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By Scott Ferguson  |  Posted 2007-11-07 Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Part of the reason Maner remains bullish is Hewlett-Packards $214 million acquisition of Neoware. The price HP paid for Neoware, Maner said, proves what the industry is worth and that top-tier OEMs are willing to invest.

For Wyse, of San Jose, Calif., and the leading producer of thin-client devices, the goal is to continue to provide more services-rich media and VOIP (voice over IP)-through software as the footprint of the thin client continues to shrink. To perfect this vision, Maner said his company has tried to work with everyone, from IBM to Citrix to VMware.

"Our vision is based completely on an appliance model," Maner said. "Our goal is to commoditize the desktop as far as possible. My job is to make sure that the desktop thin client is commoditized at the hardware level, so that one day we can give it away for free with the software and the services delivering the content to the customer from the server. I want to move the desktop to the data center and virtualize it."

When Nicoletti decided to revamp Jenny Craigs 560 fitness centers, she said she considered traditional desktops but settled on Wyse thin-client devices along with an IBM server in each center. While the centers are not connected to the corporate network, the new model allows Nicoletti to update the companys Web-based applications, such as its own CRM (customer relationship management) software.

She said the ROI and the need to upgrade weighed heavily in her decision.

"I was looking for something that could withstand the test of time, and in the computer world, everything is old in two to three years, and how do you deal with that when you are dealing with 560 locations?" Nicoletti said.

The ROI she got with the thin clients meant she could add even more devices to different centers.

"We were able to deploy a server and a thin client to every single location hosting todays applications," Nicoletti said. "We are even reducing desktop use space because we mounted the thin clients on the backs of the monitors."

While Nicolettis deployment took advantage of the new technology being developed for the thin-client model, it remains a traditional deployment. The field is continuing to evolve. For example, HP has not ruled out additional acquisitions that will help boost its own CCI (Consolidated Client Infrastructure) software to help create a better centralized model.

The Citrix and XenSource merger is promising to deliver additional choices, including the Citrix XenDesktop product that will come to market next year.

Dell also is moving into the server-based computing space. The company on Oct. 10 introduced its On-Demand Desktop Streaming initiative, a combination of hardware, software and services that offers many of the benefits extolled by thin-client providers. However, unlike traditional thin clients or PC blades, Dells package offers a standard desktop model-in this case, either an OptiPlex 745 or 755 PC-with only the hard disk drives removed. The desktop retains an Intel processor and a graphics chip, which offers better graphics capabilities and visual experience than a thin client or PC blades, according to Jeff Clark, senior vice president of Dells Product Group.

Dell also provides the back-end infrastructure within the data center, including a PowerEdge 2950 server, PowerConnect Gigabit Ethernet switch and PowerEdge 2900 storage server.

The individual desktop images, Clark said, are managed by Citrixs Provisioning Server for Desktops software, which will deliver Microsofts Windows XP or Vista operating system and Windows applications from the data center to the individual desktop. Essentially, 100 desktop images can be stored on a single server and then streamed to an employees standard desktop PC.

The diskless OptiPlex desktops will be available in November.

The field has also opened up to other, smaller companies. Pano Logic, in Menlo Park, Calif., is offering a small-form desktop device and server-based software that looks to combine the aspects of thin-client technology and application virtualization from the data center.

Aly Orady, co-founder and CTO of Pano Logic, said his companys particular combination of hardware and software offers much of the same benefits as thin-client computing, especially when it comes to reducing power costs and security. In addition, the Pano Logic products work with a hypervisor, which allows a company to use any products from Microsoft, Citrix or VMware.

"What we are giving clients is a full desktop experience," Orady said. "What they get is [Windows] XP or Vista. They are not getting Citrix or [Microsoft] Terminal Services."

