Over the course of the past few months, NVIDIA has been developing a comprehensive desktop stable image platform that addresses the stability, reliability, and total cost of ownership requirements within the small-medium sized business, educational, and government markets. NVIDIA will be publicly launching their new Business Platform initiative next week and is determined to pursue these markets aggressively in North America and Europe. These various market segments represent about 20 million unit sales annually with Intel being the dominant player within this stable image platform market.

On a much too frequent basis, IT departments have to re-qualify hardware configurations and then update software images because of constant hardware/software changes within the marketplace. This lack of platform configuration stability forces additional testing, increases network complexity and manageability, creates additional training, and slows the implementation process of new PCs throughout the organization. This leads to increased product transition, support, image, and network management costs along with additional administrative expenses. One of the most cost-effective ways to control and reduce these costs is by migrating to a stable image platform.

What is a stable image platform? A stable image platform is essentially a standardized hardware and software solution that balances system performance and productivity against the need for greatly reduced administrative and support costs. A stable image program is generally based on a yearly cadence that includes a 3-month platform evaluation period, 12-month production cycle, and a 24-month support schedule.

The main advantage of this platform is in the design, qualification, and availability of a hardware and driver configuration that can be procured and deployed over a set 12-month cycle. This standardized hardware and driver configuration allows the IT group to design and deploy a software image that can be utilized throughout the 12-month production cycle without worry of compatibility issues between the hardware and software configurations.

Why is a stable image platform important? The ability to reduce and control the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for an organization's PC population over its life cycle is critical in today's IT department. Instability of the platform, lack of security, stability of supply, or varying hardware and software configurations can impose a tremendous cost and manageability burden within the IT department.

Although research numbers vary, it is generally assumed that only 20% to 30% of a PC's cost of ownership is attributed to the actual procurement and disposal of the platform. The remaining 70% to 80% of a PC's cost of ownership is attributed to the management of the platform over its life-cycle. These management costs are attributed to operational aspects such as training and energy, but the majority of costs are associated with the administration and management support of hardware/software upgrades across the network. Research has shown that by implementing a stable image platform program, it can reduce the life-cycle cost of a typical PC platform anywhere from 10% to 55% over a three-year period.

What are the benefits of a stable image platform? In an era where networked PCs have become a standard fixture in the majority of businesses, educational institutions, and governmental offices, the need to standardize and easily manage these platforms has increased exponentially over the past few years. The cost benefits of having a standardized platform program are significant for a typical organization at this time and are realized through a reduction of platform configurations, testing and qualification times, and simplification of PC management.

Since networks have become so prevalent within these market sectors, the ability to properly manage, maintain, and upgrade these systems is extremely important. When utilizing a stable image platform across the network, it greatly simplifies the ability of the system administrator to manage these assets from a centralized or even remote location. This leads to a reduction in administrative costs and the ability to quickly roll out minor patches, software application updates, or even new images without worrying about the hardware configuration. The result is a network of standardized PCs that are easily managed, stable, secure, and upgradeable for less cost than platforms consisting of multiple hardware and software configurations.

Other benefits include the ability to quickly roll out additional platforms if the user base increases or for replacement of older platforms. The purchase and storage of replacement platforms or components is greatly reduced based upon a common and stable hardware platform. The ability to upscale the base system by upgrading the CPU, memory, or installing a certified discreet graphics card for users requiring additional capabilities, yet retaining the same base platform and driver set, is an additional benefit.

Now, let's take a closer look at the features that the NVIDIA Business Platform offers and a comparative look at Intel's current and future offerings.

NVIDIA Business Platform Features
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  • nordicpc - Thursday, March 30, 2006 - link

    MSI is shipping their K8NGM2-NBP board currently, as this link to Newegg will show: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82...">Newegg Link

    Basically, all I can tell is that MSI dropped the firewire from the K8NGM2-FID and rebadged it. Hopefully the FID won't dissapear as firewire is actually pretty useful in the HTPC crowd where this board does very nicely.
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, April 5, 2006 - link

  • Olaf van der Spek - Thursday, March 30, 2006 - link

    Also , NVIDIA offers the only hardware-based firewall solution for a stable image platform, with a unique anti-hacking technology that secures each PC from network intrusion. Hardware-based firewall technology protects PCs at the network layer from most virus, worm, and spyware attacks. Unlike software-based firewall solutions, ActiveArmor cannot be disabled by malicious code.
    Isn't this just 'copy/pasted' from nVidia's propaganda?
    If a virus is able to disable your firewall, you're screwed already, ActiveArmor or no ActiveArmor.
    And as far as I know, it is possible to disable ActiveArmor in software.
  • BigLan - Thursday, March 30, 2006 - link

    The 'active armor' stuff is pure BS. It's been broken on the nforce4 for a long, long time with no official comment from Nvidia. I don't know what type of corporation is going to adopt a platform which corrupts all zip file downloads.

