Microsoft recently added 2 advanced specializations for business applications:

> Small and midsized business management: Showcase your experience with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

> Low-code application development: Demonstrate your expertise with development platforms that include Microsoft’s Power Apps and Power Automate.

Other Microsoft partner benefits include a Cloud Solution Provider program, commercial marketplace, co-selling opportunities, and a Partner Center for managing your relations with the company, customers and other partners.

Learn more: Microsoft’s partner ecosystem: Enabling innovation and business resilience (Microsoft blog post)


This week HP introduced a partner assessment, resource and training program called HP Amplify Impact. With this program, HP aims to help partners do more to fight climate change, promote human rights and shrink the digital divide.

HP Amplify Impact partner program

HP Amplify Impact will focus on 3 main areas - the company calls them "sustainable impact pillars":

> Planet: Fight climate change by driving toward a net-zero carbon, “circular” economy. But also create a portfolio of sustainable technologies, services and solutions.

> People: Promote human rights and social justice with programs that include diversity and inclusion, and racial equality.

> Community: Bridge the digital divide by empowering low-income communities with technology. Improve their access to education, jobs and healthcare.

Join HP Amplify Impact, and you’ll be eligible for training, sales tools, marketing assets, and access to HP programs that include the Sustainability & Compliance Centre and Planet Partners.

As a member of HP Amplify Impact, you’ll also be eligible for certifications and consideration in an annual awards program.

Learn more:

> HP Amplify Impact: project overview (PDF)

> Empowering a cultural shift to accelerate a more sustainable and just future (HP blog post)

> HP Partner Portal (registration and login required)


Regular readers of this TPZ blog already know about Intel Partner Alliance (IPA). But if that's not you, then it's important that you learn about this new program. Intel launched IPA just last month.

With IPA, Intel is unifying members of all its partner programs on a single platform that enables collaboration and innovation. The partner program’s new AI-based website connects you and other partners with new Intel technology, other partners, and a marketplace for collaboration.

Intel Partner Alliance

If you’re already a member of Intel Technology Provider or any other Intel partner program, then you’re eligible to join IPA. But it’s not automatic, so you’ll need to activate your account. The good news is, it takes only a moment.

Ready to benefit from the Intel Partner Alliance? Activate your account or register to join now.


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In the Zone

Focus on education: IBM survey finds teachers, admins lack cybersec awareness

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by Peter Krass on 02/09/2021
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You can’t fight an enemy effectively if you barely know they exist.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much what educators are up against when it comes to cybersecurity.

Schools have become major targets for cyber crooks. For example, during the months of August and September 2020, nearly 6 in 10 of all ransomware attacks reported in the United States involved K-12 schools.

That’s according to IBM and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI even issued a special cybersec warning this past December about attacks by “malicious cyber actors” on U.S. schools.

So how aware are educators of these threats? Not very, finds a new survey commissioned by IBM.

IBM wanted to better understand schools’ levels of preparedness, awareness and training. So last October it commissioned a survey of 1,000 educators and 200 administrators in both K-12 schools and colleges in the United States. The study was conducted by Morning Consult, a data-intelligence company, and the survey results were released just last week.

Here are some of the high (or should we say low?) points:

> Training lags: Nearly 6 in 10 educators and school administrators (59%) said they either haven’t received or aren’t sure whether they’ve received new cybersecurity initiatives or training for remote learning.

Similarly, more than half of the educators (54%) either haven’t received or don’t know whether they’ve received basic cybersecurity training.

> What, me worry? Only about half the educators and administrators (47%) surveyed said they’re either very or somewhat concerned about cyberattacks against their own schools. As the chart below (courtesy of IBM) shows, fully half are either not very concerned or not at all concerned.

IBM educators and cybersecurity survey chart

> Dangerous overconfidence: About 8 in 10 administrators feel confident that their schools could handle a cyberattack. Yet more than 6 in 10 don’t even know whether their schools have a cyber insurance plan.

