Server-Based Platforms Get Boost

Thin-client vendors roll out tools to spur adoption of server-based architectures.

Vendors are rolling out new hardware and software aimed at driving adoption of server-based computing architectures.

Concerns over the platforms—thin clients in particular, but also PC blades—have focused on poor desktop experiences for users. However, new offerings from companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co., ClearCube Technology Inc. and Wyse Technology Inc. are aimed at giving users everything they have on traditional PCs while improving cost, manageability and security.

The architectures place the key PC components—including processors, applications, hard drives and memory—in centrally located sites, making them easier to manage and more secure. Users have only keyboards, mice and displays on their desktops.

HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., this week is jump-starting its Consolidated Client Infrastructure offering with the bc1500, a PC blade powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Athlon 64 processors. "Its going to give us significant performance improvements," said Tad Bodeman, director of PC blade and thin-client solutions at HP. The vendors current bc1000 offering is based on Transmeta Corp.s Efficeon processors. However, Transmeta this year spiked its processor business.

ClearCube, in Austin, Texas, last week rolled out a new chassis for its PC blades that offers greater connectivity options and more redundancy. The R4300 can be configured to support both direct-connected and Ethernet-connected user ports—devices on the user desktop that link the keyboard, monitor, mouse and USB peripherals to the back-end blades—or configured for Ethernet-only users, a move that will help businesses reduce costs. In the Ethernet-only configuration, new software, called ClearCube Grid Center, places users on the best available blade.

Guy Fuller, IT manager at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group, in Chicago, said his organization will buy the R4300 chassis. "One of the things that haunted [ClearCube] before was you had to use a [remote management card] on the back of the cage, which was troublesome," Fuller said. "But now with this new [chassis], it seems that theyve corrected that."

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Thin-client vendor Wyse last week continued its migration away from appliances and toward software. President and CEO John Kish unveiled a host of new software and partnerships, including Streaming Manager. Servers running Windows Server 2003 can use the software to deliver operating systems and applications to networked users, giving users access to all the applications they desire and a fuller desktop experience, Kish said. Streaming Manager will be available later this quarter. Wyse, of San Jose, Calif., also is partnering with vendors such as Computer Associates International Inc., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. to bring greater management and security to the platform.

Bob ODonnell, an analyst with IDC, in San Mateo, Calif., said server-based computing, though a small part of the overall market, will continue to grow as the technology improves. "The basic issues are still the same," ODonnell said. "IT managers still need to improve security and improve costs."

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