HP unveils blade PCs and Citrix virtualization bundle

HP bundling fourth-gen blade PC line with Citrix XenDesktop 3 virtualization software.

HP is unveiling the fourth generation of its blade PC line and bundling the devices with Citrix XenDesktop 3 virtualization software.

The HP BladeSystem bc2800 and bc2200, due out in March, sit inside the data center letting users connect to them from any location and device, whether it be a thin client, laptop or regular desktop. Unlike a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) model in which multiple virtual machines are contained on a single server, each blade PC can only serve one user at a time. But 280 of them can fit into a single rack, and client virtualization software helps deliver benefits related to security, availability, management and flexibility, according to HP.

"Blade PCs are offering knowledge workers a dedicated and predictable resource," says Dan Nordhues, director of marketing for blade clients at HP. "Because it's in the data center, you get all the advantages of the user endpoint being able to be anywhere."

While the HP blade PCs themselves will be released in March, availability for the bundle including both the PCs and Citrix XenDesktop software has not been announced. Pricing has also not been detailed.

The user experience is pretty much the same whether a customer chooses Citrix virtualization software or HP's client virtualization tools, which include the HP Session Allocation Manager and Remote Graphics Software. But HP is trying to reach out to Citrix customers by giving them the option of using XenDesktop, Nordhues says.

Customers can also choose virtualization software from VMware, Nordhues says, although an announcement issued by HP Wednesday highlights only the relationship with Citrix.

The HP bc2200 uses a single-core AMD Athlon 64 processor, while the bc2800 is based on a dual-core AMD Turion processor. Both blades are preinstalled with Windows Vista Business edition and support additional Windows operating systems and Linux.

The blade PC model typically costs more up-front than the purchase of individual desktops, but can deliver ROI in the long run in part by lowering energy costs, HP officials say. HP says its blade PCs use 25 watts each.

Other benefits promised by HP include simplifying software and hardware management; maximizing resource utilization; securing sensitive data in the data center; and higher availability. If a user is connected to a blade PC that fails, the user can simply log in again and get a new one, Nordhues says. Even though there is a one-to-one relationship between user and blade at any given time, the users don't have to use the same machine every day.

Customers sometimes opt for blade PCs when they are dissatisfied with the VDI model, either because management software is difficult to use or the cost-per-seat was not what they hoped, Nordhues says. But the client virtualization market overall has not yet taken off as much as vendors hoped. "It's a new paradigm," he says. "Some people don't want to be early adopters."

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