Slimming down

Thin clients offer a viable alternative to traditional PCs especially with recent advances in technology. Nevertheless, enterprises will need to consider and plan appropriately before making the move.

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  March 17, 2008

Thin clients offer a viable alternative to traditional PCs especially with recent advances in technology. Nevertheless, enterprises will need to consider and plan appropriately before making the move.

Thin clients and server based computing are moving from enterprise back burners to see record adoption in the Middle East over the last couple of years, claim most regional vendors and industry experts.

Thin clients have represented for a long time and represent today the only real mature alternative to traditional PCs.

"Thin clients and server based computing have been growing much faster, especially in the EMEA and APAC regions, where they are still relatively new. They have represented for a long time and represent today the only real mature alternative to traditional PCs," says Federica Troni, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Recent advances in technology have enabled enterprises to cash in on thin client technology which has long remained in the shadow of traditional desktops.

"The biggest advance that has happened in the last couple of years is virtualisation technology. Sun has been working quite closely with vendors like VMWare. And what that has enabled us to do with our thin client solution is deliver a full native version of Windows XP or Vista to our customers because the virtualisation allows us to run a full desktop image on virtualised servers in the backend, in the datacentre. That has made a dramatic change to the way thin client solutions are viewed by the end user," says Michael Geisler, head of software sales for the Gulf region at Sun Microsystems.

Thin clients are also increasingly becoming capable of adapting to the needs of a modern enterprise, as vendors build in more elements of mobility into their solutions.

"HP is launching thin client mobility products as well as specialised thin clients for rough environments such as in warehouses. Enterprises concerned about data security or theft will have the greatest interest in HP mobile thin client. Since data will reside on the server, the theft of a notebook will have much less impact than loosing a traditional notebook with gigabytes of data on it," says Yan Bergeron, category manager for workstations and thin clients at HP Middle East.

Apart from taking on technologies that befit a solution of the new age, thin clients retain most of the intial advantages it offered organisations.

"There is a promise of reducing TCO and when it is implemented in the right circumstances this is certainly true. There is scope for large TCO savings although users should bear in mind that the TCO saving that you can obtain from server based computing depend on your starting situation. If you start from an unmanaged or manually managed situation, obviously your savings will be very significant, even in the range of 40%," says Troni.

Running all applications over the network as it does, thin clients offer firms the option of consolidating their resources in the datacentre. This includes everything from servers to storage and, according to vendors, this can benefit firms in terms of better utilisation of processing power, reduced energy consumption as well as effective security.

By incorporating new advances and still boasting all of its old advantages, thin client solutions offer a stronger and more resourceful solution for Middle East enterprises.

For all its strengths though, enterprises should be careful while implementing thin clients, because the solution is simply not suitable for every company.

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