Don’t let the dreadful name Intel has given to its new security technology, put you off. “Managability Server” (more memorably and formerly known as “Circuit Breaker”) does something potentially quite useful.

As demonstrated at this week’s Intel Developer Conference, it is basically a hardware-based system that monitors a PC in a number of ways (connections per second for instance) to work out whether it has been infected with a worm or virus.

If it decides there is cause for concern, the PC is disconnected from the network before the infection has had time to spread.

This process should happen in micro-seconds, and so is going to be quicker than waiting for a sysadmin to intervene, or even for a remote machine monitoring system to react. By the time these types of system do something, a virulent worm will have spread to tens of thousands of machines, causing the digital equivalent of a riot - or worse.

That’s the theory, anyway. The idea of putting this sort of feature on a chip as a part of a network interface card is bound to gain traction.

What Intel has not given explained in detail is how this system will avoid the almost as troubling phenomenon of the "false positive", something that has plagued monitoring systems to date. We have it in spam detection, we have it in intrusion detection, we even have it in conventional burglar systems that protect server centres.

And will this be an open standard? Will the fact that a PC has suddenly been disconnected from the network allow the sysadmin a way of reacting to it as a management event? If it ends up in retail PCs – precisely the location it is most needed – how will the user know what to do to so as to get the suspect PC reconnected?

If the Managability Server reminds us of HP’s much-vaunted Virus Throttling technology, reported on by us earlier in the year, then it is indeed similar. The HP technology is proprietary, however, and the Intel system hands the decision to cut connections clearly to the client PC and doesn’t involve other elements such as switches.

It’s still in Intel’s labs, and is a way from being a worked-out commercial product just now, so we’ll leave the hard questions for the next version.