Thin-Client Mania, or Wishful Thinking?

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There's certainly no shortage of new thin-client solutions this year. Even though many buyers are concerned about performance and reliability issues, houses that have invested in virtualization to cut server and storage costs can't help but think about shaving their PC budgets a bit, too.


The best way to do that, it seems, is to cut down on PC hardware requirements by running dumb terminals on virtual OSes.


NEC, for one, says it has a solution that cuts three-year maintenance costs by a third while still maintaining the performance, and particularly the processing speed, of a traditional desktop. The company's Virtual PC Center is aimed at high data rate environments, such as multimedia and videoconferencing operations. It uses a proprietary driver that interrupts media streams before they hit the processor, diverting them to a graphics processor on a dumb terminal. This allows both the server and the terminal to operate at a higher performance level.


At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco, Wyse Technology showed off its Wyse V10L platform that utilizes the Citrix Presentation Server and Microsoft Terminal Services to deliver a thin-client environment that is easy to manage and works with any virtualization environment. The heart of the system is the VIA Eden C7 processor and the 1 MB Wyse Thin OS to provide support for dual-monitors and mass storage.


Still another system was announced by Novell recently, this one based on the SUSE Linux Enteprise Desktop (SLED) and a proprietary image-creation toolkit. The system is being pitched for call centers, manufacturing floors and transactional operations.


And the mobile possibilities of thin-client architectures is not lost on some enterprises either. HP is said to be looking at a portable thin-client platform this year, one that would probably include wireless connectivity. The company offers a number of standard thin-clients, from the 400 MHz t5125 to the 1.0 GHz t5725.


It's fair to say that the advantages of thin clients tend to diminish as the cost of PC hardware continues to fall. But there tends to be an unreal expectation in the tech industry that growth in one solution has to mean death to another. It's highly possible that both architectures could coexist very well.