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Internet Friendly Why Intel bought McAfee
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Why Intel bought McAfee

Penilaian Pengunjung: / 0

There's been quite a bit of head-scratching over Intel's decision to purchase McAfee, but, despite all the breathless talk about mobile security and ARM and virus-fighting processors, the chipmaker's motivations for the purchase are actually fairly straightforward. First, Intel's management has decided, in the wake of Operation Aurora, to move security up to the top of Intel's priority list. Second, secure systems require a lot more than just hardware support—security is about the whole stack, plus the network, plus policies and practices. Third, Intel has waited for ages for its ecosystem partners to come up with ways to give consumers access to vPro's security benefits, and little has really panned out so now they're just going to take vPro (and any newer security technologies) directly to consumers via McAfee.

Let's take a look at each of these reasons in turn.
Security is Job One

At the most recent Intel R&D day, Intel CTO Justin Rattner did a Q&A session with the press in which he was asked something to the effect of, "What do you spend most of your time working on these days?" Rattner didn't hesitate in answering "security."

He then told an anecdote about how he was watching Intel CEO Paul Otellini being interviewed by Charlie Rose, and Otellini told Rose, "I've given our company a charter to make [security] job one." Rattner laughed and told us that this statement seemed to come from out of the blue, and it took him and other Intel execs by surprise. But from that day forward, Rattner was focused on security.

Rattner then went on to discuss just what a complex problem security is, and how the company is turning over every rock to come up with ways that it can contribute to making systems more secure. And, like Otellini did in this Charlie Rose interview, he referenced the Aurora attacks against Google and other tech companies as a kind of call to arms for Intel.

From Rattner's comments about the Aurora attacks, it was clear that he and his team at Intel had looked into them closely, and he indicated that the sophistication of those and subsequent attacks he has seen was insanely high. Rattner told us that the attacks—both the Aurora attacks and others that he has seen more recently—have had such a high degree of sophistication that they're clearly not carried out by garden variety criminals and vandals. He also said that the attackers are constantly upping their game.

Rattner described a few chip-specific efforts that Intel was making in the security arena, such as an on-chip random number generator and a crypto acceleration module. But these were just a small glimpse of what Intel had in mind for security.
Moving up the stack, and then off the stack

Intel's years of experience with vPro and its predecessors have no doubt confirmed to the company that providing silicon-level support for advanced security and remote management technologies is a waste of time if no systems integrator or popular software vendor implements them in some kind of consumer- or business-facing product or service.

At the 2008 Intel Developer Forum, I interviewed Intel's Andy Tryba, who was the director of marketing for the digital office platform division. The interview is worth revisiting from the perspective of 2010 to see what Intel's expectations for vPro were and how they have yet to pan out.

I asked Tryba how I, as a consumer, was supposed to use vPro to do basic troubleshooting and support for family and friends, given that, at the time, there were no consumer-facing services built on top of it. "My point," I said, "is that this isn't just a technology issue; it's a broader ecosystem issue. How are you guys trying to address that?"

Tryba responded: "I 100 percent agree with you, and what we're trying to do is offer the building blocks for services also. If you take a look at the embedded security and manageability on the box itself, that's great, but you do need some type of service to run on top of it. So what we do is go one layer up also and provide building blocks—not trying to touch the end users—but to work with people who are trying to build a business model. So we work with a lot of the guys who are going toward home IT automation and services to build a business model and use our building blocks to take advantage of the hardware capabilities."

I pressed him to name names, and to give examples of services that were going to be announced soon that would bring the power of vPro to the general public, but he wouldn't give details.

Two years have gone by since that interview, and vPro still isn't in common use for remote troubleshooting and general software security. Much of this is Intel's fault, of course, for making users pay extra for vPro-enabled processors (it should come standard across their product line), but I haven't really seen much in the way of what Tryba described—i.e., people building new home IT automation and tech support services and business models on top of vPro.

However, one of the big software vendors that did take up vPro and try to build consumer-facing products and services around it was McAfee.
Why they did it

In explaining its purchase of McAfee, Intel has clearly indicated that the real impact of the purchase won't really be felt in the computer market until later in the coming decade—this is a long-term, strategic buy. This statement fits with the idea that acquiring McAfee is Intel's way of bringing vPro and subsequent security efforts directly to businesses and consumers by just buying out the middle-man. The McAfee purchase gives Intel an instant foothold on countless PCs, a foothold that Intel itself would have to spend years building (if it were even possible).

Intel's decision to keep the McAfee brand intact and run the company as a wholly owned subsidiary lends further support to the idea that Intel has just bought its way up the stack and directly onto the consumer's hard drive.

This new foothold on the end-user's hard drive is exactly that—a small place from which Intel can now advance, pushing further out into the end-user's networked computing experience by offering as-yet unannounced and undeveloped applications and services that will (ideally) make that experience safer.

In the end, the McAfee move isn't some triple bank shot, where Intel is trying to out-security ARM in the mobile space, or whatever else the pundits have dreamed up to explain the purchase. No, it's pretty much what Intel's press release says it is: Intel wants to be (and feels that it needs to be) in the security business, period. The company thinks that they can do security better than a software vendor alone could, and they believe this because they know that security is about systems—not just hardware or software, but services, practices, policies, and user experiences and expectations.

And to make secure systems happen, Intel has to get closer to the user and to have a more pervasive part in more aspects of the user experience than it can as a parts provider. McAfee gives Intel that missing consumer-facing piece, and that's why they're buying the company at such a large premium.
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3.25 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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