ClearCube Technology has announced that it has eliminated the distance barrier between a blade-hosted PC and users' desktops, which sounds similar to an announcement IBM made just last month.

The company's new I9420, I9440 and C7420, three desktop devices, or 'user ports', can pump full-speed 3D graphics to twin or quad monitor setups via an IP connection across any distance, the company reckoned. The previous distance limit was 200 metres, but ClearCube now claims there is no barrier, provided the network is correctly specified. According to the company, the highest level of bandwidth required would be some 30Mbit/s at a maximum latency of 70ms. The company said that the workloads of task-based workers would fall in the 1Mbit/s to 2Mbit/s range.

This means organisations can centralise computing resources and provide end users with consistent and reliable computing power from remote locations, said the company, as well as enable improved disaster recovery, hardened IT security and reduced management costs.

ClearCube reckons this opens up the possibility for almost any company of deploying PCs on centralised blades while providing end users with the experience required to do their jobs. Existing applications include financial services and brokerage companies, who can now provide employees with four-monitor workstations on the trading floor, connecting them to PC blades at remote locations. Government customers deploying the new technology can use existing fibre cabling to centralise secure PC blades almost anywhere and deliver high quality, streaming video performance to secured environments.

A typical setup for less demanding video graphics needs might be the installation of several virtual PCs on a single blade - up to 10 VMs depending on the power of the blade. The system would then be managed by the company's Sentral v5.5 management software. According to the company, this setup aids disaster recovery, as users could log onto the same PC as before from anywhere.

The PC blades driving this new ClearCube solution feature Intel Core 2 Duo, Xeon and Pentium 4 processors. The company said that quad-monitor support requires one of its upgraded A Series 6U form factor PC blades, and the dual monitor and fibre work with upgraded A and/or R Series PC blades.

The three new user ports - or thin clients - include:

  • I9420 I/Port: provides dual-monitor video, audio in/out, and USB device support, as used by software developers and CAD/CAM design professionals. The I9420 features a reset/power button that can be used at the user's desk to power down or reset the connected PC blade, providing end-users with control over their remote computing resource, as long as this accords with corporate policy.

  • I9440 I/Port: provides quad-monitor video, audio in/out, and USB device support. Suited to the financial services industry, these capabilities enable IT managers (or end-users) to personalise each of the four monitors based on the end user's job requirements. The I9440 also features the configurable reset/power button capability.

  • C7420 Digital Fibre User Port: a digital fibre C/Port and transceiver system to provide point-to-point or networked fibre optic support for securely extending users' desktops from centralised ClearCube PC blades. Ideal for government organisations, the C7420 supports full performance video for one or two monitors, audio in/out, and USB device support over a fibre connection. It can be configured to guarantee that desktop information cannot mix with network traffic.

The PC blades feature a new ASIC from Teradici that helps power the system by provided high speed compression and decompression technology - ClearCube wouldn't go into any more detail. European product manager Paul Dunsford said: "The problem was handling streaming video and 3D graphics. What we've done is a combination of things - and we're not using RDP, it's our own technology and protocols."

Dunsford said that the difference between IBM's new HC10 and its products was that: "our market is trading floors with multi-screen, and command and control. Also our blades are Intel-based so we can provide a solution for different worker requirements. You can use the same blade for power users or task workers.

"The only other competitor is HP. No-one else can do a four-screen solution. The lower end includes Citrix for server-based, centralised computing. What's important is that this solution is easy to manage and is based on a standard PC, as well as having integrated management tools so that you can manage multiple users in virtual machines, from a task worker through to a single power user using a 2-CPU blade."

"The new ClearCube PC blade solution is the first in the industry to shatter the PC blade distance barrier, making the clear cut benefits and measurable ROI of centralised computing solutions available to more organisations worldwide," said CEO Rick Hoffman. "Organisations in every industry, from financial services to healthcare to federal government to commercial services, need to ensure disaster recovery practices and enhance IT security. By combining our new remote PC blade solution with our virtual desktop offerings, ClearCube provides organisations with a comprehensive solution for cost-effective, dependable computing power for all types of users-from power users to task workers."

"Blade PCs have seen tremendous growth over the past few years, and IDC expects the segment to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 111 percent between now and 2011," said Bob O'Donnell of analyst firm IDC. "Despite that growth, there have been some industries that have been interested in the client centralisation benefits offered by blade PCs, but have had to pass on them due to functional limitations on graphics performance over long distances."

The ClearCube PC blades will be available next quarter. Exact pricing will be announced when products begin shipping, but Dunsford said that taking everything into account, a high end user port for a quad-monitor costs about three times as much as a normal desktop PC, while the cost for a lower-end, single monitor machine, sharing a blade with four other users is the same as that for a normal low-end PC.