Where performance matters for the digital worker

Specifying PCs to meet the exact needs of individual workers is key to boosting productivity, explains Intel

Sponsored Feature For today's global enterprises personal computers play a vital and irreplaceable role in enhancing business productivity. However, in organizations with potentially thousands of PC users spread across different business functions, there can be no "one size fits all" solution for a single standardized PC configuration that meets all the needs of every type of user.

In order to more accurately specify PC configurations to address specific user needs, enterprises probably need to better understand how different users work and what they require from their computers to most effectively support the applications and workloads they use.

That was exactly the aim of a research study conducted by Intel between May 2021 and May 2023, which consisted of interviewing 122 business end users and 25 IT decision-makers (ITDMs). The research program's key objective was to analyze the workloads of end users in medium and large-sized businesses, the software and tools they use, and to assess their overall computer experience.

One of the early conclusions from the IT Decision Makers study was that traditional PC performance benchmarks are just one among many things ITDMs look at when considering PC purchases. Some ITDM respondents even indicated that standard benchmarks are not representative of the type of work their employees actually do. This led Intel to create user-driven workloads, based on its ongoing research, which the chip giant applied to complement traditional industry benchmarks. But the ultimate goal was to provide new performance data to ITDMs that aligns more closely to the specific user groups and critical workloads within their individual businesses.

Looking beyond traditional user profiles

Intel's analysis looks beyond traditional usage profiles limited to mainstream office productivity solutions by including software applications that are not covered by standard benchmarks. It also allows ITDMs to measure more than just execution of functions within a single app, but also include multi-tasking and video collaboration.

The company started by speaking to 45 people in large and medium-sized businesses across various industries. They were asked to provide the specs of the computer they work on and to fill out a "day-in-the life" worksheet documenting the software they use throughout the day, the tasks they were trying to accomplish and any pain points they encountered.

This initial research reveals that users fall into two basic groups. The first group, dubbed Knowledge Workers, comprises people who primarily use light office productivity tools (G Suite, O365, Zoom, Teams) and a web browser to get their work done. These people rarely complain about performance issues unless they are on a computer that is more than four-years old. The second group was found to include a more diverse range of user profiles and was composed of workers who rely on specialty software to accomplish their tasks. These are often desktop applications or a mix of desktop and cloud-based apps that require more PC performance and these people were more likely to complain about  PC performance.

Drilling down from this initial research Intel recruited 48 people who use specialty software on mainstream business computers and found that, at a very broad level, workers fall into four user profiles:

•      Data Analysts/Scientists - Data analysts create data-driven business insights using existing business data via methods such as big data analysis, modeling, data visualization, and advanced formulas & macros, while Data Scientists create new ways of looking at data via predictive models using machine learning and AI.

•      Software Developers - Perform basic to advanced usages such as designing, coding, testing, and debugging, either in the cloud or on the desktop. They use a wide variety of programming languages and tools to create software that meets the requirements of clients or end-users.

•      Content Creators - Develop, create, and publish content for various mediums such as websites, social media platforms, and other digital channels. They engage in simple to advanced creative usages such as graphic design, audio/video creation/editing, engineering, and AR/VR.

•      Power Productivity Users – Perform many common business functions and have great mastery over one or more general office productivity tools like PowerPoint, SharePoint, or Outlook.

Optimizing the specification to fit the profile

With this information under its belt, Intel went on to define the specifications of PCs optimized for each of the user groups identified, based on its latest Intel vPro with 13th Gen Intel Core processors. The company found that PCs with these specs can boost productivity, while simultaneously improving security, manageability and cutting energy consumption. The published examples of real-world workloads showcasing significant performance gains from 10th Gen Intel Core Processors (i.e,. three-year old PC) to the Intel vPro powered 13th Gen Intel Core Processors.

