Air Force base adds fiber to PC blades environment

Lackland Air Force Base plans to add fiber connections between its farm of PC blades and secure servers, giving users desktop access to both classified and unclassified files.

The San Antonio, Texas, base began replacing its desktop PCs systems with a PC blades environment six months ago. It has tested a beta version of the fiber command ports from ClearCube Technology Inc. The Austin, Texas, creator of the new technology, is upgrading the blades under a follow-on deal to its original contract to install the systems at the Texas base.

Lackland officials said the fiber will let users toggle to classified files from their monitors rather than having to walk down the hall to a secure room or having a second system on their desks.

'You can only transmit data securely over fiber,' said Russ McFall, a computer network administrator at the base. 'So you don't have to have two computers at your desk, two monitors, two mice.'

Already, the PC blades, which have been installed for about 80 percent of Lackland's unclassified PCs, have helped the base better secure its data, McFall said. No CPU tower means no drive for unauthorized floppies, CD-ROMs or computer games, he said. The PC blades sit stacked in a locked server room.

ClearCube would not divulge the value of the Air Force contract. The typical per-seat cost for the company's PC blades is $2,000. The addition of fiber technology hikes the price by another $1,000 to $1,500 per computer.

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