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Datacentre blade PCs create secure desktops

IT managers are starting to deploy an alternative to both the traditional PC and the dumb terminal, by stationing secure fat client blade PCs in the datacentre, with network access to a port at the user's desk.

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IT managers are starting to deploy an alternative to both the traditional PC and the dumb terminal, by stationing secure fat client blade PCs in the datacentre, with network access to a port at the user's desk.

Anglo-Dutch banking group Insinger De Beaufort Bank, London, has become one of the first UK organisations to replace its workstations with PC blades, from ClearCube Technologies.

The system uses PC blades, which are essentially a set of motherboards in a rack that can hold up to 112 boards. Each blade has an Intel chip and components including a hard drive and memory. Blades connect to a user port about the size of a paperback book at the user's desktop.

Standard Category 5 Ethernet cables then send video, audio, communications and USB traffic between the PC blade and the user port, using a proprietary technology rather than IP.

Insinger de Beaufort was attracted by the secure nature of the system and the fact that users could not tamper with the PC's CD drive or USB ports.

John Bryant, head of UK IT at Insinger de Beaufort, said the company had also experienced laptop thefts in the past, and this solution could secure 150 PC blades in its datacentre.

The company swapped its Gateway tower PCs for the ClearCube system, when it merged three London offices into one earlier this year. It installed a Cisco-based IP network to transfer voice and data traffic, and now its stockbrokers use IP phones. It plans to extend the system to home users, giving them user ports and IP phones.

Bryant said he chose PC blades because many market data applications, such as GL Trade, Reuters, and Bloomberg, require a fat client infrastructure for licensing purposes.

Ken Knotts, senior technologist at Clearcube, admitted ClearCube costs more than the traditional PC client server set-up. "We are more expensive, but we offer cost reductions, security and availability," he said.

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