Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 7, 2017 - 10:38 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vpro, SFF, kaby lake, iot, Intel, compute stick
Intel announced the Compute Card today, a modular small form factor compute system for smart appliances, home automation, industrial applications, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
The Compute Card is a full PC in a card slightly longer than credit card at 95 x 55 x 5mm with an Intel SoC, memory, storage, wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), and standardized I/O built in. The compute card is designed the fit into an internal or external slot where it locks into place. According to Intel, the idea is to standardize the compute aspect of these smart devices so that manufacturers can reduce time to market and design costs as well as make them easier to repair. Manufacturers would design their devices with a slot for an Intel Compute Card and then choose a card that meets their performance and price requirements as the brains of the smart device whether that is your toaster, virtual assistant, IoT gateway, or security system. Outside of the home, Intel wants to sell cards to makers of digital signage, kiosks, and industrial control systems for machinery and factories.
One of the first things that came to mind for me was its usage in smart TVs and that may happen but the hope of an upgrade-able model where I could just slap a new Compute Card in to get new features and better performance I fear will never happen if only because while that model would be good for Intel the TV manufacturers that want to sell you new TVs every year would never go for it heh.
Unfortunately, Intel has not released full specifications on the Compute Card, only saying that they would utilize 7th Generation Core vPro processors. Looking around on their website, I would make an educated guess that Intel plans to use the 4.5 watt "7th Generation Intel® Core™ vPro™ Processors" intended for mobile devices. These chips range from 1.1 GHz to 1.3 GHz and are two core / four thread processors paired with Intel HD Graphics (515, 615, or 630). There are also 15W vPro processors with faster clockspeeds but they may not do well in such a small form factor where there is not guaranteed cooling. Still, even the lower power models should offer up quite a bit of computing power for connected devices that do basic tasks.
Intel expects to release its Compute Cards in mid-2017 and has partnered with Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Sharp as well as regional partners Seneca, DTx, InFocus, tabletkiosk, and Pasuntech. I notice that Samsung is missing from this list but would be a good partner to have if only because of their appliance line. The chip giant is said to be expanding that partner list though so we may yet see more appliance and home automation manufacturers pop up on there. I think that standardizing the brains of IoT is a good plan and smart on Intel's part but I am a bit skeptical whether or not it will catch on and how well it will be adopted in the targeted markets.
What are your thoughts on Intel's Compute Card?
Subject: Editorial | July 20, 2011 - 06:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: vpro, TPM, speculation, security, mcafee, intel txt, Intel, infineon, amt
Not too long ago the tech world was buzzing with the news that Intel had aquired McAfee for $7.68 billion. This gave them the knowledge base to start thinking about putting antivirus technology directly onto their chips, which seemed far more likely than an Intel branded software antivirus product. When Intel CTO Justin Rattner started talking about technology that resembled the failed attempts at digital rights management, such as Microsoft's Palladium, or the Trusted Platform Module, aka TPM, a different idea was promoted with its own acronyms; Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) and Intel Trusted Execution Technology (Intel TXT). This theory was lent credence by the mention of Intel's vPro and a desire by Intel to move security to the top of their list of priorities. By integrating security software directly into vPro architecture, it might not even be necessary to place antivirus code directly on their hardware. Adding optimization to product architecture that Intel trusts absolutely, as they made it themselves, and the overall level of security on an Intel based virtual machine would be greatly increased.
Then Intel went and muddied the water with the $1.9 billion purchase of Infineon Technologies AG’s wireless business, which doesn't own manufacturing facilities but does own the intellectual property and patents for chips providing wireless communication. Suddenly some discarded theories about the purchase of McAfee seemed valid again. One possibility that was bandied about was the idea of Intel moving into ARM territory in the cell phone business. With Intel's new focus on low power chips, with Atom being the starting point, the idea of Intel moving into providing secure CPUs appropriate for cell phones and tablets became much more believable. With the current rise of viruses targeted at those mobile platforms and the vulnerabilities present in Android and Windows based phones having hardware based antivirus, or at least optimized hardware, makes a lot of sense.
It also differentiates them from ARM, who has more market experience making ultra low power chips but certainly does not own an antivirus vendor. The security concerns with cell phones and tablets will continue to increase at the same pace as the capabilities of the devices increase. Where once bluejacking was the biggest concern of a cell phone user, a smart phone user can browse the world wild web and expose themselves to all sorts of nastiness, including more than just the nastiness they intended to browse for. A hardware solution would leave more processing power for the user; running Norton 360 on a cell phone or tablet would chew up a lot of cycles.
Today those muddied waters were stirred up even more as Intel announced it is planning to buy Fulcrum Microsystems, maker of high end 10Gbps and 40Gbps ethernet switches. This purchase would support the theory decided before the purchase of Infineon's wireless group; that Intel is taking a serious look at a total TPM ecosystem. In order to truly trust your platform you need to do more than secure your endpoints. If your server is running AMT or Intel TXT, then you can be assured that any virtual machine running on it can be trusted. As well, if both the server and client are running processors capable of Intel's TPM (sounds so much better that DRM, eh?) again both machines can be considered trusted platforms.
That does not help with trusting data which has been transferred over a WAN, or in some cases even a LAN. Data transfer allows an attacker a means of entry, or at least a way of denying data transfer. With a trusted platform, any data which does not match what is expected by the receiving machine will be prevented from running, so a successful man in the middle attack might not allow remote code execution or privilege escalation but would certainly act as a DoS attack as the TPM client refuses to accept the incoming data. Once the routers and switches involved in the data transfer are secured with the exact same TPM specifications, the entire route is protected and can all be considered part of the same Trusted Platform. The network devices would reject any code injection attempted on the data during transfer, allowing data to flow freely inside a LAN as well as customized WANs.
Returning to the secure cell phone theory, we can now consider the possibility of a TPM compliant cell phone thanks to the theoretical integration of Intel processors into your phone and tablet. Now you would be able to include your mobile communications into your TPM ecosystem. Properly implemented that security and not only will you challenge ARM 's market share by out-securing them, you could topple RIM's share of the business market as a BlackBerry may be handy to the sales team but they are a nightmare for the IT/IS security team. Nothing is perfect but that would be a huge step towards defeating the current attack vectors that effect business systems. So far Intel is not saying much, so all we can do is speculate ... which is fun.