ClearCube Readying Multitenant PC Blades

ClearCube Technology Inc. plans to extend the capability of its PC blades to enable businesses to put multiple users on a single blade.

ClearCube Technology Inc. plans to extend the capability of its PC blades to enable businesses to put multiple users on a single blade.

The move will make the Austin, Texas, companys blade PCs available to smaller companies, according to Senior Technologist Ken Knotts. ClearCube will announce the new capability, as well as a partnership with a major OEM that Knotts declined to name, in the next few weeks.

ClearCube builds back-end blade computers that sit in chassis. Each blade is connected to a keyboard, mouse and monitor. The blades are stored in 3U (5.25-inch-high) chassis, and each chassis can hold eight blades. An interface on the back of the chassis, called BackPack, supplies external connections for the blades, and the Command Port provides the connections to the users desktop.

The concept gives users a full Windows experience but makes it easier for administrators to manage, maintain and secure the computers, according to the company.

Currently, each blade is dedicated to a single user, Knotts said. However, ClearCube is working on a way—which will include connecting the blade to the desktop via IP over Ethernet rather than the usual analog or fiber-optic connection—to enable multiple users to run on a single blade.

Knotts said the current technology gives users high-performance capabilities, such as running complex graphics, and costs $1,500 to $2,000 per seat. Not all businesses need that type of performance or can handle that price, he said.

Enabling multiple users on a single blade will cut the price to less than $1,000 per seat, but—along with running the data in IP packets—users will not get the same level of performance. For small offices running only one application, the trade-off can be worthwhile, Knotts said.

"We want to offer a full range of products," said Knotts, whose company targets the government, financial services and health care vertical industries.

The U.S. Air Force is implementing ClearCubes fiber PC blade offerings in a 40,000-square-foot facility at Lackland Air Force Base. After completion next month, the system will handle 170 users, said Rick Johnsen, senior network engineer. For the Air Force, a key part of the technology is that data can stay secure on back-end blades rather than residing on a users desktop, Johnsen said. The fiber option also gave him a greater reach than the analog offering.

"[The system] makes such good sense because were now able to go ahead and send classified data to a users desk without having the media [such as floppy disks] there," said Johnsen, in San Antonio.

The management capabilities also enable administrators to address problems from a central place rather than from a users desktop, Johnsen added.