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Intel Adds Virtualization To The Desktop

Intel is embedding virtualization technology in two single-core Pentium 4 processors. Acer, Founder, Lenovo, and TongFang are expected to make PCs using the processors available soon.

Darrell Dunn

November 11, 2005

3 Min Read

Ready or not, Intel on Monday will roll-out its first processors to integrate its virtualization technology, part of the emerging "embedded IT architecture" the company has been promoting for the past two years. Virtualization technology, or VT, will make its first entry on the desktop, however, not on Intel's server processors where virtualization software and implementation from other companies is more mature.

Intel is embedding VT in two single-core Pentium 4 processors. Acer, Founder, Lenovo, and TongFang are expected to make PCs using the processors available soon. A much broader introduction of VT-enabled Pentium-based PCs is expected in early 2006 when Intel promises to introduce dual-core Pentium 4 devices with integrated VT functionality.

The inclusion of VT in Xeon processors for the server market is not expected until the first half of 2006. Intel also plans to extend VT to its Centrino mobile platform next year.

Patrick Bohart, VT marketing manager for Intel, says the company is responding to requests from computer vendors and virtualization software providers to get its VT technology into the market as quickly as possible to enable initial productions of pilot systems and for the testing of new software that can take advantage of VT.

VT is part of what Intel has called its embedded IT architecture. Initial processors with VT also will include active management technology, which stores hardware and software information in non-volatile memory to allow IT departments to better discover assts, remotely fix problems, and improve virus protection. Other embedded IT technologies, such as improved security functions, are expected to be added over the course of the next 18 months.

"When we initially disclosed the embedded IT architecture, it generated a tremendous amount of interest from management companies and virtualization companies who see this as a tremendous opportunity," Bohart says. "They wanted to get this solution out rolling as quickly as possible."

Bohart says new applications to specifically enable client virtualization are expected from major virtualization software vendors like VMware, Microsoft, and Zen Source early next year.

It is not unusual for Intel to use PC processors as a proving ground for new technology. Although most believe that the dual-core processors will find their greatest application within server environments, Intel earlier this year introduced its first dual-core processors within its Pentium family for desktop platforms.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. plans to add its version of embedded virtualization technology, called Pacifica, to processors in the first half of 2006. Tim Wright, director of strategic marketing for the microprocessor solutions sector at AMD, says the company has not released specifics of its Pacifica roll-out, "but it would seem logical to at least do servers in parallel with desktops when bringing this technology to market because it is going to have a lot value in the server space, although we believe it will have value in both server and client. But I don't know why [Intel] would lead with desktops."

Client virtualization is expected to be particularly appealing in enterprise environments, although Bohart believes there will be consumer interest as well. With virtualization support, businesses can maintain full control of a partition of a PC to run security or management services without interrupting the end-user, or allowing those users to tamper with critical applications. Businesses will be able to better protect against viruses by filtering network traffic though separate IT partitions.

"This is a hands-free, non-user visible way for IT to manage the client in ways that they have never been able to before to solve some very significant problems," Bohart says.

In the consumer market, users will be able to create partitions to isolate multiple user environments, such as dedicated Web browsing resource, personal video recorders, and better enable access to service providers for remote diagnosis and repair.

The Pentium 4 processors 672 and 662 with VT are priced at $605 and $401, respectively, in 1,000 unit quantities.

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