> What's ransomware? Only 1 in 3 educators and administrators (33%) said they’re concerned about ransomware attacks on their schools. And over 4 in 10 (43%) believe that if their schools are attacked, they should not pay the ransom.

> BYOD, beware: Nearly 6 in 10 educators and admins (59%) are using personal devices for remote teaching. Among college educators, it’s more than 8 in 10 (81%). Yet over a third (34%) of educators said their educational institution has not provided any guidelines or resources to protect devices being used for remote learning,

> Lack of IT support: Only 1 in 4 educators (39%) said they receive a great deal of support from their school’s IT department.

> Money matters: Over half of all those surveyed (54%) said one large or medium barrier to strengthening their cybersec posture is the budget.

Pretty disturbing, right? IBM agrees. That’s why the company recently committed $3 million in in-kind grants to help U.S. schools strengthen their cybersecurity. How about you? Now’s the time to help your education customers get cybersafe.

Learn more: Read the full IBM education ransomware report (PDF)


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In the Zone

Video: Why MSPs like the Intel vPro platform

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by Peter Krass on 02/08/2021
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The Intel vPro platform is built for business.

Sounds good, but what does that actually mean for managed service providers and their PC-using customers ?

Performance, for one. “Our clients that upgrade to the Intel vPro platform can expect an up to 40% performance increase over their old devices,” says Tom Noon, client relations manager at Blue Tree Technology Group, an MSP based in Brentwood, Calif.

The Intel vPro platform also delivers longer battery life. More robust security, including easier patches on remote PCs. Greater platform stability, lowering the cost of ownership. And remote manageability under the OS.

Learn more from Intel partners using the Intel vPro platform. Watch this Intel video:


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In the Zone

Video: Support remote devices with Intel Endpoint Management Assistant

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by Peter Krass on 02/05/2021
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With so many people now working from home, remote management has never been more important.

Good news: Intel Endpoint Management Assistant (EMA) unlocks the remote management features of the Intel vPro platform.

Using Intel EMA, you can manage, update, diagnose and resolve problems across an entire fleet of Intel vPro-based devices — regardless of their physical location — via the cloud.

Sounds good, right? Learn more by watching this short Intel video:



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In the Zone

Need world-class products & services for datacenter customers? Get help from Intel

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by Peter Krass on 02/02/2021
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Selecting the right servers for your customers and their workloads is only half the battle. The other half is keeping those servers up and running. For this important job, Intel is here to help.

Ensuring that servers are up and running is essential. And it’s a whole lot easier when your server supplier offers top notch service and support for an already high-quality product.

Intel server products

Providing top-notch server support has always been a core competency and differentiating value for Intel. Now the company has stats to prove it. Intel recently earned a Net Promoter Score of 80. That means Intel’s customers are highly satisfied and likely to recommend the company’s servers to their friends and colleagues.

Key elements

Intel has certainly been walking the talk. Here are some of the key elements and benefits that you get when buying Intel servers and engage with Intel’s support teams:

> Purpose-built solutions: Intel offers help from pre-purchase to post-purchase, and for customers of all sizes. Solution architects are available to help you and your customers drive today’s digital transformation, whether they’re giant enterprises, midsize companies or even small businesses.

> Intel components: Intel servers use Intel components. That means that when there is a problem — whether with an SSD drive, Ethernet adapter or any other server component — Intel will go straight to the source to get it fixed correctly and quickly.

> Transparent supply chain: Intel knows that you and your customers are increasingly concerned about supply-chain security. That’s why it provides three levels of transparency:

* Platform certificate: Ensuring the motherboard was built in an Intel factory.

* As-built data files: Provides information on every component placed on the board, including manufacturer, batch and serial numbers.

* Platform data files: Including all system-level components, such as drives and networking connections. Software audit tools are also available.

> Long-term commitment: Intel has been working with the server channel since at least 1993. The company isn’t going anywhere. Its support for the channel is a long-term deal.

