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Management boost for PC virtualisers - a look at ClearCube

Companies looking to implement a virtual desktop strategy could find their task easier following ClearCube’s decision in September to make its Sentral management software more widely available. The suite, which provides monitoring as well as connection brokering, can now be used with third-party hardware such as Dell, IBM or HP servers.

Sentral was developed by ClearCube to manage the firm’s own blades, which put PC hardware into rack-mounted enclosures in a datacentre and provide user access through a desktop console. Early kit simply provided each user with a dedicated blade, but in 2003 the firm added the ability for several users to share a blade, cutting the cost per seat for customers, and then introduced tools to manage it all. ClearCube now, however, sees a wider opportunity to sell the tools to firms using third-party hardware.

“We came to the conclusion that we can provide value to customers that don’t use our hardware,” said ClearCube president and chief executive Rick Hoffman. The company was concerned about losing hardware sales if it did this, “but we realised we weren’t going to win anyway if an enterprise is a long-term Dell or HP shop,” he added. The software will therefore be available for systems integrators to use when deploying virtual desktops into businesses, regardless of the hardware that they already have in place.

The industry is now moving quickly to adopt desktop virtualisation, according to ClearCube, and so there is a pressing need for effective management tools in this space. Hoffman said at least one HP server customer has expressed an interest in Sentral.

Many other vendors, including VMware, provide a desktop broker – the middleware that links up a user to a virtual machine at login – but ClearCube has at least a two-year lead over rivals, Hoffman said.

“Sentral is more than just a connection broker, it monitors the health of the hardware and can alert an administrator if a blade is overheating, for example, and let them move the users seamlessly to a different system. This is why trading floors use our technology – downtime costs them money,” Hoffman added.

And while Sentral can now be used with third-party hardware, Hoffman maintained that ClearCube’s PC blades offer greater flexibility for desktop virtualisation.

“We still provide the capability to do one-on-one for demanding users, which isn’t really economical with Xeon server blades. At the other end, we can scale to host four or five task-based workers [per blade],” Hoffman said.

For the future, ClearCube is looking at ways that smartphones and other handheld clients could be used to provide access to virtual PCs.

“Many mobile devices run Windows Mobile, and we can put a Sentral agent down on there and enjoy the same access brokering as a PC or laptop,” Hoffman said. While the small form factor may limit what can be achieved by this, it could help users get to their email, for example. “We’re looking at translating screens to make it easier to use,” he added.

Read the original article from ITWeek, here.

Published Monday, October 01, 2007 6:55 PM by David Marshall
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