M300 Delivers Straightforward Setup Procedure
Some notable features of the M300 thin client include low power usage (as low as 6 watts), no moving parts (no fans, drives, etc.) and a footprint small enough to allow mounting behind a monitor (Video Electronics Standards Association- (VESA-) mounting-capable). The included software can support as many as 45 thin clients per host, allowing 45 users to share a single host system over Ethernet connections to the thin-client devices. Setup proves to be very straightforward, thanks to the limited interaction needed by the administrator and the elimination of third-party hypervisors, connection brokers and so forth. The first step is to select the appropriate host PC hardware and software. Host PC performance proves critical for setting up M300 thin clients; more power and memory offered by the host PC translates to better overall performance for the thin clients.Once the hardware and OS (Windows 7, Windows Server 2008R2 or Windows Multipoint Server 2011) was selected, I installed the vSpace software, which is what turns the host PC into a vSpace server. The installation is wizard-driven and simple. Settings, such as screen resolution, streaming video support, USB support, remote control and so forth were readily found under the appropriate option tabs, making configuration easy. The rest of the setup process, such as plugging in thin clients, attaching monitors, keyboards, peripherals and so on proved to be as easy as setting up a new PC. The thin clients booted up quickly, taking no longer than a typical high-performance desktop PC and many times faster than a typical VDI client that needs to be provisioned upon first-time use. Overall, an M300 thin-client experience is much the same as using a typical desktop PC. However, as I added more thin clients to the network, performance was affected. On busy networks with multiple thin clients, there are some noticeable lags when launching applications or streaming videos, either due to network contention or additional strain placed on the host PC, or even a combination of both, depending upon the mixture of tasks being processed. In other words, heavy traffic will slow down the responsiveness of a thin client, while heavy loads placed on the thin client itself will consume more CPU cycles on the host machine. Nevertheless, for typical workloads, such as word processing, email, Web surfing and so forth, the M300 setup proves to be very effective, giving users an experience akin to a typical desktop PC. With its low entry price, ease of installation and ability to emulate a desktop PC, the M300 may be the ideal way for small businesses, training centers, call centers and the like to inexpensively deploy multiple PCs. Whats more, the savings in power usage and OS licenses prove to make the M300 very cost-effective, especially for those looking to pinch pennies. Ultimately, the M300 may not scale to replace large, complex VDI solutions, but it sure is a good alternative for smaller workgroups looking for the benefits of VDI, without all the setup, maintenance and management hassles. eWEEK also put together a slide show on M300.
For my tests, I selected an HP Z600 workstation with Dual Xeon X5550 processors and 12GB of RAM. The Z600 was running the Windows 7 enterprise edition. My host PC far exceeded the minimum requirements set forth by NComputing and ultimately should be capable of handling at least 60 thin clients under high workloads. NComputing recommends at least an Intel Core2 Quad Q8300 with 8GB of RAM as a starting point. That level of hardware should support 20 thin clients under a low workload, or a dozen thin clients under a high workload. The thin clients use 10/100 Ethernet connections, which may account for the sometimes-sluggish performance seen in my tests.