ClearCube to ship CPU Blades running Pentium 4 chips

Startup ClearCube Technology in January will introduce some of the first server blades running Intel Pentium 4 processors, according to Mike Frost, the company's president and CEO.

Pentium 4 chips as fast as 2GHz will appear in ClearCube's R-Series CPU Blades, the server blade components of the company's C3 hardware platform. ClearCube's C3 product is a unique approach to client/server computing wherein multiple client workstations are tethered to individual computing blades by standard Category 5 cable that can be distributed as far as 200 meters.

The ClearCube approach allows for hyper-dense work environments as each workstation requires only peripherals such as a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. The peripherals plug into a small C/Port, which connects to the CPU Blade, delivering a high-speed, PC-like experience to the user. Eight ClearCube CPU Blades fit into a single, rackable enclosure; 14 enclosures fit into a standard 19-inch rack.

System diagnostic technology and "Virtual NAS" (network attached storage) tools will also arrive early next year, Frost said. Diagnostic technology for the ClearCube system will allow network administrators to monitor the state of each CPU Blade from any secure Internet browser. Because each CPU Blade is a complete computer in itself: monitoring the heat of the blade, the cooling fan performance, and the memory capacity will be able to be performed on a blade-to-blade basis.

With ClearCubes Virtual NAS technology, users will be able to set backup routines for each CPU Blade to store data to a failover blade or other remote storage server.

ClearCube's initial target market for its hardware platform was call centers and other mid-tier computing environments where users performed simple tasks like data input, needing only a dumb terminal, thin client, or compute appliance, and not a full-scale PC. But the company has been making significant headway into enterprise accounts like Salomon Smith Barney Inc. and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., where users work in a dense environment but still want the luxury of full PC performance.

"We thought we were mid-tier but we turned out being higher end," said Frost, who added that ClearCube's increased adoption by financial market companies was "kind of unintentional."

ClearCube will also tackle dual-processor CPU Blades in 2002, as current users are asking for even more performance, Frost said.

To cool the high-heat Pentium 4 chips on each CPU Blade, ClearCube has basically employed a hug fan on the rear of each blade.

"We jokingly suggest that each company put a lock on the door where the racks are so no one gets sucked in," Frost said of the power of the cooling fans.

Blade designs were initially heralded for their ability to not only save space, but to also save power and cooling costs by running cooler. As part of this pitch, blade manufacturers have incorporated lower-power and mobile processors on their blade products, such as Transmeta Corp.'s Crusoe chip or Intel's Mobile Pentium III processor.

Frost said companies looking for performance see any potential power savings from low-power blades as negligible, particularly when taking into account the fact that blades move CPUs into smaller areas, which are easier to cool than large trading floors that have a full sized PC on every desk.

Bob Sutherland, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton, N.H., agreed.

"If you are saving floor space then you are saving power to cool that space. So if you can move your data center to a smaller space, there you begin to save power," Sutherland said.

ClearCube's Frost expects to enlist the help of a larger computer maker such as IBM Corp. or Dell Computer Corp. to help the startup by re-selling ClearCube's products, a move that could happen as soon as next year.

"There will inevitably be a major player selling our products," Frost said. "Because the challenge is still getting the enterprise to trust a young startup."

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