Tap into value

But wait, there’s more. Throughout the server-purchase cycle, Intel also offers you and your customers a long list of service and support options. Here are some of the services you can tap into:

> Pre-purchase: Selection assistance, competitive pricing, and hardware “try before you buy” sample program.

> Purchase: Worldwide distribution with competitive lead times, configure-to-order, and Stock Visibility Options with Quick Build SKUs for faster time-to-market, as well as predictable and predetermined shipping times.

> Deployment: Training and tools, validation and certification, and a standard 3-year warranty (with a 5-year option).

> Operations & maintenance: 24x7 global support, onsite support via Premier Support Partners, rapid parts/product replacements, simplified management tools, and access to Intel engineers.

When it comes to keeping your customers’ servers up and running, there’s no longer any need to go it alone. Reach out and get expert, world-class support from Intel. Your customers will like it, too.


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In the Zone

Unlock the benefits of Intel Partner Alliance

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by Peter Krass on 02/01/2021
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The new Intel Partner Alliance, launched in January, offers you some powerful benefits. But to enjoy those benefits, you’ll need to make sure you’ve activated your account.

IPA unifies all Intel partners on a single platform to enable both collaboration and innovation. The program’s AI-based website connects you and other partners with new technology, a network of other partners, and a marketplace for collaboration.

Intel Partner Alliance

As an IPA member, you can also gain access to Intel technology and solutions guides; insights and best practices from Intel’s cloud, FPGA and Internet of Things (IoT) communities; marketing and sales tools; and deep training curriculums with specialized paths.

IPA’s new personalization features will deliver pages and content to you based on your role, tier and job duties. All IPA members are assigned to 1 of 9 roles, including distributor, cloud & communications service provider, OEM and solution provider.

Get started

If you haven’t yet activated your IPA account, the good news is, it’s pretty quick and simple.

First, you’ll need to complete the registration and an online profile. You’ll verify your business model and compliance with the program role. Then you’ll wait (briefly) for Intel to accept your application. Once that happens, you’re done.

In addition, you may qualify for extra IPA role benefits:

> Gold: Access to both Intel Partner University, Intel Solutions Marketplace and Intel Partner Marketing Studio; customer support with a 24-hour SLA; personalized website; invitations to partner events; points accrual and redemption for certain roles; badge; .

> Titanium: Everything in Gold, plus a 3-hour SLA for customer support, and access to NDA content such as business and technology disclosures.

> Specialty: Gain a competitive advantage in supplying complete solutions to both new and existing customers. Specialty programs are in place now for AI, cloud data center, high performance computing, enthusiast PC, Intel Optane technology, Design as a Service (DaaS), and managed services.

So get your partner benefits. Activate your IPA account today.

Not yet a member of IPA and would like to join? Get more information from the main Intel Partner Alliance webpage.


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In the Zone

How Intel, CDW and Chance the Rapper are helping Chicago schoolkids with remote learning

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by Peter Krass on 01/28/2021
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With so many schoolkids now learning remotely due to the pandemic, the need for widespread access to computers and the internet is urgent. Yet an estimated 30% of U.S. schoolkids lack either internet access, laptops or both.

Intel wants to help. Over the last 15 years, Intel has invested $1 billion in education worldwide. That includes training for more than 15 million teachers.

Last April, Intel launched its Online Learning Initiative. It’s working with partners and help students with virtual learning.

Socially working

As part of this initiative, Intel is now partnering with a tech distributor and a nonprofit group run by a rapper to provide laptops to students in Chicago.

The nonprofit group, SocialWorks, is based in Chicago, where it aims to empower local youth with the arts, education and civic engagement.

SocialWorks was founded in 2016 by rapper, singer, songwriter and music producer Chancelor Bennett, known professionally as Chance the Rapper. “It’s our duty to help the next generation,” he says. “Kids are literally the future.”

Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper: 'It's our duty to help.'

