The Intel NUC, or “Next Unit of Computing,” is a small, appliance-like minicomputer that’s widely used across a variety of industries and applications. They’re tiny and relatively inexpensive, so you’ll often find them inside IoT devices and ruggedized cases. They’re also frequently deployed as jump boxes or service delivery appliances. However, Intel NUCs create added security risks, technical debt, and management headaches. Plus, Intel recently announced the discontinuation of all NUC product lines. This post describes some of the most common Intel NUC use cases, explains the security and management issues that caused its discontinuation, and provides superior replacement options.
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Intel NUC use cases
While Intel NUCs have a dedicated fanbase among home enthusiasts, they’re primarily used by professional IT teams. Some popular Intel NUC use cases include:
- Reducing carbon footprints: As investors place more importance on an organization’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices, it becomes necessary to improve sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Replacing inefficient PC towers with Intel NUCs can help reduce carbon footprints and improve ESG ratings.
- Security and surveillance systems: An Intel NUC can run a wide range of security applications for things like entry control and surveillance cameras, eliminating the need for dedicated servers. Some IoT (Internet of Things) security devices have embedded Intel NUCs for greater mobility and efficiency.
- Application delivery: Some service providers use Intel NUCs as platforms to deploy their software on-site to reduce hardware overhead costs. For example, a provider can install a NUC in their customer’s server room to deliver artificial intelligence (AI) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications.
- Jump boxes: Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) often deploy Intel NUCs at customer sites to act as “jump boxes” used to remotely access client infrastructure without taking up rack space.
- Rugged computing: When services are needed out in the field, such as in military or construction applications, a traditional laptop may not be heavy-duty enough to withstand operating conditions. Some organizations solve this problem by running their services on Intel NUCs installed inside rugged cases designed for the environment.
- Customized appliance computing: For specialized applications requiring a high degree of physical customization, such as law enforcement surveillance systems, an Intel NUC is often used because it’s small enough to fit nearly any case.
Intel NUC EOL products
Intel recently announced it’s discontinuing all NUC products, with specific dates for end-of-sale, end-of-support, and end-of-security-support varying by product. ASUS agreed to take over manufacturing and support of NUC product lines, but it’s unclear what the transition will look like or how ASUS will develop the NUC in the future.
Click here to view a list of all Intel NUC end-of-life SKUs as well as direct replacement options.
Why is Intel EOL-ing the NUC?
Despite all the exciting enterprise use cases listed above, the Intel NUC was never intended to be used as an appliance. It has numerous security and management limitations that make it challenging for Intel (and ASUS, in the future) to support the NUC for enterprise applications, including:
- There’s no dedicated platform to deploy or secure NUC applications
- Each Intel NUC is managed and accessed individually with no centralized management
- Intel NUCs create a lot of technical debt because they require a lot of coding, API knowledge, and other specialized skills to work with
- NUC operating systems are usually left out of patch schedules, leaving vulnerabilities critically exposed
- There is usually no ability to recover a non-responsive NUC remotely, requiring expensive on-site visits any time there’s a network hiccup or OS crash
- NUCs often don’t have the onboard hardware Roots of Trust (e.g., TPM) needed to secure them properly
- The hardware NUCs are embedded in often have unclear or undocumented supply chains
- There’s no ability for bidirectional authentication to the cloud with unique certificates
- The production data and applications are on the same plane as management processes, leaving management ports exposed
Intel NUCs are a quick and inexpensive way to deploy applications, jump boxes, and digital services, which is what makes them so popular in enterprises. However, due to a lack of security features and centralized management, NUCs are also popular with cybercriminals looking for an easy target to exploit. With Intel discontinuing all NUC product lines, it’s the perfect opportunity to look for a replacement option that delivers the same cost-efficient flexibility but with enterprise-grade security and management features built in.
Intel NUC replacement options from ZPE Systems
Nodegrid is a family of all-in-one networking, application delivery, and infrastructure management devices from ZPE Systems. Nodegrid was built with security in mind, taking a three-pronged approach that includes:
- Hardware security – Onboard security features like TPM 2.0 and self-encrypted disk (SED) protect your device even if it falls into the wrong hands.
- Software security – Nodegrid protects its software using features such as BIOS protection and Signed OS, and it can host third-party security applications for an even stronger defense.
- Management security – Nodegrid keeps the management plane isolated from the data plane and uses strong zero-trust authentication methods to protect your management interfaces.
Nodegrid reduces management headaches without reducing security or functionality. ZPE provides enterprise-level support for all Nodegrid products with a responsive engineering team and 24-hour CVE (common vulnerabilities and exposures) patching. Nodegrid also lowers the technical debt and can meet teams at their skill level. You can deploy Nodegrid and use it to manage solutions that are already in place without any specialized programming or API knowledge.
Plus, Nodegrid uses out-of-band (OOB) management and serial connectivity to ensure continuous remote access to the control plane, making it a superior choice to an Intel NUC jump box for MSPs and MSSPs. With OOB connection options like 5G/4G LTE, teams can remotely troubleshoot and recover systems, services, and applications, even during major network outages. Management of all Nodegrid-connected infrastructure is unified by a single platform for streamlined control at any scale.
Due to its size, cost, and open, Linux-based operating system, Nodegrid is just as flexible and efficient as an Intel NUC while delivering the centralized management, robust security, and responsive support needed in enterprise deployments.
|Learn more about replacing mini-computers with enterprise solutions:
Nodegrid product comparison
The entire family of Nodegrid edge solutions provides reliable OOB management and flexible service delivery capabilities protected by enterprise-grade security features. The Nodegrid Mini SR, Bold SR, and Gate SR are direct replacements for EOL Intel NUC models but offer so much more. Nodegrid is an entire Services Delivery Platform designed to streamline operations at any scale.
Intel NUC replacement SKUs
Want to learn more about replacing your Intel NUC with Nodegrid?
Ready to replace your Intel NUC with a Nodegrid alternative? Call ZPE Systems today at 1-844-4ZPE-SYS or contact us online.