ClearCube to ship Pentium 4 chip blades

Startup ClearCube Technology will introduce some of the first server blades to run Intel Pentium 4 processors in January.

Startup ClearCube Technology will introduce some of the first server blades to run Intel Pentium 4 processors in January.

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. C3 allows multiple client workstations to be tethered to individual computing blades by standard Category 5 cable that can be distributed as far as 200m.

The ClearCube approach allows for hyper-dense work environments because each workstation requires only peripherals, such as a monitor, keyboard and mouse. The peripherals plug into a small C/Port that connects to the chip blade and delivers a high-speed PC-like experience to the user.

Eight ClearCube chip blades fit into a single, rackable enclosure. Some 14 enclosures fit into a standard 19in rack.

System diagnostic technology and virtual network attached storage (NAS) tools will also arrive early next year, said Mike Frost, ClearCube's president and chief executive.

Diagnostic technology for the ClearCube system will enable network administrators to monitor the state of each chip blade from any secure Internet browser. 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, as each blade is a complete computer in itself.

ClearCube's virtual NAS technology will allow users to set backup routines for each chip blade to store data to a failover blade or other remote storage server.

The company's initial target market for its hardware platform was call centres and other middle-tier computing environments, where users performed simple tasks and needed only a dumb terminal, thin client or computer appliance.

However, ClearCube has been making significant headway into enterprise accounts, where users work in dense environments 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 "unintentional".

ClearCube will also tackle dual-processor chip blades in 2002 because current users are asking for even more performance, Frost said.

To cool the high-heat Pentium 4 chips on each blade, ClearCube has employed a huge 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.

Blade designs were initially heralded for their ability to not only save space, but to also save power and cooling costs. As part of this pitch, blade manufacturers have incorporated low power and mobile processors on their blade products, such as Transmeta'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 that blades move chips into smaller areas, which are easier to cool than large trading floors that have a full-sized PC on every desk.

"If you are saving floor space, then you are saving power to cool that space," said Bob Sutherland, an analyst at Technology Business Research. "So, if you can move your data centre to a smaller space, there you begin to save power."

Frost expects to enlist the help of a larger computer maker, such as IBM or Dell, to help the startup by reselling ClearCube's products, a move that could happen as early as next year.

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