SocialWorks recently partnered with Intel and tech distributor CDW. Intel has committed $250,000 to the program, both to buy laptops that students in Chicago will use for remote learning and create learning spaces for them.

Some of the PCs are being used by deaf and hard-of-hearing students whose families would otherwise lack access to computers. “I’ve seen these students grow so much since we’ve started the pod,” says Tori Niestrom of SocialWorks.

The group’s executive director, Justin Cunningham, adds: “The Intel and CDW SocialWorks collaboration is going to impact hundreds of students for years to come.”

Learn more:

> Check out SocialWorks

> Watch a short video on the Intel/CDW partnerhip with SocialWorks


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In the Zone

Versatile 100G Ethernet Port Configuration: Intel’s Swiss Army knife for servers

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by Peter Krass on 01/27/2021
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Connecting a server to a networking switch may sound simple enough. But in reality, it can be pretty complicated.

For one, a server has only so many PCIe slots to go around. Balancing bandwidth with other functionalities quickly becomes a zero-sum game. One function’s gain is another’s loss.

Cabling can be problematic, too. When your customer has multiple cables running from a server to its switch, things can easily become a tangled mess. Accidentally disconnect the wrong cable, and oops, you just took down a vital workload.

Yet another issue is infrastructure validation. That is, does the speed of the switch you’re plugging into match what’s on the other end of the cable? If not, then Houston, we have a problem.

Cutting edge

The networking wizards at Intel have come up with a solution. It’s called the Ethernet Port Configuration Tool (EPCT).

Okay, no awards for the most creative title. But EPCT, available on 100Gb Intel Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapters, is one clever piece of engineering. It essentially turns a network adapter into a Swiss Army knife of networking, able to take on whatever infrastructure your customer runs.

EPCT does this by helping IT managers configure both the port speed and the number of ports on demand. More specifically, a network adapter with EPCT can support the functionality of up to 8 network adapters, and a combined maximum throughput of 100 Gbps, in a single PCIe 4.0 slot. That’s a powerful solution to your server real-estate shortage; it can also help clear up that tangle of cables. 

Once EPCT is rolling, it lets you change the adapter’s configuration to match whatever Ethernet infrastructure you’re plugging into — whether that’s 10, 25, 50 or 100GbE. The on-demand function reduces the need for network-adapter validation and simplify deployments.

Also, EPCT lets you set the connection between the server and a network for both fault tolerance and link aggregation.

Under the hood

EPCT does most of its magic in firmware. Behind the scenes, the tool configures the MACs (media access controllers) operating on each network-adapter chip and their speeds. Each chip has up to 8 MACs, which can operate at different speeds.

So how can you actually configure this thing? Let us count the ways:

> 8 ports of 10GbE: This uses all 8 MAC and SerDes to combine all 8 10GbE physical adapters onto 1 adapter. This maintains server and switch fault tolerance, helps troubleshoot cabling issues, and provides better airflow in the rack. With this setup, the switch and your server OS will both see 8 physical ports of 10GbE.

> 4 ports of 25GbE: Basically, quad-port out of 1 port. If your customer wants more fault tolerance at the server, then 2 dual-ports of 25GbE configuration is an excellent option. The server maintains active/active link aggregation and fault tolerance with the switches.

> 2 ports of 50GbE: The adapter is configured to deliver 50Gb on each network adapter, providing a total of 100Gb from the server, while providing server and switch fault tolerance.

> 2 ports of 100GbE: This is all about fault tolerance. Both ports are active, and the total bandwidth is 100GbE, which might be 75/25, 50/50 or 25/75Gb, depending on the traffic flows from the network. It’s supported by using either a pair of QSFP+ to SFP+ splitter cables … or a pair of QSFP+ straight-through cables.

Get connected:

> Watch a video: Versatile port configuration for 100Gb Intel Ethernet network adapters

> Download the Intel Ethernet Port Configuration Tool (EPCT)

> Explore the Intel Ethernet 800 Series network adapters



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