Dell Intros Virtual, Zero Client Solution, Plus Greenest PC to Date

Dell is calling the OptiPlex 980 its most powerful and energy-efficient PC to date, while the "zero client" FX100 offers PC-over-IP technology. Both commercial solutions will arrive in the coming weeks.

Mean and green may be the best way to describe two new PC offerings from Dell, which is unveiling the OptiPlex 980 desktop - which the PC maker is calling the most powerful and energy efficient commercial desktop it has ever offered - and the Dell FX100 zero client solution, a fan-less, driver-less, OS-free computing solution with a near-zero footprint.
"In our view, customers are looking for total solutions, not just hardware," Curtis Campbell, Dell's OptiPlex product manager, told eWEEK. "We're moving away from delivering point products to delivering total solutions."
The systems were announced March 2.
Arriving "in the coming weeks," the OptiPlex 980 is Dell's first desktop to make use of Intel's iCore technology, offering a choice of Core i5 or i7 processors, as well as Solid State Drive options.
Performance is another key element, as it's been boosted 35 percent over last year's generation of OptiPlex machines. On the management side, the 980 is supporting Dell's VPro technology for basic asset management and remote control and repair. VPro can also be paired with Intel's KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) technology, a benefit of which is that IT can tunnel in before the OS loads - or, in the instance of a corrupt OS, if the operating system won't load.
The fourth major bragging point on the 980 is its green cred. It offers a 90 percent energy efficient power supply, which helps to reduce energy costs, it's made of up to 25 percent post-consumer plastics, meets Energy Star 5.0 standards and is shipped in more recycling-friendly materials.
Campbell adds that Dell also offers an Energy Calculator. "Back in the day, a lot of these folks didn't care about energy efficiency. Now it's one of the first things they talk about," Campbell said, noting that CFOs are extending the onus to pinch pennies on to IT. "IT guys are using the calculator to come up with hard numbers before meeting with the CFO. They're interested in the energy bill, while three years ago they didn't care about it."
Savings and flexibility are also the name of the game with the FX100, which was previously only available as an access device for the Precision R5400 rack workstation. Now, it's shipping with new firmware that supports VMware View 4.0 and PC-over-IP technology (PCoIP).
There's no OS, no endpoint image to manage, and no central processor, memory or moving parts, which extends its lifecycle and lowers power consumption. The data is maintained in the data center, where the processing is also done, Robert Ayala, solutions marketing manager for Dell's flexible computing solutions, told eWEEK, which reduces security issues.
While over the long-term, such solutions are said to offer savings - along with near-workstation performance - the up-front investment isn't so different from a traditional desktop.
"The benefits are security, stability, manageability and durability," Roger Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies, told eWEEK, adding that ClearCube pioneered the thin-client-plus-PC-in-a-rack architecture a decade ago, and Hewlett-Packard, Dell and others have followed.
"The concept has been slow to generate a real market, but is beginning to catch on. IT managers get it, but price is somewhat of an inhibitor, as is the -non-standard' nature of the solution," said Kay. "People are loath to try something new. But as communications get faster, more reliable and available in more locations, the argument in favor of thin computing gets better."
The Dell OptiPlex 980 will be available in minitower, desktop and small form factors, with pricing beginning at $807, while pricing for the FX100 will begin at $500.