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

If Alessandra Nicoletti could point to one time that her investment in thin-client computers paid off, it happened when someone walked out of a Jenny Craig fitness center with one in the middle of the day. Surprisingly, it was a relief. "We have had incidences where people have picked up a thin client and monitor and have walked out of the center, which I'm not exactly sure what they are going to do with it once they get it home, but when they walked out, the worst I had to think about was, 'OK, I'm going to replace a thin client,'" said Nicoletti, director of IT operations at the Carlsbad, Calif., fitness business, which has about 6,000 employees. "I didn't lose any customer data and nothing was stored—I'm safe," Nicoletti said. "If that had been a PC that somebody walked out with and had information on it, I would have been running around for months." Since the start of the year, thin-client vendors, along with those companies selling PC blades, have been touting centralized computing technology as the clear alternative to traditional desktop computing. Familiar stories, such as those from Jenny Craig, show the security benefits of storing important information back in the data center. If these types of arguments—security, manageability, better return on investment and lower costs—seem familiar, it's because IT managers have heard them for years. For more than a decade, thin-client and PC blade vendors have been trying to break the hold traditional PCs have within the enterprise. IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell said he has been studying the thin-client field for years and has watched it grow from zero to a market that looks to expand about 20 percent each year. However, while this is better than annual growth for desktops—about 4 percent—the number of PCs deployed throughout enterprises dwarfs those of thin clients, which are only now looking to break out of their niche in call centers. While thin clients and PC blades have been widely talked about, these types of clients have failed so far to live up to expectations. O'Donnell, while seeing their benefits, said he remains skeptical that IT departments will adopt the technology. "It's easy to talk about casting aside the old model, but then you have to confront a different experience and try to determine if this really is the better solution," O'Donnell said. "It's not that easy, and there are requirements that go with it and, for one reason or another, the IT people have to figure out what they are comfortable with in the data center. … The IT folks need to get it configured right and have a transition plan in place and figure out what is the right way to do it." While this type of centralized infrastructure has been tried in the past, there have been some significant developments that vendors are now pointing toward to bolster the arguments that thin is finally in. The first, and arguably the most important, is virtualization. Unlike older central computing models, virtualization allows IT departments to set up multiple virtual machines—through such offerings as VMware's VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)—within one system that allows the desktop to draw on its own version of the operating system and applications. Click here to read more about how a startup is bridging the gap between thin client technology and application virtualization for desktop software. "Instead of a single OS and then running [Citrix Systems'] Presentation Server, you can now have an OS in one virtual container and that now is a single instance dedicated to one user," said Amir Husain, chief technology officer of ClearCube, a PC blade vendor in Austin, Texas. "This is a really centralized infrastructure, and inside one VM there is everything an end user needs. There's the OS and the set of applications." The second development is that the hardware and software technology needed to deliver a richer desktop experience to the user has greatly improved, thanks to better graphics technology and new streaming software from the likes of Wyse Technology and Citrix, which snapped up open-source virtualization vendor XenSource for $500 million in August and plans to deliver a product called Citrix XenDesktop next year. Several companies, including IBM, Dell, NEC, ClearCube and Wyse, have been pushing centralized models to catch the trend early. Wyse CEO Tarkan Maner said he feels the market is ready to take a hard look at what thin-client vendors can offer. In terms of power savings and ease of use, Wyse is beginning to promote a concept called "zero computing," which looks to reduce the power the company's devices use by removing all the operating systems and leaving only the BIOS and firmware that will use about 5 watts of power, while increasing the thin client's longevity. The average desktop can use as much as 150 to 200 watts. Page 2: Server-Based Momentum Builds

Part of the reason Maner remains bullish is Hewlett-Packard's $214 million acquisition of Neoware. The price HP paid for Neoware, Maner said, proves what the industry is worth and that top-tier OEMs are willing to invest. For Wyse, of San Jose, Calif., and the leading producer of thin-client devices, the goal is to continue to provide more services—rich media and VOIP (voice over IP)—through software as the footprint of the thin client continues to shrink. To perfect this vision, Maner said his company has tried to work with everyone, from IBM to Citrix to VMware. "Our vision is based completely on an appliance model," Maner said. "Our goal is to commoditize the desktop as far as possible. My job is to make sure that the desktop thin client is commoditized at the hardware level, so that one day we can give it away for free with the software and the services delivering the content to the customer from the server. I want to move the desktop to the data center and virtualize it." When Nicoletti decided to revamp Jenny Craig's 560 fitness centers, she said she considered traditional desktops but settled on Wyse thin-client devices along with an IBM server in each center. While the centers are not connected to the corporate network, the new model allows Nicoletti to update the company's Web-based applications, such as its own CRM (customer relationship management) software. She said the ROI and the need to upgrade weighed heavily in her decision. "I was looking for something that could withstand the test of time, and in the computer world, everything is old in two to three years, and how do you deal with that when you are dealing with 560 locations?" Nicoletti said. The ROI she got with the thin clients meant she could add even more devices to different centers. "We were able to deploy a server and a thin client to every single location hosting today's applications," Nicoletti said. "We are even reducing desktop use space because we mounted the thin clients on the backs of the monitors." While Nicoletti's deployment took advantage of the new technology being developed for the thin-client model, it remains a traditional deployment. The field is continuing to evolve. For example, HP has not ruled out additional acquisitions that will help boost its own CCI (Consolidated Client Infrastructure) software to help create a better centralized model. The Citrix and XenSource merger is promising to deliver additional choices, including the Citrix XenDesktop product that will come to market next year. Dell also is moving into the server-based computing space. The company on Oct. 10 introduced its On-Demand Desktop Streaming initiative, a combination of hardware, software and services that offers many of the benefits extolled by thin-client providers. However, unlike traditional thin clients or PC blades, Dell's package offers a standard desktop model—in this case, either an OptiPlex 745 or 755 PC—with only the hard disk drives removed. The desktop retains an Intel processor and a graphics chip, which offers better graphics capabilities and visual experience than a thin client or PC blades, according to Jeff Clark, senior vice president of Dell's Product Group. Dell also provides the back-end infrastructure within the data center, including a PowerEdge 2950 server, PowerConnect Gigabit Ethernet switch and PowerEdge 2900 storage server. The individual desktop images, Clark said, are managed by Citrix's Provisioning Server for Desktops software, which will deliver Microsoft's Windows XP or Vista operating system and Windows applications from the data center to the individual desktop. Essentially, 100 desktop images can be stored on a single server and then streamed to an employee's standard desktop PC. The diskless OptiPlex desktops will be available in November. The field has also opened up to other, smaller companies. Pano Logic, in Menlo Park, Calif., is offering a small-form desktop device and server-based software that looks to combine the aspects of thin-client technology and application virtualization from the data center. Aly Orady, co-founder and CTO of Pano Logic, said his company's particular combination of hardware and software offers much of the same benefits as thin-client computing, especially when it comes to reducing power costs and security. In addition, the Pano Logic products work with a hypervisor, which allows a company to use any products from Microsoft, Citrix or VMware. "What we are giving clients is a full desktop experience," Orady said. "What they get is [Windows] XP or Vista. They are not getting Citrix or [Microsoft] Terminal Services." Check out eWEEK.com's Desktops & Notebooks Center for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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