Blade architectures aren't just for servers anymore. The modular, swappable, system-on-a-board technology is making its way to the desktop.
ClearCube Technology Inc.'s Client Blades take PC processors, drives, and memory off the desktop and move them to a centralized rack, where IT personnel can more easily manage them. At a user's desk, a ClearCube C/Port--a device the size of a thin paperback book--connects to standard peripherals such as the keyboard, mouse, and monitor. It also connects via Category 5 cable to its own dedicated blade in a company's data center. The blade contains an Intel processor and fits in a chassis with other blades, each serving a different desktop.
Each chassis holds up to eight blades and mounts into a rack that can hold up to 12 chassis. Client Blades feature a number of processor configurations, and by March ClearCube will introduce a dual-Xeon processor Client Blade to let companies run multiple PCs from the same blade.
Startup costs can be higher for Client Blades than normal PCs. To set up the technology, IT departments must purchase a $200 C/Port for each desktop, plus a chassis, BackPack interface plug, and management software. The blades themselves cost $1,200 to $1,800 each.
ClearCube's PC blade model targets banks, hospitals, manufacturing facilities, and financial trading floors--all businesses that put a premium on space and system security, CEO Mike Frost says. BP Energy Co. has deployed 100 Client Blades, at $2,500 each for hardware, software, and services, to support its Calgary, Alberta, energy-trading floor. The Calgary facility is a prototype for BP, which plans to install ClearCube technology on its Houston trading floor, too.
PC blades won't fit every company's needs, Frost says, especially those with lots of mobile or remote users. But for some businesses, they're pretty good. "When I look at a call center, why have a PC on every desk?" says Dwight Gibbs, director of technology acceleration for Capital One Financial Corp. "ClearCube's play is manageability--you never have to send someone out to desktop again."