Startup Takes Thin Client Computing One Step Further

New virtualization technology from startup Pano Logic runs multiple instances of Windows on servers.

Startup Pano Logic on August 27 added a new wrinkle to desktop virtualization when it launched a new technology that exploits server virtualization to run multiple instances of Windows on servers.

Pano Logic, with its small desktop device and server-based software, bridges the gap between thin client technology and application virtualization for desktop software, making PC administration much easier and as a result less costly.

A small box connects the users keyboard, monitor, mouse, audio and USB peripherals to an IP-based connection, which links those peripherals to the users operating system image running on a VMware virtual machine.

"Were using the IP network as an extension of the PCs bus, (which uses) PCI to connect to these peripherals," explained Mike Fodor, vice president of product management for the Menlo Park, Calif. startup.

The Pano Management Server and Connection Broker component on the VMware virtual machine tells the palm-sized device on the users desktop to display a log-on screen. The user then enters their Windows XP or Windows Vista credentials and they are authorized using permissions set up in Microsofts Active Directory.


To read more about why vendors are plugging thin client as the new security elixir, click here.

"Once authenticated, it figures out what virtual machine belongs to that user, and it will power it on, establish the connection between the Pano Desktop Service and device and then steps aside and monitors the connection. From that point its just Windows after that, so the end user sees no difference," explained Fodor.

With the advent of multi-core processors, customers can run up to 30 or 40 Windows operating system instances, each in their own virtual machine on the server. Between being able to run multiple instances of the Windows OS on a single hardware server and the lowered cost of PC administration, Pano Logic estimates that it can lower the total cost of ownership per desktop by 70 percent, yielding a savings of $3,200 per desktop over a three-year period.

Beta testers at Affinity Bank see it as a more basic, simpler design that is easier to manage compared to existing thin client technology, according to David Grant, CIO at the financial institution, located in Ventura, Calif..

"Most thin clients run Windows XP Embedded, which you have to patch, so there is not lot of difference between a building full [deployment] of thin clients and cheap PCs. You still have to keep [thin clients] up to date, and now people recommend running antivirus on thin clients. So why have thin clients at all? You might as well have PCs when you have to do that," he said.

The Pano device on the users desktop has no CPU, memory, operating system or drivers.

Industry analyst Chris Wolf believes that Pano offering delivers as close to end user self-service as it gets in the event of a problem with the software.

"Theres no hard disk. Everything on the client side is in firmware on the board, which makes deployment and management much easier. It has an easy button that the user can push, see a screen, and then select an older snapshot of their desktop if there is a problem. And its something they can do on their own," said Wolf, of Burton Group in Midvale, Utah.

The button Wolf referred to, called the Pano Button, can be configured by IT administrators or Management Services Providers to coordinate different desktop management services the Pano platform can provide.

Actions such as rolling back to a known, good instance of Windows from one that has been corrupted or switching between virtual machines set up with software for different job functions can be configured.

Grant sees the Pano offering as highly complementary to technologies such as VMwares virtual machines and application virtualization such as Microsofts SoftGrid or the Altiris Software Virtualization Solution, acquired early this year by Symantec.


To read more about Softgrid desktop virtualization software, click here.

"You could use Pano thin client devices and deploy thin clients to departments in your business, and their management software manages that for you. You can create pools of virtual machines that all have the same configuration, put their software on top of VMware and then use application virtualization like Softgrid that virtualizes applications so that when a user logs in, it looks to Softgrid for its applications and feeds those applications to the user to make things really simple," said Grant.

"I see VMware and Softgrid and Pano being three pieces of a puzzle to deploy virtualized desktops in a real simple, cost effective and easy to manage way," he said.

The Pano Logic offering is due by the end of September, and pricing is tentatively set at $300 for a perpetual license. A monthly subscription adds $20 per month, and another $60 per year is planned for maintenance and support.


Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.


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