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HP declares the blade PC is back

Manufacturer re-introduces the concept, this time powered by an AMD64 processor

Hewlett-Packard hasn’t given up on the idea of blade PCs.This month the company introduced a new AMD-powered blade PC and promised the channel will eventually play a larger role in their sale.
Introduced by the company last year with a CPU from Transmeta Corp., HP has been trying to sell enterprise accounts with the concept of running thin clients on the desktop powered by blade PCs in the data centre.
The approach — which it has dubbed Consolidated Client Infrastructure (CCI)— has a “potential” 50 per cent reduction in the total cost of ownership over four years compared to a desktop PC by centralizing security and upgrades, the company says.
However, earlier this year Transmeta decided to shift its focus away from making x86 processors, which hurt HP marketing.
“We had to stop a lot of customer engagements we had and focus on 20 pilots” until it found another chipmaker, said Tad Bodeman, director of the CCI program.
The new HPbc1500 is powered by a low-power AMD Athlon64 1500+ processor in a package that can put 280 blades in a 19-in. rack.
“The ability to have very dense solutions and maximize data centre usage is a critical attribute of the solution,” Bodeman said.
The AMD CPU is more powerful than the Transmeta chip it replaces, he added.
Each blade comes with 512 MB of memory, which can be expanded to 2 GB, a 40 GB hard drive, a broadcom 10/100 NIC and Windows XP Pro.
The solution uses Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection to link any device running Windows or Linux thin client software to the blade.

Enterprise play only
HP management software running on its own server provisions the blades. With it each user logging on to the system would see his or her own desktop and access only data allowed by the system manager.
Bodeman made it clear CCI is not for small or medium-sized businesses. To get the financial payback customers would have to order at least 500 blades, he said.
He expects only partners who sell to enterprise accounts will want to market blade PCs.
And while partners can sell the hardware, HP will look after services such as system design and implementation.
However, Bodeman said HP is working on a plan to allow solution providers to offer these services sometime next year.
Alan Freedman, an IDC Canada infrastructure analyst, said the idea has some value for system managers who have to look at a lot of software installations and upgrades.
“Any time they can reduce their costs by time or by bodies, companies will be interested,” he said.
He also believes the solution will appeal most to organizations whose users need access to many applications.