Going Thin on the Cheap: Thin Client Conversion Options

6 12 2009

One of the biggest barriers to implementing a full desktop replacement solution can often be the cost of replacing the desktops.  Sounds funny right, but in all too many instances an organization plans a full tilt assault on eliminating their physical workstations with a VDI and thin client approach just to discover that the cost of ripping out all of their existing desktops and replacing them will new thin clients is a capital expenditure that breaks the budget.  While in most cases this outlay can be justified over 3-5 years in energy savings and soft costs around support, the expense of the hosting infrastructure compounded with essentially still a desktop refresh can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

A simple way of improving the likelihood that a centralized hosting model, be it application virtualization or VDI, is adopted and provides for a more immediate ROI is to re-purpose existing workstations.  While I have written on this topic in the past to a certain degree, my previous focus was on the free desktop lock offerings native to both Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View.  I’ll still include these in the comparison below; I will also review the other offerings both free and purchasable.  After all, this seems to be a sector of the technology market that’s growing on a daily basis.

Good: As stated above I see the first tier of desktop re-purposing solutions as the desktop lock or embedded mode, also known as full-screen only, offerings from both VMware and Citrix.  These function as a software client which is installed on a domain joined, Windows workstation and hides the underlying shell from the user.  The experience is seamless for the end user as they can power on their workstation and be presented with a logon prompt that upon authenticating to they are connected to their centrally hosted desktop instance.  While this works to re-purpose the workstation it does have drawbacks mainly around the device still having a Windows OS underneath the client, which still needs to be licensed, patched, etc.  Links to these solutions are listed below:

https://matthensley.wordpress.com/2009/07/12/vmware-view-embedded-mode/ – VMware View Embedded Mode

http://support.citrix.com/proddocs/topic/online-plugin-112-windows/ica-xd-choose-client.html – Citrix Online Plug-in, Deciding Which Plug-in to Use

Better: The next category of thin client conversion solutions may again still leave the existing client OS in place, but they add additional centralized management as well as granularity of control in locking down the workstation.  This granularity of control can include allowing for interoperability with multiple application and desktop virtualization platforms as well as dictating which applications can still execute locally, among other important features.  Some of the solutions that fall into this category include:

www.sothin.net/thinclient – SoThin Thin Client software

http://thinpc.org/ – ThinPC software

http://www.thinlaunch.com/thin-desktop-client.asp – ThinLaunch Thin Desktop

Best: Solutions that I would rank in the top category of desktop conversion software replace the underlying OS altogether in favor of a purpose built “thin” OS which reduces the management surface of the end user device significantly, and in some cases removes it completely.  On top of reducing the complexity of the device itself, these solutions also add in some type of centralized management either through the central distribution of the purpose built OS or just the simple management from a single point.  Listed below are the offerings in this group.

http://vmblog.com/archive/2009/10/02/devon-it-vdi-blaster-software-gains-traction-repurposes-existing-pcs-into-thin-clients.aspx – Devon IT VDI Blaster

http://anywherets.com/products/anywherets – AnywhereTS

http://www.wyse.com/about/news/pr/2009/0901_ProjectBorg.asp – Wyse Project Borg

Out of all these solutions my current favorite is the Project Borg solution from Wyse.  I have long been of a fan of Wyse thin client devices and management, aka WDM, so this is a logical progression.  It allows for existing PC’s to be re-purposed into devices running Wyse ThinOS for a simple execution footprint that requires no updates, while still allowing for all of the proven integration around industry leading VDI and application virtualization solutions.  Project Borg also ensures that multimedia requirements can be met via interoperability around Wyse TSX technologies.  The last important note here is again the fact that you can manage your converted PC’s via Wyse Device Manager which also manages Wyse thin client hardware solutions.  This ensures that as PC’s are phased out in favor of purpose built thin clients the management stays consistent.

While this is intended as a general overview of the available solutions to convert and extend the life of existing PC hardware, there are a lot of other varying approaches and technologies so please feel free to post your views and knowledge on this topic.




2 responses

29 07 2010

Just curious why the wyse product is better than the Devon IT product. The Devon product VDI_BLASTER is commercially available, has a cost less than $30 and also has thin client software to centrally manage deployed converted PC’s and Devon IT thin client devices

6 08 2010

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the comment. I wouldn’t say that the Wyse solution is necessarily better in all circumstances. In my opinion it may make more sense in environments which already have a Wyse thin client footprint for the simple fact that you can manage all from the same console, i.e. WDM, and that it would be a consistent user experience across the environment from a thin client OS perspective. Otherwise, I think the DevonIT solution is great.


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