ClearCube Technology C3 Architecture

The complexities of managing desktop computers can be very challenging for IT managers and ultraexpensive for businesses. Deploying and upgrading systems, for example, often requires tens or hundreds of time-consuming visits to individual workstations. In addition, administrators deal daily with system crashes and accidental machine damage due to end-user errors.

These mistakes, of course, result in a plethora of help desk calls — and off goes another of your well-paid IT employees to deal with a single machine, possibly wasting several hours or more. And let us all collectively shudder at the lurking possibility that, at any given time, an employee might stick a corrupt file into his or her hard drive; the potential cost and system damage from this class of accident is practically inestimable.

To cut down on these hassles and expenses, many companies deploy managed PC solutions. Traditional managed PCs rely on custom software applications that sit on a server for users to share. Because these applications are centralized, they are easier to access if something goes wrong. In addition, implementations and upgrades require only one process instead of many desktop visits.

However, this system does have its drawbacks: Unlike traditional desktops, managed PCs focus solely on access and entry rather than on processing, which translates into less power at slower speeds. And because managed PC solutions require desktop computers to reside in every workspace, your IT staff still spends a great deal of time traveling from office to office. In addition, with managed PCs, your users retain access to floppy drives and CD-ROMs, with which they can accidentally brew a whole host of costly disasters.

Recently at PC Expo, ClearCube Technology announced its new C3 Architecture, a desktop management system that provides the centralization benefits of a managed PC solution but with greater control for administrators and superior performance for end-users.

With the ClearCube solution, every employee still uses a standard and fully functional PC. But instead of placing PCs on individual desktops, ClearCube uses Intel-based hardware in the form of small cards or CPU Blades, which collectively reside in a metal housing rack that is centrally managed from a secure environment. Besides the mouse, monitor, and keyboard, the only thing that sits on the user desktop is a small C/Port box, which provides a category 5 connection to the CPU Blade. ClearCube’s patented technology allows the category 5 wire to carry a mixture of digital and analog signals as far as 600 feet.

Because the CPU Blades (read: PCs) reside in a central environment, installations and upgrades are a cinch and user damage to your network is all but eliminated. As with managed PC tools, ClearCube relieves your IT staff of copious personal visits in response to help desk calls. But unlike ordinary managed PC solutions, ClearCube also allows users to maintain personalized applications with all of the power of a traditional PC.

And with ClearCube, your users have no floppy drives or CD-ROMs. Although this may result in certain inconveniences, such as for the employee who wants to take home a file for the evening, it reduces the chances of an infected file sneaking into your network.

ClearCube’s closest competition comes from managed PC tools, such as Dell’s Optiplex GX110 and Compaq’s Deskpro EN 815E series. But because ClearCube’s unique solution delivers simple administration, it stands in a class by itself and receives a score of Excellent.

ClearCube’s CPU Blade houses all of the components of a standard PC. It supports an Intel Pentium III (P3 700) or Celeron processor, as much as 512MB RAM, a hard drive, and 10/100 Ethernet, and it has XGA/VGA/ SXGA video support. The Cage is the metal housing that provides the Ethernet connections, airflow, management and power lines for as many as eight CPU Blades.You can run 12 Cages in the standard 19-inch rack for a maximum of 96 CPUs per rack.

To put the solution to the the test, we set up several ClearCube PCs and gathered a group of Test Center analysts to serve as lab rats. We hid each system underneath a workbench so that the lab rats did not know they were using the ClearCube instead of a standard PC.

The analysts accessed files off the network, created documents, and surfed the Net. None of them noted any unusual system behaviors or usage issues. Except for the fact that they had no access to a floppy drive or a CD-ROM, their experience was the same as if they were sitting in front their own machines.

C3’s solution is ideal for organizations that want to contain a high number of PCs in one location without sacrificing the speed or performance of any individual machine. Obviously, if you have already invested in an entire network of desktops, ClearCube’s solution might seem like a major and costly overhaul. However, it is worth the investment to roll out this solution slowly, beginning with those areas that most require centralization, such as call centers or support desks. This truly innovative product gives us a glimpse of the future of desktop management and easily earns our top score of Excellent.

Senior Analyst Ana Orubeondo (ana_orubeondo@infoworld.com) relishes client hardware, workstations, and laptops.

THE BOTTOM LINE: EXCELLENT

ClearCube C3 Architecture

Business Case: C3’s unique architecture centralizes your PCs in a secure and easily maintained location, protecting your system from corrupt files, saving administration costs, and relieving your IT staff from an endless stream of desktop visits.

Technology Case: This easily deployed desktop management solution supports Intel Pentium III or Celeron, offers 512MB of RAM, XGA/VGA/SXGA video support, and 10/100 Ethernet. A category 5 wire connects the centralized PCs to users via a C/Port device.

Pros:

+ Reduces administrative and support costs

+ Secures business data and company hardware

+ Comes with three-year warranty

+ Lack of floppy drives and CD-ROMs increases network security

Cons:

– Lack of floppy drives and CD-ROMs causes inconvenience to end-users

Cost: Starts at $1,095 for Pentium III600 with Intel 810e

Platform(s): Windows 95/98/2000, Windows NT, DOS, Linux

ClearCube Technology, Austin, Texas; (512) 343-7323; http://www.clearcube.com

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