ClearCube Readies Suite Update

An Austin, Texas, company that makes products to replace PCs plans to launch updates to its distributed computing suite later this month.

An Austin, Texas, company that makes products to replace PCs plans to launch updates to its distributed computing suite later this month and, according to sources, is working to get a resale deal with Hewlett-Packard Co.

ClearCube Technology Inc., which replaces PCs with back-end blade computers that connect to traditional keyboards, monitors and mice through Ethernet, will announce Management Console 2.1 next week, said Ken Knotts, senior technologist at ClearCube. Management Console 2.1 will come with a browser interface and features for backup and mirroring.

The backup feature uses RAID technology, which will eventually use striping as well. Data can be swapped to a different blade if swapping the physical blade isnt convenient, Knotts said.

With a feature called Move Manager, administrators can compress, transport and reinstall a users data among geographically dispersed blades, saving downtime when users switch offices, Knotts said.

At least one user is happy with ClearCube, especially its technical support, and said the coming browser-based administration will be useful. "PCs were just too damn big. We looked at this, and it seemed to work out a hell of a lot better," said Bob Marsh, network administrator at Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. As far as reliability is concerned, "theyre pretty good," said Marsh. In some cases, the Altiris Inc. software that ClearCube bundles is better than ClearCubes own tools, Marsh said. The hospital runs 60 blades, he said.

At AAA Kentucky, John Ferguson, director of information services, replaces PCs with blades when the PCs age or fail. "We have had zero problems" using blades instead of PCs, said Ferguson, in Louisville. "It gives us the ability to monitor." AAA Kentucky uses frame relay technology to extend the distance between blades and desktops by several miles, Ferguson said.

ClearCube is in talks with HP for a deal that could make HP the supplier of ClearCubes blades and an OEM seller of the overall solution, sources said. ClearCube officials would not identify HP, although the company was part of an HP booth at the Technology Management Conference & Exhibit in June, and Compaq Computer Corp. co-founders are ClearCube investors, sources said.

While ClearCube officials denied the company was in talks with HP on a deal, Ferguson said an OEM partnership with that company would make ClearCube technology even more attractive.

Future versions of the console may support more than two monitors connected to a blade simultaneously, as well as possible support for Universal Serial Bus 2.0 and for fiber-optic connections. Currently, an analog connection over Ethernet limits the blade-to-desktop distance to 200 meters. A plan to connect blades in parallel when users are away from their desks is also being researched, Knotts said.

ClearCube faces competition from 2C Computing Inc., which has a similar product that relocates blades video processing to the desktop. 2C, of Huntsville, Ala., is partially owned by Avocent Corp., which last week announced a licensing deal with IBM.