Blade System Gains Security

ClearCube centralizes tasks.

ClearCube Technology Inc.s R Series Client Blade system and management software provide a more robust, manageable and secure infrastructure than traditional desktop PC and thin-client systems can offer.

ClearCube is a complete PC client blade system that allows IT managers at large enterprises to easily replace their desktop computers with a centralized blade infrastructure.

In eWEEK Labs tests, the ClearCube package, including CMS (ClearCube Management Suite) 3.0 software, which shipped last month, was easy to deploy and manage. We believe ClearCube will give thin-client solutions such as Hewlett-Packard Co.s Evo and Sun Microsystems Inc.s Sun Ray a run for the money.

The ClearCube package includes Client Blades, a custom 3U (5.25-inch) ClearCube Cage that holds eight Client Blades, and a C/Port desktop converter. An entry-level deployment includes one PC blade, with a 2GHz processor, 128MB of RAM, a 10GB hard drive and one C/Port, and costs $1,200 per seat; this price does not include the CMS software. For $1,950 per seat, customers get one 2.4GHz PC blade with 512MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a full CMS license and a C/Port.

ClearCubes KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) technology transmits signals over standard Category 5 cables to a C/Port located at a users desk. The C/Port remote unit provides an RJ-45 port for connection to the blade, standard KVM connections, audio output and a microphone jack, and dual USB (Universal Serial Bus) 1.1 ports.

The USB ports cant be locked down, although future ports will have this capability, ClearCube officials said.

The R Series Client Blades use a custom motherboard with the Intel 845 chip set hosting a 2.4GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor and 512MB of PC133 synchronous dynamic RAM. Blades can be upgraded with 2GB of memory and 120GB of storage.

ClearCube packages the blades with Windows XP/ 2000 Professional or Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux. IT managers can use a Client Blade to run the ClearCube CMS package, but we recommend using a server running Windows 2000, especially for larger sites.

In tests, CMS 3.0 ably managed the ClearCube Client Blades and Cages. The Switch Manager feature in CMS 3.0 let us quickly switch a user to a spare blade within the same Cage.

However, the package would be more useful if more than one blade in a Cage could be designated as a spare. In addition, we could switch only to a spare blade within the same Cage and not to one in another Cage in the same rack. The ability to fail over to blades in different Cages in the same managed rack would provide more flexible redundancy.

This isnt just an issue of convenience: The ClearCube Cage has no hot-swap redundant power supplies, so when a Cage fails, all its client blades are out of action.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at