Storage is back - and this time it's personal

In the world of IT managements, we all know our limits. We know we can't make something out of nothing, and we know how much space there is on our PCs and in our network storage. If we need more storage, we have to buy more - everything has its maximum capacity.

IT and network managers often face the problem of being stretched to the limit of their storage capacity, and their own capabilities, by overuse of certain systems by users and misuse of others.

We all have them - users who download huge files of music and save them all on the system, users who never compress files, delete emails or archive documents. And then there's the opposite kind, whose use of the PC is limited to data entry or the occasional Word document. Personal profiles of each user combine to ensure that the IT manager can sometimes be facing the storage equivalent of knife juggling. However, what if we could ensure that it never got to that stage?

PC blades are set to revolutionise the way in which we can deal with storage and PC usage - enabling the IT manager to control the delicate issues of disk space and functionality for each user without having to disturb the worker with a quick desk-side chat about filing or the issue of a stern email to all employees. The concept of the PC blade enables users to effectively share hard-drive storage space with one another, in a totally flexible and discrete way. Storage and PC Blades can be pooled and shared, and most importantly, controlled by the IT manager.

Here are two examples. All PC Blades, like PCs, have a dedicated hard drive to assure application performance. The standard hard drive size is <40GB, with most users filling about 10GB of space. Right now, that extra 30GB of space is wasted. Through software the extra space on PC Blade hard drives can be pooled to back up other individual hard drives in an encrypted manner. In the event of a failure a PC Blades entire image including user data and setting can be restored within minutes not hours, without having to have added any extra storage space.

Additionally, PC Blades allow the sharing of resources based on end user needs. A designer engineer or analyst will need his or her own PC blade in their day-to-day operations. However, a typing pool, which needs computing capabilities and only a few standard applications, may be able to share a PC blade. By centralizing PC blades and providing remote management capabilities, IT managers are able to dynamically allocate both storage and blade based on user needs.

So, what is this revolutionary technology and how does it work?

The PC blade solution solves the issues that plague desktop deployments in the enterprise and in the public sector environment. It returns control of the desktop to the IT manager without sacrificing the flexibility and performance that users expect from a traditional desktop computer. The result is a 40% reduction in desktop operating costs, 99.9% desktop availability, tighter data and hardware security and remote manageability.

The concept is simple: take the computer off the user's desk, shrink it to a PC Blade, centralise the PC Blades in a secure location, and use software tools to remotely manage and switch between computers and users from anywhere in the world. IT staff can remotely manage and control the resources of their end-user computing assets - without any trips to the desktop

The computer is removed from the user's workspace and moves it to the data center or comms room. This creates additional workspace while eliminating the heat and noise associated with a traditional PC. All that resides at the end user's desk is the User Port, which is roughly the size of a VHS tape. It can rest on the desk, be mounted underneath, or be integrated with a flat panel display.

The User Port provides all the connections and functions required to deliver fully-functional, dedicated Wintel computing to the end user. The User Port saves considerable space in the office or cubicle.

Where data is concerned, security of storage and networks also becomes a concern. The PC Blade system improves physical security because the high-value equipment is locked-down in a secured data center or comms room. It also enables IT managers to eliminate the theft of company data and stop users from introducing unlicensed software or viruses into the system. This can be accomplished through USB lockouts on both the hardware and software. PC Blades strengthen network security since the entire network run is physically enclosed in a secured environment that can be shielded from network sniffing devices.

The simplified architecture allows the IT staff to manage every computer in the network from a single, centralised location. New users can be added in a fraction of the usual time.

IT Managers can also see into the system's future with predictive failure alerts. If there is a hardware failure, then the PC blades can be remotely "hot swapped" without interrupting the user. Finally, PC blades can drastically reduce operating costs by changing the way IT mangers administer desktop support and service. The centralisation of the PC Blades virtually eliminates desk-side support. As a result, troubleshooting becomes a faster, more efficient process, while moves, adds and changes are significantly easier to implement.

In conclusion, it seems it is possible to make storage a personal issue for each employee without having to 'get personal' with each and every user about their desktop habits. The concept of the PC blade looks set to have a large impact on sectors where the issues it hits first, such as desktop space in the financial sector, and security in the government sector. Although the US is currently leading the way in terms of adoption, with enterprises such as Atlanta Business Bank and the US Air Force already on board, UK IT managers are also beginning to investigate what the solution can do for them. It looks like storage just got interesting...

James Schneider has over 14 years of international business development and sales experience. He has worked and lived throughout Latin America and Europe. Prior to joining ClearCube, James held senior business development, sales, and operations management positions with Union Pacific software subsidiary Transentric, Dell Computer, and Kingsley Group Management Consulting.  In addition, he worked for the US State Department and is a founding partner of Alles Group in Mexico City, today recognized as Mexico's premier industrial and commercial real estate consultancy.

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