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IBM's BladeCenter Powers The PC

With longtime partner VMware by its side, IBM today unveiled a new software service that provisions desktop functionality to any PC from BladeCenter servers.

IBM's Virtualized Hosted Client Infrastructure uses a combination of VMware's ESX Server virtualization software and Citrix Presentation Server client access software to provision computing chores from IBM's BladeCenter system.

The Citrix software works with VMware's software to provision hosted clients running Windows XP. IBM said customers will be able to print documents and enjoy such perks as USB drive support, dual monitors and audio.

Using the IBM blade servers as their base power for the hosted service, corporate users limit susceptibility to theft and viruses, downtime during a hard drive failure, or having to rebuild their preferences and settings after each client "refresh."

Besides basic machine consolidation, the hosted service's provisioning agenda helps increase a user's performance by meeting the performance needs of each virtual hosted client machine. This lets corporations support more users with fewer resources.

Tim Dougherty, director of IBM's BladeCenter strategy, said the software is intended for workers who need to access their computers frequently, as well as for remote employees and branch office environments.

"We think it's going to be particularly compelling for people in remote offices, whether that be a retail store, auto dealer or certain knowledge workers where security is important, such as financial services and software development," Dougherty said.

Dougherty said the deal, announced at VMWorld 2005, is a byproduct of the collaboration between IBM, VMware and Citrix in Blade.org, a community focused on accelerating the expansion of blade systems such as Big Blue's BladeCenter.

This approach, while new from IBM, is not new to the market per se. Vendors such as ClearCube Technology and HP already have had solutions in the market for the last five years.

In fact, ClearCube claims to have pioneered the concept of centralized PC blade computing.

But Dougherty said the difference between IBM's new hosted virtualization and ClearCube's technology is that IBM uses virtualization to provision more client instances than what ClearCube is capable of provisioning.

"I'll probably run somewhere between 10 to 15 instances of a client on a particular server, so I can get up to 80 percent utilization on that server," Dougherty said.

IBM's global services group will deliver Virtualized Hosted Client Infrastructure in the first quarter of 2006.