ClearCube makes good blade system even better
New features in Version 4.0 include beefier blades, improved connection managementFollow @infoworld
In the year since we reviewed its first-generation product, ClearCube has pushed its blade workstation architecture concept even further on both the hardware and software fronts, and we like the results.
ClearCube pioneered the blade-based workstation. An I/Port sits on every user's desk, coupled to a display, keyboard, mouse, and USB-based peripherals. The actual workstation is located on a blade in a centrally managed rack in the datacenter.
This architecture's impact on adds, moves, and changes is obvious (simply swap a card without ever sending a technician out the door), but it also boasts better security, reliability, and long-term cost savings. For installations in which workstation uptime is critical, ClearCube is a godsend.
Gleaming the ClearCube
ClearCube's new I/Ports, C/Ports, and workstation cards looked great when they arrived at our test lab at the Advanced Network Computing Laboratory (ANCL) in sunny Honolulu. The desktop-oriented C/Port modules are still fanless and can talk back to the blade's brain counterparts as far as 200 meters over CAT5.
On top of these, ClearCube added the missing component it needed to run a connection over truly long distances: Microsoft Remote Desktop. The tricky part here is that Microsoft Terminal Server functions by taking a limited resource and slicing it thinner and thinner with each additional client. ClearCube manages this with a high-density back end, bolstered by grid-style CPU pooling that alleviates the problems inherent in Terminal Server's time-sharing scheme.
Users' desktop setups stay mostly the same; for true telecommuting tasks, the new I/Port i8010 is based on an embedded Linux platform that provides only remote desktop capability. Meanwhile, the i8800 is based on embedded Windows XP and provides just enough Windows functionality to support VPNs and local printer support in addition to Remote Desktop.
Making I/Ports function as fully powered workstations is the job of a ClearCube PC Blade, and the company has upgraded the blades almost continuously during the past year. There are two basic varieties, the R1200 and the R2100; which one you choose will depend on whether your users require standard desktop power or a more muscular workstation.
The R1200 is the more mainstream blade, with Intel Pentium 4 (3.4GHz with HT) processors, as much as 2GB RAM, and an Intel Extreme Graphics subsystem all attached to a single ATA-based disk subsystem (as much as 120GB). The R2100, affectionately called the "Fatboy" or the "double-wide," is a double-sized blade carrying dual 3.06GHz Intel Xeon CPUs, as much as 4GB RAM; a high-end, Nvidia-based graphics subsystem; dual, gigabit-capable network connections; and other workstation-style tidbits, including a disk size as large as 120GB. Both cards can support multidisplay options for hooking up as many as four displays to a single C/Port.
On the software side, ClearCube made some significant changes to its CMS (ClearCube Management Suite) software, now in Version 4.0. The four core management modules (Blade Manager, Switch Manager, Data Failover, and Move Manager) all remain, albeit with a few changes.