Thoroughly Modern Thin Clients

Analysis: Increased concern over power consumption and interest in virtualization are helping drive thin client technology.

Ten years after vendors announced that thin clients were the future of computing, were still waiting for them to take off. However, now that Web applications are more common and bandwidth is readily available, there are more reasons to consider network-based computing.

And it seems that IT managers are doing just that. According to research company IDC, the thin-client market will hit 5.3 million units in 2006, bringing in total sales of $1.25 billion. Thats up from an estimated 2.4 million units sold last year.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read a reviews of Hewlett-Packards t5720 and Sun Microsystems Sun Ray 2FS thin clients.

Its not news to IT managers that thin clients can save money on hardware, software licensing, management, support and security. But many organizations have been reluctant to deploy the devices en masse because of the relatively slow performance and reduced capabilities of older systems and, as a result, user reluctance to embrace the platform.

However, the two new thin-client systems that eWeek Labs recently tested—Hewlett-Packards t5720 and Sun Microsystems Sun Ray 2FS—are robust in terms of performance and features. Both leverage Microsoft Windows RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol), and the HP solution has a processor considered beefy for a thin client (Advanced Micro Devices 1GHz Geode NX1500).

Power and Virtualization

Two other important factors, however, are driving the technology anew: increased concern over power consumption and interest in virtualization.

While a PC can consume as much as 220 watts of power, a thin client such as Suns Sun Ray 2FS consumes less than 8 watts. Even a thin client with a processor and DDR (double data rate) RAM such as HPs HP Compaq t5720 consumes about 30 watts or less.

Another money-saving technology to hit thin clients is virtualization. Now that many IT managers have virtualized storage and server environments, eWeek Labs believes, desktops are the next frontier.

Thin-client virtualization involves hosting and centrally managing desktops in virtual machines on servers in data centers. By taking advantage of virtualization with thin clients, we see IT managers simplifying management, mitigating the costs of securing PCs and saving money with centralized storage.

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at

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