ClearCube readies new PC blade tools, targets SMBs

ClearCube readies new PC blade tools, targets SMBs

ClearCube Technology on Thursday gave a sneak peak into some of its forthcoming PC blade computing technologies.

PC blade vendor ClearCube Technology on Thursday gave a sneak peak at some upcoming products it hopes will drive greater adoption of blade computing.

At an event in New York City, the company took the wraps off a new addition to its line of I/Port user access devices that ClearCube said will improve video and audio quality for users connecting to PC blades over standard Ethernet networks.

First introduced last year, the I/Port devices, which are about the size of a paperback novel, sit on end users' desks and connect a user's peripherals, such as monitor, keyboard and mouse, to a PC blade in a server room. In the PC blade computing model, IT managers host all their data storage and processing hardware in a central location, while users tap into those resources over a network through devices such as the I/Ports instead of using traditional desktop PCs.

The I/Port devices use IP as a transmission standard, unlike ClearCube's older C/Port devices, which use a ClearCube proprietary transmission protocol. As a result, users can work further away from the blade servers. The C/Ports tap out at a range of about 200 meters.

ClearCube on Thursday showed off its new I/Port 8330 device, which it said combines the best features of its C/Port and I/Port devices.

The I/Port 8330 uses a new protocol developed by ClearCube to move signals back and forth between the blades and ports over standard Ethernet networks. The new protocol takes the place of Microsoft Corp.'s RDP (remote desktop protocol), which was used in its previous I/Port devices. ClearCube said the protocol significantly improves audio and video quality over its previous I/Port devices. The company is now beta-testing the devices and plans to release a single-monitor version of the I/Port in September, followed up by a dual-monitor version in the fourth quarter or first quarter of next year.

ClearCube also plans to launch new PC blades designed for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the third or fourth quarter. Those blades will carry price tags more suited to smaller shops, the company said. According to pricing data obtained in February, a basic configuration of the company's higher-end R2100 PC blade starts at US$1,099, plus additional costs for user devices and management software. The PC blades support Windows XP and 2000 as well as Linux.

While PC blades are gaining popularity, they still make up just a small fraction of the total PC market. Two million PC blades are expected to ship in 2010, which is less than 2 percent of the total projected desktop market for 2010, said Roger Kay, president of market research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc., in a keynote address at Thursday's event.

Drivers of PC blade computing include the desire for heightened security, improved uptime for mission-critical applications, lower maintenance costs, enhanced performance and reduced noise and heat in working environments, Kay said.

One technological advance in blade computing that could help drive adoption is the notion of the "configurable" rack, Kay said. In this model, server, storage, and clients could all be stored on blade servers in a chassis, and IT administrators could reallocate resources as demands ebb and flow.

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