Blade PCs get a new edge

PC blades might seem like the dumb terminals of 20 years ago, but there is nothing dumb about them. A blade PC gives users access to the equivalent of a fully functional PC. The only difference is that the data, processor and hard drive are safely stowed in racks behind secured doors. The only components that sit on a user’s desk are a keyboard, a mouse, a display and a small box that connects those peripherals to the network. Numerous government agencies have been sold on blade PCs’ primary benefits, such as greater physical and data security, high availability and uptime, better manageability, and reduced operating and support costs compared with traditional PCs. Recent blade developments may add some new points of appeal, such as virtualization, which lets multiple users share a single blade. In addition, new connectivity and configuration options will greatly expand the types of applications users can perform. Those benefits are translating into expectations of healthy growth for the technology, which is offered by companies such as ClearCube, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM and Verari Systems. Blade PC sales will grow about 160 percent through 2009, according to market researcher IDC. For many organizations, especially in the government sector, security has been — and still is — a major driver in the adoption of blade PCs. “All of the data resides completely in the data center, so the only thing that goes out to the user is pixels,” said Win Reis, product manager for blade PCs at HP. And to drive home his point, Reis emphasized the ephemeral nature of those pixels. “At the end of the session, even that last set of pixels is removed, so you have a totally secure device where the data is secure, and the transmissions are encrypted.” Security was one of the primary reasons that Headquarters Air Force Security Forces Center at Lackland Air Force Base chose to move to PC blades a few years ago. The base in San Antonio, Texas, which supports Air Force Security Forces, was moving into a new building at the time. Richard Johnsen, a senior network engineer, had orders from his superior to ensure that all of the organization’s 500 employees had computers capable of handling classified information at the secret level. “I knew it would be a huge undertaking because with secret computers, you have to have removable hard drives,” Johnsen said. “You can’t leave anything behind when you’re not there.” Instead of going the traditional PC route, which would have required buying safes to lock up the hard drives when not in use, the center went with PC Blades from Clear-Cube. The facility now has about 300 in use. Promises about blade PCs’ ease-of-management benefits have proved true at Lackland, Johnsen said. For example, the center’s information technology managers can remotely diagnose and replace a user’s computing power in minutes. “We just transfer them to a spare blade, and they still have access to all of their data because it performs a mirror copy of everything they are doing onto another blade,” Johnsen said. “They are up and running in five minutes versus several hours.” Johnsen’s office has also discovered one of the newer benefits of blade PCs, which is virtualization. Instead of having to buy a blade for every user, virtualization software splits one physical blade into two or more separate PCs. “For things like e-mail and light use, 80 percent to 90 percent of the PC isn’t being used,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst at the Enderle Group. “In that case, you could put two or three people on a single blade and bring down the overall cost significantly.” That was Johnsen’s thinking. He purchased only 24 additional blades because he planned to virtualize them. “The computers we have today far exceed the needs of the average user, so we’re going to put two virtual sessions per blade, which will halve the number of computers we’re using and double the capacity,” Johnsen said. “Users won’t even know the difference.” With those advantages, why isn’t more of the government moving to blade PCs? Part of the reason might be cultural. After all, it’s disconcerting to sit down at a computer that lacks a hard drive, CD drive or other features associated with a conventional PC. Another factor is cost. On the surface, at least, blade PCs appear to cost much more than traditional PCs. And that’s partly true. According to IDC, blade PCs cost on average about 44 percent more than their traditional counterparts. Part of the additional cost is the blade itself. The technology hasn’t reached critical mass yet, which means that it hasn’t reached its lowest possible cost point, as PCs have, Enderle said. Other costs include dealing with a potential increase in thermal loading  for the center that houses the blades, especially if the center wasn’t designed for that purpose. However, the cost equation is misleading, according to IDC. Through the life cycle of the blade PC, it will net more than a 400 percent return on investment because of overall reduced support costs, higher availability, and greater security and manageability. In a 2005 study, IDC found that a 100-seat ClearCube implementation saved the equivalent of $35,120 annually in IT support costs, and an organization of 5,720 employees could save as much as $2 million annually in desktop management costs by adopting blade PCs. Conventional wisdom says that a $1,000 traditional PC will cost about $12,000 in support costs for the four-year life of the device, said Greg Witt, federal vice president at ClearCube. A blade PC’s support costs for the same period are about 40 percent less. Meanwhile, organizations often can reduce the number of IT support employees needed if they switch to blade PCs. Lackland Air Force Base’s Air Force Security Forces Center, for example, was able to reduce its IT support staff from 11 to six after it installed blade PCs. One temporary impediment to greater adoption of blade PCs is the lack of clear standards, but PC analysts say standards will come. “Outside of the cage itself, each of these solutions is different,” Enderle said. But that situation could change quickly, he added. “PC blades and server blades use a lot of the same technology, so as soon as we get a core set of standards on server blades, we’ll probably have a core set of standards on PC blades shortly thereafter.” Once that happens, Enderle said, prices will drop and the market for blade PCs will heat up.















































Schwartz is a Washington writer specializing in business and technology issues. She can be reached at karendschwartz@gmail.com.
X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.