ClearCube, VMware Partner on Virtualized Desktops

ClearCube is developing a new PC blade virtualization product for VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, software that allows users to deploy virtualization technology across an enterprise's entire fleet of PCs.

ClearCube, a developer of hardware and management software for blade-based computing environments, is strengthening its ties with virtualization giant VMware.

When ClearCube launched the updated 5.5 version of its Sentral management software April 9, the Austin, Texas, company announced that it was supporting VMwares ESX Server 3 along with VMware Server virtualization software.

Now, starting May 24, ClearCube is looking to offer a blade-based computing system that will support VMwares VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)—software that allows users to deploy virtualization technology across an enterprises entire fleet of PCs—which will allow users to support between 12 and 15 virtual machines on each physical blade.

This agreement allows ClearCube to start selling VDI licenses along with its R2200 PC blade and the 5.5 version of its Sentral software, which had been in beta and is now generally available, said Tom Josefy, ClearCubes director of product management.

"Right now, there is no other PC blade manufacturer that is able to support both ESX and give its users the ability to create virtualized desktops," Josefy said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about desktop virtualization.

The notion of using technology such as PC blades and thin clients to create virtualized desktop environments is starting to come into its own. Part of this is driven by companies such as ClearCube, NEC and IBM, which have begun offering products to centrally control desktops, operating systems and applications from the data center.

The other half of the equation is driven by VMware and other companies that have started to expand virtualization software from servers to desktops. A Gartner report released May 8 found that by 2009 there could be more than 4 million virtual machines deployed worldwide and that the use of desktop virtualization has even greater potential than server virtualization.

To help foster the idea of a virtualized desktop environment, VMware launched its own Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Alliance in 2006. ClearCube was one of the first OEMs to sign on.

The system that ClearCube has developed allows IT managers to monitor and control both physical and virtual machines from a single console. It also allows managers to "drag and drop" virtual machines from one blade to another, as well as allowing administrators to set policies that enable workloads to shift from one physical machine to another as needed throughout the day.

"It allows the user to both scale up and scale down during the day, and this also allows for some energy savings," Josefy said.

For now, ClearCube will only sell the VMware VDI software with its R2200 blade, which uses an Intel dual-core Xeon processor and has up to 8GB of DDR2 (double data rate) RAM. While that system is the only PC blade certified by VMware, Josefy said the company is planning to expand the offering to other systems later. ClearCube has not yet set pricing.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about IBMs server-based computing.

While ClearCubes channel partners will sell the VDI licenses, users will have to use an activation code from VMware to download the latest version of the software from the companys Web site.

Josefy said that he expects the combination of PC blades, management software and the VDI software to appeal to specific verticals, such as health care and financial services, at first and the spread out to a much broader enterprise audience.

Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technology Associates, said that there is a market for these types of PC blade products. The economics of using PC blades, he added, become even more attractive when virtualization is added in and end users can get more mileage out of a single, physical system.

One of the only drawbacks, Kay said, is making sure the operating system licenses with Microsoft are settled when the system is installed.

"The idea of multiple clients attached to a single blade is a very interesting proposition as long as the agreement squares with Microsoft and its licensing of the client OS," Kay said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.