HP clears desktop space with blade PCs

Hewlett-Packard Co.’s bc1000 blade PCs, first announced last year, are now available in North America for customers looking to manage their employees’ desktop PCs from a central location, HP said Monday.

Blade PCs are thin computers that are stored in a rack in a company’s server room. Users connect to individual blades through a small device that sits on their desks. HP has its own access device called the HP Compaq Thin Client for this purpose.

The idea behind blade PCs is that centrally managed PCs are easier to secure, repair, and update. They also save maintenance costs for organizations with limited space and resources.

Most customers deploy about eight or nine blade PCs for every 10 users, said Tad Bodeman, director of product marketing in HP’s Personal Systems Group. Some organizations need to ensure that each employee has a blade available at any given moment, but most companies interested in blade PCs don’t have every employee online at the same exact time, he said.

Each user connects to a single blade PC with a dedicated processor and storage for the blade’s operating system and applications. Personal storage for documents or files is done directly on a SAN (storage area network) or NAS (network-attached storage) device.

Network managers can connect the individual Compaq Thin Client devices through standard Ethernet wiring or over a wireless connection to their LAN, Bodeman said. Remote users can purchase thin clients with integrated modems that can dial into the LAN and connect to a blade PC through a VPN (virtual private network) connection, he said.

Each bc1000 blade PC comes with a 1GHz Efficeon processor from Transmeta Corp., a 40GB hard drive, and up to 1GB of DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM).

The blades start at US$820 each, and customers can buy a package with the thin client device, storage, installation and training for about US$1,400 per seat, HP said. HP’s Blade PC bc1000 is part of its Consolidated Client Infrastructure, a larger strategy for consolidating PCs with virtualization software and storage devices.

HP is currently evaluating whether to sell blade PCs in Europe and Asia-Pacific, and does not have a firm date for when these products will ship to countries outside of North America, an HP spokeswoman said.

HP joins ClearCube Inc. in the blade PC market. ClearCube has sold a similar product over the last few years to financial services and call center customers.

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