    Shame on Anandtech for not calling nvidia out on this.
  • bob661 - Thursday, March 30, 2006 - link


    Shame on Anandtech for not calling nvidia out on this.
    Where are the results of your testing on these new platforms to support your accusations?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 30, 2006 - link

    Going with this comment, remember that nForce 6150/6200 != nForce4. Something else I have to wonder: are those corrupt Zip files occuring for everyone, or just overclockers, or perhaps only on misconfigured systems? I don't know. I use a NAT/Router and don't bother with the NVIDIA Firewall stuff, but I suppose if a virus ever got loose in my home network I might be in for some trouble. Luckily, the only user on my network is me, and I'm pretty sure I know what I'm doing. Most businesses can't make that claim. :)

    How will this platform fare in reality? That's a good question. Obviously, it doesn't matter much if NVIDIA provides a "stable" platform if they don't get partners that properly support the initiative. I don't think that will be a problem, as there should be plenty of system integrators looking for some new ways to market/sell AMD platforms. It sounds decent on paper, at least, and they do have some good features
  • BigLan - Friday, March 31, 2006 - link

    I saw it first hand on a dfi lanparty Ultra. Checksum offloading/active armor would corrupt every zip/archive file downloaded. This was on a fresh build with two identical systems. Since then, I've never turned it back on for any of the systems I've built. It would be nice if a large tech website did an investigation into it to maybe get nvidia to admit the problem was hardware, or fix their drivers. ;)
  • Gary Key - Friday, March 31, 2006 - link


    I saw it first hand on a dfi lanparty Ultra. Checksum offloading/active armor would corrupt every zip/archive file downloaded. This was on a fresh build with two identical systems. Since then, I've never turned it back on for any of the systems I've built. It would be nice if a large tech website did an investigation into it to maybe get nvidia to admit the problem was hardware, or fix their drivers. ;)

    We have investigated this issue several times. We can recreate certain data corruption scenarios while utilizing P2P software, streaming multiple downloads, and then trying to decompress these same files concurrently. We were able to solve or greatly minimize these issues through driver changes or software configurations, though eliminating the use of P2P seemed to work best. ;-) NVIDIA has worked extensively with several of our readers who had issues and solved them. At this time we have one reader who is still having issues after working directly with NVIDIA but the communication cylce just started on his issue.

    The latest driver sets from NVIDIA have made changes to the way ActiveArmor handles TCP checksumming in their hardware by offloading more to the CPU, which has increased CPU utilization rates but they are still lower than most Gigabit solutions. These changes have certainly cleared the majority of issues noticed by most users we have communicated with over the last month. The other issue we have noticed is in the initial installation of the ActiveArmor firewall software, some program settings are not correct or clearly defined based upon the system configuration, and this is an area that needs improvement from NVIDIA in the installation scripts. The lack of technical information in most user manuals for setting up ActiveArmor is also not acceptable in our opinion.

    The next version of ActiveArmor software along with some hardware tweaks in the upcoming nForce 500 chipsets should solve any outstanding issues.

    NVIDIA will be sending us a complete Stable Image Platform system shortly and we will put it through its paces while providing a short "How To" article on setting up or correcting issues within the ActiveArmor software suite.
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, March 30, 2006 - link

    With an announcement of a new program, we do depend on the press announcement and briefings for information on the new product. Until nVidia Business Platforms are available in June, this is the only way to bring this information to IT professionals. However, this review goes a lot further than that by comparing nVidia and Intel Business Platform programs.

    Gary also details, for the first time, information on the 2006 Intel Stable Business Platform which will include Conroe and Broadwater.
  • DanaGoyette - Thursday, March 30, 2006 - link


    unique anti-hacking technology that secures each PC from network intrusion

    You mean BSODs whenever you install the NAM and data corruption if you enable network adapter offloading?

    I have no experience with these, but Google will tell you that plenty of people do.

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