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HP sharpens its PC blades

The two new PC blades accompany new and upgraded software that HP says will improve the manageability of thin-client computing and reduce network latency.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) has announced new PC blades in a bid to capture more of the growing thin-client infrastructure market.

HP's announcement includes two new blades, as well as software to reduce network latency between the thin-client device on the desktop and the PC in the data center. The new blades have a one-to-one relationship with the thin-client devices, come preloaded with Microsoft Windows Vista and consist of:

  • The BladeSystem bc2000, which has a single-core Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) Athlon 64 2100+ processor, 80 GB SATA hard drive and 1 GB of DDR2 memory. Available now, it starts at $1,000 per blade in quantities of 10 or more.
  • The BladeSystem bc2500, which has a dual-core AMD Athlon 64 X2 3000+ processor, 80 GB SATA hard drive, and 1 GB of DDR2 memory. In quantities of 10 or more, list price will start at $1,500, and availability is scheduled for late July.
More on blade servers and thin-client computing:
IBM puts blade workstation in the BladeCenter chassis

Analysts sound off on best blade server innovations
The blade chassis remains the same -- 3U with the ability to hold 20 PC blades. A fully loaded 42U rack could hold 280 PC blades and would draw between 7kW and 12kW of power, depending on whether you're running the bc2000 or the bc2500.

Meanwhile, HP has added its Remote Graphics Software to its PC blade server line, which it calls Consolidated Client Infrastructure. The software was previously only available for remote workstations. HP says the software provides for better processing power, performance, graphics and streaming video to thin clients than the previous remote software for HP PC blades, Microsoft's Remote Desktop Connection software. The Microsoft software is still available on the new blades as an option, however.

HP has also updated its Session Allocation Manager software, which allows IT staff to do things, such as add users, assign certain users to certain PC blades and so on. The added features include time zone synchronization between the thin client and the PC blade if they're in different time zones, for example.

Thin-client computing upswing?

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata Inc., said the interest in various thin-client options is increasing but said he wouldn't call it a "tidal wave or the most common approach."

"If we look at where HP has had success, with PC blades, it's primarily in an area where security is a major concern; for example, offshore call centers. And there are certainly more offshore call centers. There has also been a general increased interest in security," Haff said.

F. Tate Davis, the product marketing manager for business PCs, said HP has "hundreds" of customers using PC blades, with the largest deployment being "just south of 2000." He said HP itself has about 1,400 PC blades deployed.

Bringing desktop computing into the server room can bring with it infrastructure concerns for the data center. It requires more space and power to accommodate the PC blades, which can cramp already cramped data centers. But Haff said it doesn't tend to be a huge problem.

"The overall power implications for a company are probably positive if you're doing server-based PC computing, but it certainly means you have more computing that has to be powered and cooled with the general infrastructure," he said.

Haff added that vendors could have more success with thin-client computing by emphasizing their security benefits rather than pushing the total cost of ownership (TCO) argument.

HP has had PC blades since 2003, although its first generation went kaput when Transmeta Corp., which provided the blades' processors, decided it would stop producing them. HP switched to AMD and came out with a new PC blade in 2005, the bc1500.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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