ClearCube Lowers Entry Cost

Company unveils low-cost PC blades aimed at businesses

One of the knocks against the idea of bladed PCs has been the high cost. ClearCube Technology may finally have solved that.

The Austin, Texas, company on Oct. 2 unveiled a new offering, the A Series PC blade, which cuts the entry cost for businesses in half.

"Weve finally been able to break that price barrier, which were hoping will really kick up the adoption [of the technology]," said ClearCube President and CEO Carl Boisvert. "We used to walk away from a lot of markets that are cost-conscious. This is really the first product we can use to go after the desktop replacement market."

ClearCubes products are designed to increase the management and security of a companys PC environment by storing the key computer components—such as the processor, memory and hard drives—on a centrally located server. A users keyboard, mouse and monitor are linked to the server via an access device.

The companys current products cost between $2,200 to $4,000 per seat. However, the A Series setup costs between $1,300 and $1,400, and with a ratio of up to six users per server, the cost per seat can be driven down to the $200 range. The new product is available immediately and can be managed by ClearCubes Sentral software. It also supports virtualization offerings that can help drive the cost per seat even lower.

"Now, we can just go after those markets that are very price-competitive," Boisvert said.

ClearCube was able to drop the price in part by bringing more off-the-shelf components to the systems, such as ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) motherboards. The trade-off, Boisvert said, is the loss of density. The current products are in the 3U (5.25-inch) range, while the new A Series is twice that, at 6U (10.5 inches).

"Some customers are OK with that trade-off," Boisvert said.

In addition, the new I/Port device is priced at about $290, a much lower price than that for ClearCubes other devices, which can run as high as $699, Boisvert said.

Analyst Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, said driving down its costs was important for ClearCube. Customers always keep an eye on technology that will help them consolidate their environments, according to Kay. In the past, clients have told Kay that cost was keeping them from taking a longer look at ClearCube, he said.

"One of the most important arguments against [ClearCubes blades] has been price, particularly since they were supposed to be a value," said Kay in Wayland, Mass. "This puts them more on par with other desktops."

The A Series PC blades are combined with the new 18330 I/Port access device. The Model A1010 blade is powered by an Intel Pentium 4 Model 531 chip and offers an 80GB SATA (Serial ATA) hard drive and 512MB of DDR (double data rate) memory. The desktop environment is delivered via standard Ethernet connections.

The new I/Port uses TDX (Transparent Desktop Extension) technology, rather than Microsofts RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol). TDX, a new protocol whose development was spearheaded by ClearCube to handle blade-to-user data transfer, offers better video and multimedia performance, according to the company. The 18330 I/Port supports not only the new blades but also ClearCubes existing ones.

ClearCube launched its first PC blade in 2000 and has grown in such markets as health care and financial services. Hewlett-Packard also has entered the space with its BladeSystem bc1500 blade PC, which is part of its Consolidated Client Infrastructure initiative.