It's no secret that the cost of energy is one of the biggest drivers of server and storage virtualization. Now it seems that thin client technology is seeing increased demand for the very same reason.
Enterprises around the world are looking at the economics of current desktop architectures and find them sorely lacking in energy consumption metrics. With the newest thin client systems cutting workstation usage from hundreds of watts to less than 10, it's becoming impossible to justify the cost of traditional PC deployments anymore.
One vendor reaping the benefit of this new reality is Sun Microsystems. The company's Sun Ray desktop architecture can tie upwards of 50 thin clients running at 4 to 8 watts each to a single server. And with centralized management and software upgrades, thin clients have a much longer shelf life than traditional PCs, lowering acquisition costs.
Thin-client computing is also proving to be a golden opportunity for entry-level vendors to tap into a market that has been dominated by the big boys for decades. California's NComputing, for example, has made a healthy business from its X300 and L Series virtual PC access devices that allow as many as 30 clients to operate off a single PC. Devon IT of Pennsylvania has made a specialty of thin client solutions and has just added a 1 GHz CPU model with Windows XP Embedded to its lineup.
Thin-client computing is only one of many approaches being considered to streamline desktop operations. A recent survey by Intel found that while the thin client model had the highest name recognition and was being employed by more than 60 percent of enterprises, there is also widespread interest in technologies like OS and application streaming, PC blades and desktop virtualization.
These recent trends represent market capitalism at its best. Back in the days of cheap energy, power consumption per terminal was negligible, so providers concentrated on finding the lowest-cost hardware solution. Now that the electric bill is part of the equation, efficiency is in, even if it does take computing power away from the user.