Too Much Variety

By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2006-05-08 Print this article Print

Too Much Variety

With the proliferation of thin clients—or not-so-thin clients, in Lockers view—a new problem arises for senior IT managers: variety.

The rising number of choices among thin clients can complicate a decision, ODonnell said.

Companies pick from many hardware types, ranging from traditional thin clients to server-based virtual desktops, in addition to modified desktop PCs. Thus, companies such as Ardence and, to some extent, VMware, are emphasizing software, leaving the hardware choices up to customers.

The Software-Streaming Platform from Ardence—which transmits a users desktop image to his or her screen—relies on back-end servers more for file serving than for processing. Thus, when using a shared image, which is the same for all users, it can support as many as 200 to 250 clients per server.

Those clients can be diskless PCs, such as Dells, or older PCs whose hard drives have been removed. Given that they use PCs, drawbacks such as showing multimedia files are lessened, said Jeff Hibbard, Ardences vice president of marketing, in Waltham, Mass.

"When I turn my PC on, I choose, do I want to be on Channel 1 or Channel 2? Once booted, I have full Windows—its all running locally on my PC—and I get the full, rich experience," Hibbard said. However, "if someone stole a box that had intelligence data on it, thered be nothing in that box."

And that appeals to customers such as New London Hospitals Foss. "Its great to know that physical piece of hardware will have little to no value to anyone once it leaves this place," he said.

Thin-Client Flavors

Blades: Acting either as stand-ins for single desktops—in a blade desktop product—or as hosts for multiple users desktop environments, these machines literally move the desktop, its data and all processing to the server room, allowing data, applications and operating systems to be accessed remotely. Prices: $1,200 to $2,600

Thin Clients: Sometimes called Windows terminals, thin clients operate off a central server that hosts data and specific applications but retain an operating system and handle some computing on the desktop. Prices range from about $300 to $700 or more.

The In-Between: The alternative to traditional thin clients and blades is the PC. So-called diskless PCs—desktop computers without hard drives—receive their applications and data from servers. Corporate desktops generally range from $350 and up.

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John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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