Intel’s 6th Gen Core – The Engine of the Modern Workplace

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  January 20, 2016

Despite the ongoing “consumerization” of IT, endpoint technologies designed for businesse need to be more durable and secure than those aimed at consumers. Part of that is due to the realities of the workplace. Business PCs, laptops, convertibles and tablets work harder and for longer hours than comparable home products. But they also tend to be more powerful and complex in order to leverage business applications, networks and peripheral devices.

Most importantly, they need so support robust security technologies and processes. Why so? Because the stakes related to data breaches are far higher for businesses than they are for consumers. If an individual’s credit card data is hacked or stolen, replacing it is typically a minor inconvenience. But when private and public sector organizations suffer data breaches, the events can cost them millions of dollars and the loss of often precious intellectual property.

Workplaces evolve to accommodate new technologies, including advanced mobile devices. But at the same time, they are also being exposed to the activities of increasingly sophisticated and organized cyberattacks by individuals, criminal organizations and government entities. In other words, it has never been more important for organizations to consider and have access to effective endpoint security solutions.

These issues were highlighted at Intel’s launch of its new 6th generation Core and Core vPro microprocessors in San Francisco this week. Following are a few thoughts on what I saw and heard there.

Workplace Transformation Panel

The even kicked-off with a panel discussion moderated by Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group (a regular contributor to this newsletter whose own report follows) who was joined by security experts from Booz Alan, Cerner Health, Eli Lilly and Verizon. All agreed that the danger and public profile of cyberattacks has changed radically during the past 24 months as stories of high profile breaches at major corporations and government agencies have become public knowledge.

They also agreed about the key role that identity/credential theft plays in these events. The Verizon representative noted estimates by his company that U.S. corporations suffer an average 117,000 cyberattacks daily, more than half of which are tied to credential loss or misuse. Moreover, Verizon estimates the average cost of a serious corporate data breach is $20 million, a figure that is anything but small potatoes.

Minimizing the damage from localized attacks is possible but requires companies to recognize the level of risk they are under, understand what they can do to protect themselves, and prepare/execute a security plan. This doesn’t necessarily require new security tools and services, and can often be achieved by getting people to properly use the tools they already have. For example, the Cerner Health representative noted that by effectively addressing the top 10-20% of key security concerns, companies can lower their overall risk by as much as 70-80%.

Skylake by the numbers

Intel clearly recognizes and agrees with these points. But while the company is certainly emphasizing the security capabilities of its new 6th gen Core processors, they aren’t the only features that make the chips workplace-worthy. Intel’s Tom Garrison, VP and GM of the company’s Business Client division, noted that 6th gen Core solutions for business deliver 2.5X better system performance and 30X better graphics performance than 5-year-old systems.

Moreover, 6th gen Core for business also offers enhancements that impact specific form factors. For example, the new chips can deliver up to 3X better battery life and up to 4X faster wake from sleep, both of which impact business productivity and employee performance. On the desktop side, 6th gen Core has inspired new desktop form factors that are up to 25X smaller than past solutions, a point that can help reduce desktop clutter and improve workplace environment issues, including excessive heat and fan noise.

To demonstrate these points, Intel presented mocked-up office environments featuring new 6th gen Core-based workplace solutions from Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic and Toshiba.

Security and other enhancements

But security improvements really underscored the headline news concerning Intel’s 6th gen Core for business. The most impressive feature is Intel Authenticate, a hardware-enhanced multifactor authentication technology that will help businesses enjoy far better and more secure credential management. Intel Authenticate allows customer to choose up to four authentication factors for their employees;

  1. Biometric – beginning with fingerprint scanning but Intel plans to support additional options, including iris scanning in future versions
  2. Secure PIN – A common security technology in ATMs and other devices
  3. Proximity – This will typically be enabled with a smart phone
  4. Logical location – A feature supported on Intel’s 6th gen Core with vPro which identifies the location and trustworthiness of nearby networks

The company also announced updates to its Intel Unite offerings for enhanced workplace/employee collaboration. These included a new partnership with Logitech which demonstrated new video conferencing solutions that support Skype for Business and Microsoft Lync. Intel also detailed Small Business Advantage (Intel SBA) that provides SMBs support and collaboration services, including automatic security and maintenance updates and a USB blocker that prevents/limits unauthorized USB-based devices on company networks.

Final analysis

A final point regarding Intel’s 6th gen Core for business offerings is the company’s close partnership with Microsoft. That relationship has suffered somewhat in recent years but seems to have enjoyed a resurgence after Satya Nadella became Microsoft’s CEO. The two companies worked closely together leading up to the launch of Windows 10, the most secure OS in Microsoft history.

The new 6th gen Core processors are designed to fully leverage Windows 10’s capabilities and to extend them with silicon-based solutions like Intel Authenticate. As a result, Microsoft is showing significant flexibility when it comes to the new Core chips. While the company notes that Windows 10 is the best OS for 6th gen Core-based clients, it also announced support for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 on PCs, laptops, convertibles and tablets using Intel’s new silicon until the summer of 2017.

These points, along with the notable security and other features of Intel’s newest Core processors and the innovative, often stunning new workplace products developed by Intel partners, like Dell, Lenovo and HP make this the best time in recent memory for business customers with aging workplace client devices to consider a refresh.

Why this is a good idea was quite clear at the Skylake launch event. Intel and its partners have deeply considered the key issues and problems concerning modern businesses, including securing themselves against global cyberattacks. The new 6th generation Intel Core processors qualify as highly innovative engines that organizations can use to successfully address those and other challenges.

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