Neoware Rolls Out Thin-Client Apps

Neoware Systems introduced four new appliances this week, aimed at industries, like health care, that require a high level of security and portability.

Neoware Systems Inc. this week introduced four new thin-client appliances aimed at the enterprise.

The new appliances are compatible with network management platforms including IBM Tivoli, Microsoft Systems Management Server and Altiris Deployment Solution.

"Typically companies dont like proprietary technologies that lock them into a single solution; its a 1970s-style business model," said Mike Kantrowitz, chairman and CEO of King of Prussia, Pa.-based Neoware. "This gives customers a choice of management tool that is the same for PCs, printers, servers and other devices."

Kantrowitz said the new appliances, based on chipsets from VIA Technologies Inc., also boost performance. "With VIAs chipsets we can provide the same performance as with PCs, such as higher video resolution," he said. Neoware announced last week it was extending its relationship with VIA, an embedded hardware specialist based in Taipei, Taiwan. Neoware, which also uses Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Geode processor in many of its platforms, will continue to work with AMD, said Kantrowitz.

Neowares new entry-level Capio One thin-client appliance starts at $199 and can run any Windows application from a server. It is available in two versions, with a choice of Citrix ICA, Microsoft RDP or Neoware host access software for mainframe, midrange, Linux and Unix systems.

Neoware also added three new members to its Eon line. The Eon e100, for $379, is a single hardware platform that can support Windows CE, Windows XP Embedded and Linux; the e300, for $949, includes a flat-panel monitor; and the e500, for $1,299, is a Tablet PC form factor. All models are available now.

While thin-client adoption in the enterprise continues to grow, thin clients still only comprise about 1 percent of the overall PC market. IDC forecasts that worldwide enterprise thin-client shipments will increase from 1.46 million in 2003 to 1.78 million in 2004 and will reach 3.4 million units by 2007.

Kantrowitz predicts that by 2008 thin clients will comprise between 3 percent and 5 percent of the PC market. "Thin clients solve real problems with PCs, such as huge security issues. Thin clients cant get PC viruses; they last twice as long as the average PC; theyre more reliable. The whole infrastructure is more reliable because users cant introduce their own software."

Kantrowitz has seen the most adoption in the retail space, where "a retailer could have hundreds or thousands of remote locations with no IT staff. PCs are hard to manage." He expects to see thin-client adoption surge in areas like call centers, where mobility is not an issue, and in industries like health care, where security is more critical.

The University of North Carolina Health Care System is currently using Neoware thin-client appliances and software in its emergency rooms, nursing stations, patient care areas, clinics and doctors offices. UNC started using the thin clients about a year ago when they had to replace some of their aging PCs, said Art Duncan, manager of End User Services for UNCs Health Care System. Duncan says the health-care workers "were happy as clams with the performance. The thin clients are tied to very high-speed servers so they perform much faster.

"The thin clients are also much more stable than PCs," he said. "Down the road were hoping that instead of having to replace 1,000 computers, we replace 30 servers."

As for cost savings, Duncan said "its too soon to tell, although we do anticipate cost savings in reduction of staff." Also, "power consumption with the thin clients is about like a 60-watt bulb so we expect less power bills."

UNCs first thin-client application was in the emergency room, where "they were happy to get rid of clunky computers tying up storage space," Duncan said. The thin clients were also easier to manage remotely. The IT staff is located about a quarter of a mile from the emergency room so the ability to respond to problems in a matter of seconds rather than minutes is critical in the emergency room, said Duncan.

One of the major benefits of the thin clients for UNC was in nursing areas, where frequent changing of bed linens generates a lot of dust that can get into the PCs. "Once a year, we had to open up the PCs and vacuum them out. There was about an inch of dust in each PC. With the thin clients thats not a problem—they dont have any moving parts."

Duncan says Neowares new thin clients are appealing, especially if they are less expensive. "The thin clients we are using now cost around $500, not a heck of a lot less than the cost of the PC," said Duncan. UNC purchased Neowares thin-client appliances through IBM.

"I definitely think thin clients are the way to go, although its kind of like having Lasik [eye] surgery. The long-term effects are not yet known, but the immediate effects are apparent," said Duncan.

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