Hewlett-Packard Co. is pushing forward its server-based computing plans on two fronts.
On Monday, the Palo Alto, Calif., company is rolling out its two newest thin clients, the HP Compaq t5300 and t5500, both powered by Transmeta Corp.s power-efficient Crusoe chips and running Microsoft Corp.s Windows CE.Net operating system.
HP also is continuing to evaluate trials of its PC blade technology. While officials said a decision on whether to launch a PC blade offering will be made later in the year, they added that the results of the trials to this point have been positive.
Thin clients and PC blades essentially share the same goals: to improve manageability and security by housing the key components—such as applications and all the data—on servers and corporate networks rather than the desktop PCs. The key difference is that in the thin-client environment, multiple appliances share a server; with PC blades, each appliance has a dedicated server.
The new thin clients join the t5700, introduced in May, in HPs new line of the appliances. Greg Schmidt, product marketing manager for the HP Compaq thin clients, said the goal of the t5000 series is to offer standards-based thin-client computing to enterprises at a price lower than such rivals as Wyse Technology Inc. and Neoware Systems Inc.
“We said, Lets bring a total solution to the thin client marketplace … and make a real powerful PC for thin clients,” Schmidt said.
Among those standards are the Crusoe chips from Transmeta. The Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker has focused its efforts on building processors that consume less power and generate less heat than traditional chips. The t5300 is powered by a 533MHz Crusoe chip and offers 64MB of memory and four UB ports. The Crusoe chip in the t5500 runs at 733MHz with 128MB of memory, ATI Rage XC graphics with 8MB of dedicated video memory, four USB ports—including a serial port and a parallel port—and an optional PC slot.
On the software side, HP integrated Citrix client software for Windows CE.Net into the thin clients, enabling users to use applications running on Citrix Metaframe Presentation servers on their appliances. However, a key industry-standard offering is the Altiris deployment software, enabling customers to run the same software to deploy applications on thin clients, servers and PCs, Schmidt said. It also offers greater problem resolution capabilities and is easier to use than the Rapport software from Wyse that HP had been using, he said.
“When you used [thin clients] before, you didnt really get a good PC-like experience,” Schmidt said. “Weve stepped away from proprietary, non-standard [components] and give users a PC-based architecture.”
HP is expecting the new systems to enable it to grab a larger share of a small market that is growing at 25 percent to 30 percent a year. International Data Corp., of Framingham, Mass., has said demand for thin clients could grow from 1.5 million units this year to more than 3 million in four years.
Both thin clients are available immediately, with the t5300 starting at $349 and the t5500 at $379.
As HP expands its thin-client portfolio, its also continuing to study PC blade technology. According to Sally Stevens, director of blade server platforms for HP, the company is running trials at several customer sites, although there have been more than 100 businesses interested in trying out the technology, she said.
The technology also is being used by several units within HP, Stevens said.
The company is still on track to decide by the end of the year, following the customer trials, whether to pursue the technology, but Stevens said response to the trials has been overwhelmingly positive.
Currently the market is being created by ClearCube Technology Inc. The Austin, Texas, company this quarter is expected to expand its product line by enabling businesses to put multiple users on a single blade. ClearCube officials said the move will make the companys PC blades available to smaller enterprises, which may not want all the performance or the cost of the current products, where each blade is dedicated to a single user. Officials said the move could improve the pricing for the PC blades, dropping it from the current $1,500 to $2,000 per seat to less than $1,000.
IDC analyst Bob ODonnell said that while the goals of both thin clients and PC blades are the same, they are more complementary than competitive products, with the key differentiator being price. The question enterprises need to answer is how much theyre willing to pay to reach those goals, said ODonnell, in Mountain View, Calif. Though there arent as many offerings on the market yet, indications are that PC blades offer better performance, but at a heftier price.
“Thin clients provide adequate performance, and theyre a lot cheaper,” he said. “Its really [about] price. … Theres always going to be a lower cost opportunity, and thin clients will be lower cost.”
Thin clients may also end up bolstering the PC blade market, ODonnell said. Enterprises may want to experiment with server-based computing via the cheaper thin clients, he said. “Once theyre hooked on the centralized management and security, they may [look to expand with PC blades],” he said.
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