ClearCube, a company that specializes in PC blades and management software, is rolling out new hardware Jan. 22 and updating its virtual desktop management software suite.
In addition, ClearCube announced that it would begin selling its Sentral management software independent of the company's hardware for the first time, according to CEO Rick Hoffman. The new hardware and software management suite update are immediately available from the company.
Traditionally considered niche products, PC blades and their thin-client PC cousins are getting a serious look by some IT departments that want to adopt a more centralized way to manage a fleet of desktops and client images.
To help strengthen its own position in the market, ClearCube has cut deals with VMware, the leading x86 virtualization vendor, to help solidify the virtualization capabilities of its PC blades and management software. ClearCube also has OEM deals with Microsoft and it also works with other vendors of Xen-based virtualization technology.
Another part of the problem with the adoption to this type of approach to client management is that PC blades and thin client have not been able to deliver the type of graphics, video and audio capabilities of traditional desktops.
"The one unique thing that we have done is to focus on the users," Hoffman told eWEEK. "It's a little unusual for users to think about going back into the data center for the applications that they need for their desktops. One of the issues that Citrix had when it tried a centralized architecture, the users kind of felt degraded when it came to performance and support for peripheral devices. We have always tried to focus on making sure the user has a good experience."
ClearCube is looking to address some of those graphic and video issues with its new R1350 PC blade, which supports Intel's Core 2 Duo processors-the E6300 or E6600 models-and a also a pair of new port devices called the I19420 I/Port and the C7420 Fibre C/Port, which both support dual-monitor displays and better graphics and video capabilities.
In June, ClearCube announced that it has struck an agreement with Teradici, a Canadian startup company that uses ASIC microprocessor technology and has developed what it calls "PC over IP," which compresses rendered display data and USB signals into a digital formant and then sends a signal from a company's computer network through an IP network to the desktop.
This technology is being used in both of ClearCube's new port devices. In addition, the Teradici technology also allows for a more secure IP connection with the C7420 port, which ClearCube primarily sells to the government agencies. For added security, the new PC blade support Trusted Platform Management 1.2 technology for additional security.
Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said that ClearCube's use of Teradici's technology have begun to overcome some of the performance obstacles in setting up a centralized model that is controlled through a network, as opposed to one that is wired.
"The big plus for ClearCube is that it enhances the video component and there's also a security component, which fixes two of the larger historical problems that faced a network solution," Enderle said.
Besides the hardware and port devices, ClearCube is also offering the 5.6 version of its Sentral management software, which includes new features that support a larger array of connection brokers, virtualization, better load balancing across PC blades, as well as new features with the management console.
What appears more important than any additional features within the Sentral suite is that ClearCube will begin selling its software directly to customers. With this announcement, ClearCube clearly wants to move beyond mere hardware to offer customers the type of software needed to maintain a centralized client infrastructure.
"ClearCube has always been thought of as a PC blade company and we want to get the word out there not only about our hardware solutions, but that we also have solutions for the VDI space and we have strong software to support it," said Hoffman.
ClearCube's move from a traditional hardware company into more of a software provider is risk for the company, but one that could benefits customers looking to create a virtualized environment in the data center with standard hardware equipment, said Enderle. The fact that ClearCube has OEM relationships with both VMware and Microsoft also gives it an advantage
"There are some real benefits the company offers in terms of real-time provisioning and helping with fail-over problems that will help with backup and allow for better recovery of images," Enderle said. "When you apply what ClearCube has to conventional hardware, you can get some of the same uptime experience you normally have with blades."