Intel at Computex – Extending Xeon, Uniting the Workplace

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  June 3, 2015

At the Computex conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Intel SVP Kirk Skaugen announced new/updated products and solutions, along with partner initiatives under a rubric of “Intelligence Everywhere” that emphasizes the company’s efforts in both established and emerging markets.

The products and solutions included new Internet of Things (IoT) product and operating system advancements, such as Thunderbolt 3, which enables displays and USB devices to connect to Thunderbolt via a single high performance port and cable, new 5th gen Intel Core desktop and mobile solutions that include Intel Iris graphics, and partnerships with companies including Targus, Haier and several A4WP members to develop new wireless charging solutions and services.

Of particular interest were two other new solutions. The first is Intel Unite, a cost-effective business collaboration offering designed for easy, intuitive use and improved productivity. Based on a select Intel Core vPro processor-based mini PC and the Intel Unite application running on workers’ devices, existing conference rooms are modernized and transformed into smart, connected and secure meeting spaces.

The second solution is Intel’s Xeon processor E3-1200 v4 product family, the first to include integrated Intel Iris Pro graphics P6300. Based on Intel’s 14nm process technology, the new solution is designed to support visually intensive, cloud-based workloads, such as high-definition (HD) video transcoding and remote graphics workstation delivery. The Xeon E3-1200 v4 product family with Iris Pro graphics P6300 delivers up to 1.4x the performance for video transcoding and up to 1.8x the 3-D graphics performance compared to prior generation solutions.

Final analysis

Why are these last two solutions especially interesting? For a couple of reasons.

Intel Unite offers a gratifyingly integrated solution to a common problem in many organizations: so-called collaboration platforms whose complexities and shortcomings can needlessly compromise and even degrade employee collaborations. There is no shortage of these kinds of solutions, most of them available as web-enabled applications with plugin-enabled features.

But while they are designed to work with numerous endpoints, the heterogeneity of employee devices that is so common in most workplaces means that user experience is anything but consistent. You’ve probably run into this situation yourself when signing in to a meeting, then discovering that your plugin is out of date. Minutes tick away while you load and install the new plugin, only to discover that some co-workers don’t have access to all of the program’s features, or that network performance is affecting the quality of the presentation.

Intel Unite was developed to directly address and correct those problems. In essence, Unite is a dedicated meeting space platform designed to support real time content sharing. Set-up is as seamless as can be imagined; find a meeting room, plug in the Unite mini PC, turn it on and the wi-fi-enabled system is ready to go. Employees enter the meeting room, boot their laptops or tablets (Unite supports Microsoft Windows 7 and after, and Apple OS X) and open the Unite application, and the meeting is ready to begin.

How about system maintenance and management? Since Intel Unite leverages Intel Core vPro processors, the base systems can be easily integrated into common IT processes and easily enables features, including beyond firewall reach, data & asset security, hardware remote KVM and easier automation with host-based configuration. In other words, Intel Unite is designed to seamlessly support meeting and collaboration services of every kind, and to replace a hodgepodge of solutions whose complexity and inability to meet end user requirements can actually degrade the collaborations they are designed to enhance.

What about the new Xeon processor E3-1200 v4 product family with integrated Intel Iris Pro graphics P6300? One of the most interesting developments in business IT has been the continuing evolution of technologies supporting rich, powerful graphics content and technologies. At one point, these processes required dedicated solutions, like those developed by SGI and other specialty vendors. Those were eventually replaced by systems leveraging commodity Intel CPUs and GPUs from graphics players, like NVIDIA and ATI.

That market began changing a decade or so ago when Intel launched its homegrown Iris Pro technologies and began what might be called the commoditization of enterprise grade graphics. What has resulted from these efforts? According to Intel, the latest Iris Pro graphics P6300 platform delivers significantly better performance than prior generation Iris Pro solutions. But the new platform’s graphics performance is also approximately 75X better than the initial Iris solutions that Intel launched a decade ago.

That is certainly a notable achievement and one that also provides significant benefits to Intel customers in a wide variety of use cases, including enhanced CAD and 3D CAD applications and individual and departmental graphics workstations. The new solutions are also likely to find a home in data center-centric processes, like cloud-enabled design and engineering, rich graphics collaboration and enhancing graphics performance in VDI and similar environments.

Obviously, the success of Intel Unite and the Xeon E3-1200 v4 with Iris Pro graphics P6300 is anything but a settled fact. The former aims to supplant collaboration solutions which, despite their shortcomings, are widely used in many businesses. The latter faces fierce competition from established, creative graphics solution vendors. Neither of these situations will change soon but these latest Intel solutions and partnerships find the company doing what it has always done very well – creating innovative new solutions for serious problems and delivering additional value in areas and markets where it is already a significant player.

The theme for these announcements may be “Intelligence Everywhere,” but achieving that vision requires Intel and its partners to work intelligently in every instance. Overall, the news from Computex suggests that Intel is up to the task, a point for which individual technology customers and modern IT-driven organizations are likely to be grateful.

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