Intel and IBM have announced technology that will alert network administrators about problems with a PC, even if the PCs operating system refuses to boot or if the PC is switched off.
The technology, dubbed Alert on Lan, follows Intel and IBM's earlier collaboration on Wake on Lan, which allows PC's to be switched on remotely. Like Wake on Lan, Alert on Lan will be built into Intel's Lan interface chips.
"You never really had the ability to detect a problem before the OS booted", said Greg Lang, business unit administrator for network infrastructure. Alert on Lan differs from existing desktop management solutions in that it will work when the PC's operating system is not running, and even when the system is powered off.
If a PC refuses to boot - because of a hard disk failure or some other problem - an alert can be sent to the network administrator. The Alert on Lan receives a small amount of power even when the PC is switched off.
Another novel feature is the PC 'pulse'. At configurable intervals - for instance, once a minute - every PC sends out a signal. This allows the network administrator to detect if a PC has been disconnected from the network, for instance if it has been stolen.
Additionally, Alert on Lan can detect when a PC has been tampered with, for instance if memory has been stolen or the processor has been swapped.
Intel and IBM will be building support for the technology into the next versions of their respective network management applications, LanDesk and NetFinity Manager. It is expected that other network management software vendors will follow suit.
According to Greg Lang, the alerts are based on market standards SNMP (Simple Network Management Interface) and DMI (Desktop Management Interface), allowing them to be received by most network management software.
Alert on Lan will initially ship on a separate chip to go with Intel's 82558 Lan-chip on PC motherboards. But it will probably later be added onto the 82558 chip itself. Intel is also considering shipping the technology in its network interface cards. This would allow it to be added to existing machines.
IBM will be shipping the technology in commercial desktop systems to be launched in the second quarter, and in its IntelliStation line of Windows NT workstations. An Intel spokesman said other PC vendors would also soon announce systems, but said he could not reveal names.
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