Finally, the desktop PC no longer needs a desktop

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

early 1990s.

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

data center

-- 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

I'll be learning a lot more about this in the months to come. I'm

betting you will, too.

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