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ClearCube CTO interviewed; High Performance VDI discussed!

I spoke to Amir sometime back and was truly impressed with their offerings. These guys are dishing out some really cool devices. Check out the interview, I'll be doing the video interview of the CSO as well at VMworld in Cannes!

  • Dear Amir, tell us a bit about your role at ClearCube and briefly your past?

I’m Chief Technology Officer at ClearCube, and I’ve been with the company now for the last six and a half years. Over this period, we’ve witnessed the explosive growth of virtualization and alternate centralized models for next generation desktop computing, of which VDI is one form. A key part of my role has really been to evolve ClearCube’s technology offering in way that benefits our over 1000 enterprise customers, while also staying true to our roots, which lie in innovation. I’m incredibly proud of the fact that during my association with ClearCube, we’ve filed and won a large number of patents in the connection brokering and virtualization arenas, we delivered the world’s first connection brokering software in 2003 and continue to build on that today, and have won numerous industry awards including the VMWORLD 2007 Best Desktop Virtualization software award.

Software and entrepreneurship have been twin passions with me since as far back as I can remember. I started my career by founding a Web Services company called Kurion, back in 1998. With my partner, we raised a fair amount of venture capital and sold the business to a California based software firm. I then started a second company focused on systems management, which eventually merged with ClearCube. So the experience at ClearCube for me has been a very entrepreneurial one; I was charged with creating a software strategy and product set for the company. Until 2002, ClearCube did not have any software products of its own. Delivering on that challenge has been an incredibly fun and rewarding experience.

  • Please tell us a bit about ClearCube?

ClearCube has played a pioneering role in the Centralized Computing Industry, which is now gaining a lot of attention especially due to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure adoption and the deep interest around this solution as potentially the next manifestation of the desktop PC. We started out roughly 10 years ago with a distance extension product that rapidly morphed into a PC Blade based centralized computing solution. Around 2002, we started realizing that distance extension over the IP protocol was really the way the industry was headed and decided to fully support IP based remoting. That is also what resulted in our connection broker, Grid Center, which we released in 2003 as the industry’s first VDI connection management product. We’ve really been one of those pioneering companies that have had to invent the ladder in order to climb it; whether it was the PC Blade, Connection Brokering or VDI Management. Along the way we’ve delivered the same set of core benefits, better management, better uptime and improved security, to our customer base.

  • Tell us about your product line?

ClearCube has evolved into a solutions company with a fairly sophisticated product line across multiple areas; the blade backend that belongs in the datacenter, the client device that sits out at the desktop, and very importantly, the software that manages the users, the connections and all the devices. Our flagship software product, Sentral™ is a Virtual Desktop Management application that combines all the key pieces you need in order to successfully deploy a centralized VDI environment, including Connection Brokering, Virtual Machine management, Software based load balancing, Remote Control and many of the traditional inventory, asset, health and reporting functions. Sentral puts all of this together in one product and then provides vendor agnostic support for all the key Hypervisors; ESX from VMware, Hyper-V from Microsoft and Xen from the Open Source Community. On the front-end, Sentral supports a variety of connection protocols including RDP, PCoIP, TDX, ClearCube Analog and others. Apart from the software, ClearCube continues to deliver Blade systems which support the latest and greatest processor technology, combined with highly innovative client devices that fulfil the needs of all classes of enterprise users.

  • The market is crowded with Desktop Virtualization vendors, what makes ClearCube stand apart?

A number of things. Hardly any of the desktop virtualization vendors have informed their product strategy with 10 years of experience in delivering centralized and virtualized solutions to some of the largest customers in the world. This we believe is a huge advantage for us. Moreover, our technology development has been fuelled by both the innovation that is part of our tradition, and real-world inputs from dozens and dozens of our customers. Because of these inputs, which primarily call for simplicity of use, we have integrated all the key components that are required to successfully implement VDI in one product. With many of our competitors you are caught in the middle of this multi-vendor, finger pointing competition. The connection broker worked, but the virtual machine lifecycle management software didn’t! Whose fault is it? You literally need 7 or 8 different pieces of infrastructure, from a connection broker, to a load balancer, to thinclient management tools and more, to actually deploy and manage a VDI infrastructure effectively. By combining everything in one package, Sentral become imminently usable and deployable in real environments.

  • What about I/O, can I scale my applications with your solution?

Absolutely, one of the key liberating aspects of centralized computing is that you can connect to any number of backend hosts – physical or virtual – as you need to. With software based connection brokering, as your application or I/O needs increase, you can always be allocated a different platform in the datacenter. Maybe you share it with fewer people, or maybe you consume all of it on your own. These are the kinds of real-time reallocations of enterprise compute power that make our solution and the overall VDI platform so exciting. We’ve always viewed Sentral as an uber resource manager; something that allows instant reallocation of I/O and compute power to any one of the tens of thousands of enterprise users that may need it.

  • What is the price tag for ClearCube solution?

The price tag varies based on whether you want a virtualized setup with both hardware and software, or a high end centralized workstation, 1:1 dedicated setup. In general, on the hardware side a virtualized “seat” could run you about $1300-$1500, and if you’re looking at a very high end, quad-monitor, 60 frames a second type trader workstation solution, it could be considerably more than that.

  • So are you hypervisor-vendor agnostic?

Completely. We support Xen, Microsoft Virtual Server, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware Server and VMware ESX (3.0.x and 3.5).

  • Tell us about your Sentral product, how will it evolve in the coming months?

There’s a lot of very exciting things we have in store for Sentral. Generally speaking, we will continue to expand support for Hypervisor platforms and build in some pretty interesting automated management technology for Virtual Machine environments. We are also opening up the application from an API standpoint so that it can integrate with other solutions in a wider enterprise context. We will be coming out with a Windows Mobile 5/6 client application in the next few months and are continuing to increase the number of thinclients and remoting protocols we support. The roadmap for Sentral is full of compelling and useful innovations that we can’t wait to deliver to our current and future customers.

  • How do you keep up with the market developments and innovations, that are increasingly rendering todays solutions obsolete?

That can always be daunting, with so much happening out there in a variety of different areas. The challenge is that ClearCube is poised at the nexus of so many key trends – mobility, virtualization, enterprise computing, web services – that staying current with these areas of technology can be somewhat akin to drinking from a fire hose. I read a ton, and try to talk to analysts, journalists and customers very often. There’s a lot of input we get from peers in the industry, our customer base and the analyst community that you just won’t find written out anywhere. Finally, I believe strongly in immersing myself in the technology personally. That’s the only way to really comprehend what’s going on; I still code from time to time, and I have a lab setup where I personally evaluate technologies that are interesting to us. My team is absolutely fantastic and I try to encourage them to find out as much as they can about emerging technologies by actually implementing and using them. I often get “brain dumps” on synergistic or competitive products and technologies from our developers. The bottom line is that because technology is a deep passion with me, I can do this 24x7 and not get tired of it. And with the speed and amount of innovation that’s happening in our industry, 24x7 is barely enough!


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