For example, Data Analysts using Microsoft Teams to share data visualizations in Microsoft Power BI  experienced an impressive 2.8x increase on a 13th Gen Intel Core Processor vs. a three-year old 10th Gen Intel Core Processor. The data analyst workload in this comparison measured the total time to load a Power BI report, re-render the report after doing a slice, and then saving the report as a PDF, all while sharing a screen on a one-to-one Teams call. Full details can be found in this video.

Software Developers using C# on MSFT Visual Studio to build and compile code on the latest Intel vPro saw a 2.7x performance increase with 13th Gen Intel Core Processors compared with a 10th Gen processor. For the test, the software developer workload measured the total time to build a C# project and run a regression test suite. More details can be found here.

For reference, the configuration details of the PCs optimized by Intel for Data Analyst and Software Developer Workloads in this testing was as follows: Processor: 13th Gen Intel Core i7-1370P processor (RPL-P) PL1 set to 28W TDP with Intel Dynamic Tuning Technology (Intel DTT) enabled at 35W; Memory: LPDDR5-6000MHz, 2x16GB, Dual Rank; Storage: Samsung MZVL2512HCJQ-00A00 512GB; Display Resolution: 1920x1080; OS: Microsoft Windows 11 Professional 22621.608; Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics; Graphics driver:; BIOS version: 3361.A14. Power Plan set to Balanced; Power Mode set to "Balanced". VBS enabled, Defender enabled, and Tamper Protection enabled.

Content Creators who multi-task using Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Photoshop to create video and photo assets while listening in on a Microsoft Teams collaboration call benefited from 2.3x faster performance by upgrading to the latest Intel vPro Platform with 13th Gen Intel Core Processors. The content creator workload scenario in the testing measured the average completion times for two concurrent content creation tasks (video export and photo editing (resize, noise reduction, and applying several filters), all while participating on a one-to-one Teams call. The hardware configuration of the PCs used by Content Creators in these tests was as follows: Processor: 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13900 processor (RPL-S), 24C32T (8P + 16E); Motherboard: Intel RVP; Memory: G. Skill DDR5 CL 28-34-34-89, 2X16GB DDR5-5600MHz; Storage: Samsung 980 Pro 1TB; Display Resolution: 1920x1080; OS: Microsoft Windows 11 Version 22621_160 Service pack: 22H2; Motherboard BIOS version: 3361.A06. More details can be found here.

Boosting device security defenses

According to Intel, its latest CPUs also deliver a substantial boost to existing data security measures on client devices. Those with Intel vPro 13th Gen Intel Core Processors have an estimated 70 percent attack surface reduction versus four-year-old devices, for example. The platform's built-in hardware-based security and modern remote manageability capabilities mean that 74 percent of ITDMs surveyed reported that PC management costs have been reduced with Intel vPro.

These security features were highlighted in the March 2023 IDC report, The business value of Intel security for PCs: "Intel has made security a differentiator in hardware-based computing platforms," wrote the analyst firm. "Feature offerings initially focused on attributes that live below the operating system (OS). Intel subsequently has invested aggressively in vulnerability management and offensive security research to make the microprocessors themselves more resilient."

In addition to security benefits, some 89 percent of ITDMs surveyed by Intel said that IT compliance is easier with Intel vPro. Moreover, end-to-end sustainability features allow enterprises to conserve energy with the wake features of Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT) that shuts down PCs during off hours, or schedules devices to power on in intervals. More info on the Intel vPro can be found here.

It is evident from Intel's recently published research program that specifying the correct configuration of PCs to meet the needs of specific categories of enterprise workers can substantially boost business productivity – at least doubling performance in the real-world user scenarios reported. The research highlighted the fact that analyzing user-driven workloads provides valuable insight to help ITDMs understand how staff use computers in medium- and large-sized businesses.

"We are reproducing and analyzing these workloads to broaden the narrative beyond standard benchmarks, as well as influence Intel's roadmap and our engagements with ISVs," Dennis Luo, Senior Director in the Client Computing Group. "Our goal is to give ITDMs proof points that are aligned with the work users actually do in their organizations, so they can make better decisions when purchasing PCs".

Sponsored by Intel.

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