HPs Thin Client and Blade PCs: Pros and Cons
HP has taken a more aggressive approach. Theyre the only vendor in their class that offers traditional desktop PCs, laptops, blade PCs, and thin client devices. Blade PCs would be better than what Dell is offering across the board if there were common standards and multiple vendors that supported this solution. This would drive down the cost and risk substantially.
The advantages to Blade PCs are similar to what you get from Dells diskless workstations, except you also centralize the hardware. This means hardware failure recovery can be automated and the expensive hardware itself is protected and secure. This also shifts heat out of the working environment along with the related noise and can provide for a new silent experience.
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The storage advantages are similar to Dells solution, and even though the hardware and OS arent separate theres a relatively high commonality in the blades, which allows for the hardware failover. So this comes close to the goal of a virtualized environment. The blades have to be more power efficient to work in high densities and the solution has fewer things to dispose of that could be problems in landfills, making it greener than a traditional PC or diskless workstation.
Disadvantages are a redundant client (though the desktop client has recently transitioned to more of a KVM and is extremely light and inexpensive). A lack of flexibility in that you if you change your mind about the blade solution you cant repurpose them as something else (they dont make good blade servers and thered be too many anyway), and they are comparatively expensive. This solution also doesnt embrace mobile workers and requires constant contact between the desktop component and the remote blade.
Thin Clients trade off performance for an even higher degree of solution simplicity and overall reliability. HP recently acquired Neoware, which had actually created a thin client laptop computer. This acquisition makes HP the clear leader in Thin Client solutions in terms of size and breadth of offering.
Advantages for Thin Clients include the fact this is potentially the greenest of the desktop technologies. The clients have very little in them and the servers can both be repurposed and have comparatively (when compared to any PC configuration) fewer things that have to be discarded per desktop user. When based on clusters or bladed servers, reliability can approach PBX levels. However, when theres an outage, it can be relatively catastrophic as one server failure can take out a lot of users. Everything that has value is centralized and secured. Ongoing support costs are reported to be very low.
Disadvantages have to do with server scalability, installation cost, no disconnected solution, and performance. If it werent for these shortcomings wed be up to our armpits in thin clients because, on paper, they should be vastly better than PCs. The big problem is the servers dont scale well and this wont get fixed until the massively multi-core systems Intel and AMD are trying to create come to market. The thin client notebook requires a constant Internet connection, which makes it impractical to travel, particularly on airplanes. Graphics performance can be painful and these things are typically used for data entry applications today.
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