Remember, not too many years back, what the typical server room looked
like? It was row after row of Compaq Systempro servers sitting on metal
Metro shelving units. Inside each server you'd find more empty space
than actual components. What a waste.
A few years later, Compaq finally got it right and started marketing its
now-ubiquitous rack-mount servers. Never mind that companies like the
still-in-business Cubix (which had dubbed itself "first in blade
servers") and the long-defunct Morton Management were doing this in the
A few years ago, servers finally shrunk to the so-called blade format,
just 1U or 2U in height. The density of today's blade servers compared
with those Systempros of yesteryear is nothing short of mind boggling.
Over the years, attempts also have been made to shrink the real-estate
hogging desktop PC. You may recall one effort, the Earth Station from
Alloy, an early 1990s effort to stuff processor, video, memory, hard
drive, and floppy drive into a keyboard chassis only slightly bigger
than what IBM was shipping with its PCs. If it was security that you
were after, the floppy drive could be omitted.
Well, HP is at it again, and what they're up to has to be very, very
good news for any solution provider who'd rather not walk from desk to
desk every time PCs need upgrading.
First announced in Dec. 2003, HP this week said its Blade PC, the model
bc1000, is now widely available. It's a great idea.
A blade PC is a client computer that sits in a rack in a company's
server room. That's right, all the PCs in a corporation can now be
locked up in a central location. Think of the physical security. Think
of the I/O security. Think of how easy it is to maintain them. To log on
from one's desk, a user connects through a small thin client that sits
on the desktop.
According to HP (and, of course, you've got to take this with a grain of
salt), total lifetime cost of ownership can be slashed by as much as 50
percent. Well, even if it's really only half of that, it's still an idea
whose time has come.
The blade PC is part of the HP's Consolidated Client Infrastructure
(CCI) solution, which includes blade servers. The goal of CCI, according
to HP is to offer a "virtualized PC solution enabling businesses to
consolidate and optimize computing and storage resources for better
security and manageability while maintaining a high-quality,
personalized desktop experience for end-users." Yeah, it's a mouthful of
marketing double talk, but I'm ready to sign up.
Keith LeFebvre, Vice President of Business PCs for HP's North America
Personal Systems Group, says that, according to recent studies,
enterprise companies may spend as much as $8,000 to maintain a
traditional PC throughout its lifecycle, and that CCI can cut that IT
figure in half.
There's another way to save, too, one that you have no way to calculate
using your current ROI model. Blade PCs are not a one-to-one
proposition. You don't need to install a blade PC for every desk where
there would have been a traditional PC. Instead, it's possible to
install fewer, based on the premise that not every user is going to be
pounding away at the keyboard at the same time. Whether you install 90,
95, or even 98 blade PCs for every 100 users, the savings add up when
scaled across thousands of employees in an enterprise. In fact, HP
believes that 70 blade PCs for every 100 users is adequate in most
cases. The dynamic allocation engine automatically assigns the next
available blade PC to users as they log on.
And then there's the storage factor. With blade PCs, each user's
personal storage is on the servers, the NAS, the SAN, or whatever
alphabet soup a customer's storage infrastructure happens to be. That
means with no more possibility of local storage, everything gets backed
up without having to configure the backup software to reach into
individual clients PCs. That's a real time saver.
The way HP is implementing CCI is essentially a three-tiered model.
(You're darn right that it's designed to sell lots of HP hardware.)
-- On the desktop is an access tier using thin clients. This is how
individual users connect to the array of blade PCS.
-- The so-called compute tier, with racks of blade PCs, sits inside the
-- Finally, you hit the resource tier, made up of a storage pool,
network printers, application servers, and other networked resources,
also inside the data center
Here's how it works, in HP's own words: "With CCI, end users access
their applications and data in a customized environment -- just as they
do today. The difference is that users establish a one-to-one
connection with dynamically allocated blade PCs and centralized storage.
Individual desktop images and data are stored and controlled in an IT
infrastructure in the data center."
Implementation of new blade PCs is pretty quick work. The new blade PCs
are automatically re-configured and entered into the blade pool,
reducing set-up and ongoing maintenance costs.
And if you're an "Intel Inside" lover, well, forget it. The bc1000
features a 1.0 gigahertz Transmeta Efficeon 8000 processor and up to a
gigabyte of double data rate SDRAM.
Want to know more? Check out HP's CCI's Web site at www.hp.com/go/cci
I'll be learning a lot more about this in the months to come. I'm
betting you will, too.