Dell unveils thin client alternative

Dell unveils thin client alternative

Centralizing storage, but not the processor

Dell has unveiled a new enterprise desktop platform that aims to deliver all the benefits of a blade computing systems without the set-backs.

Dell's On-Demand Desktop Streaming moves the hard drive from the desktop to a centralized server, transmitting all data over the network. Contrary to a thin client however, desktop systems still have access to a processor and graphics card on their desk.

Storing all operating systems, applications and user data on a central server makes it easier to deploy patches, roll out new applications and perform system backups.

A thin client relies on a central server to both store data and execute commands. The architecture has several challenges. Commands sometimes can take long to execute because of network lag. Many applications including Microsoft Office furthermore can't be delivered over a thin client architecture.

Yet another approach puts a full-fledge PC into a blade server, providing each user with its on blade. The technology is still susceptible to network lag, however.

Dell senior vice president for the Commercial Product Group Jeff Clarke touted his offering as the best compromise between centralized management and end-user experience.

"The On-Demand user experience is no different than with a traditional PC," Clarke said in a teleconference.

He furthermore touted that new product as a continuation of Dell's evolution from a hardware vendor to a full system's vendor. The latter is an apparent response to critics who have argued that Dell has fallen behind competitors such as HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems by focusing on building low cost PCs and servers instead of attacking customer pain points.

Dell's On-Demand Desktop Streaming is sold as a bundle of desktop systems, switches, a server and a storage server. The server relies on the Citrix Provisioning Server software to store and serve data to up to 100 desktop systems. The bundle is available in the US as of today at a fee of $1,100 per seat.