I've written quite a bit about Intel vPro over the past few months and recently explored what vPro does for desktop virtualization. But Intel isn't the only chipmaker out there, so let's explore what virtualization-specific things AMD is doing with its hardware and how they apply to the desktop space.
First, remember that Intel's vPro is not a specific technology but instead an overarching brand that applies to a myriad of technologies directly related to hardware virtualization on client devices -- both laptops and desktops. Some of vPro's technologies are shared with Intel's enhancements for server virtualization, while others are built specifically for client devices.
The same is true for AMD. The company has created the AMD Virtualization brand -- abbreviated to "AMD-V" -- which it liberally applies to many different technologies in its chips and various server and client products.
For desktop virtualization, one of the most relevant features is AMD's implementation of DASH. The Desktop and Mobile Architecture for System Hardware is an open standard created by the Desktop Management Task Force (DMTF) that allows management systems to remotely access, control and manage low-level hardware items on desktop and laptop clients. This includes things like USB and media redirection, remote BIOS management, and remote keyboard, video and mouse control.
The capabilities of DASH are similar to those of vPro, and in fact both chipmakers provide plug-ins for management software such as Microsoft's System Center or Symantec's Altiris Client Management Suite. The main difference between DASH and vPro is that DASH is an open standard while vPro is a proprietary Intel technology.
DASH is great for desktop virtualization because it allows admins to remotely update, manage and fix client devices even if the guest operating system isn't functioning or the client machine is powered off. Combining DASH with a client-based virtualization solution like a client hypervisor or client virtual machine (VM) makes for a pretty powerful combination, and it's good to know that such capabilities are available from companies other than Intel. Even if your organization is 100% committed to Intel, the mere fact that AMD and DASH provide some competition is a very good thing.
Apart from remote client management, other AMD-V technologies allow for client VMs to run more efficiently and securely on newer AMD hardware. For example, AMD has an I/O virtualization feature which (also like vPro) allows guest VMs direct access to certain hardware resources. This is great in a client VM environment where you might want the "primary" OS that a user sees to have full access to specialized client hardware like a graphics processing unit, a fingerprint reader or a webcam. AMD hardware also has Trusted Platform Computing modules, allowing organizations to pre-authenticate client hypervisors or VM images before users are able to decrypt and load them.
While not as much of a household name as vPro, AMD has nonetheless combined DASH, AMD-V and security into a client virtualization brand known as "DAS," which certainly holds its own next to Intel. If desktop virtualization is important to you, the good news is that regardless of whether you choose Intel or AMD, you'll end up with a platform vendor that has a clue about desktop virtualization.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog, BrianMadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.