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HP planning twist on server blades

May 22, 20033 mins

* HP’s blades are actually PCs

HP is planning blade PCs that will remove the system unit from a desktop and relocate it to a server room where it can be managed more easily.

While the company would not disclose details about the desktop blades, sources say HP’s implementation will use the thin-client Remote Data Protocol (RDP), implying that the company will introduce desktop PCs that rely on Fibre Channel or network-attached storage for their drive cache.

RDP is Microsoft’s implementation of thin-client technology for terminal services sessions. Using RDP, a client consisting of a keyboard, video and mouse (KVM) can communicate with Windows NT 4.0, Windows XP and Windows 2000.

Other vendors using thin-client technology include Citrix, which offers its MetaFrame products for Windows and Unix desktops.

HP will not be the first to consider bladed desktops. ClearCube, in Austin, Texas, has been making bladed desktops for more than four years. Its blade uses a Pentium 4 processor running at 2.6 GHz and has as much as 120G bytes of hard drive space.

With a ClearCube desktop, a monitor, keyboard and a device called the C-Port are placed on a user’s desktop. The C-Port attaches the mouse, keyboard and other peripherals such as printers or USB devices to the network. In the server room, ClearCube’s blades fit in a chassis and attach to a “BackPack,” which contains the power supplies, fans and Ethernet connections to the network. The C-Port can be located as much as 200 meters from the server room, where the blade resides.

The attraction of desktop blades is not so much about saving space on a user’s desktop or protecting from loss of system components when they are placed in public areas such as registration desks at hospitals or hotels. It’s more about the ability to congregate the system resources in a centralized location, where they can be more easily managed. If a user’s desktop has a problem, their KVM connection can be simply disconnected from the problematic blade and reconnected to one which is known to be good.

Software can more easily be provisioned to congregated blades, and they can be installed and configured in less time than conventional desktop PCs.

Another vendor of a bladed desktop is Avocent, the maker of KVM switches. Avocent recently acquired 2C Computing, a manufacturer of a bladed desktop called the Cstation.

The Cstation is installed on the user’s desktop. It connects to a C-Link interface card, which installs in a traditional PC located in a centralized area. The KVM connects to the Cstation. Cstations can be deployed as much as 100 meters away from the PC when connected over Category-5 cabling, or up to 550 meters when using 1000Base-X fiber-optic cabling.