Desktop Options: Pros and Cons: Page 2

Posted October 11, 2007

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle

(Page 2 of 4)

HP’s Thin Client and Blade PCs: Pros and Cons

HP has taken a more aggressive approach. They’re 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 Dell’s 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 Dell’s solution, and even though the hardware and OS aren’t separate there’s 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 can’t repurpose them as something else (they don’t make good blade servers and there’d be too many anyway), and they are comparatively expensive. This solution also doesn’t 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 there’s 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 weren’t for these shortcomings we’d be up to our armpits in thin clients because, on paper, they should be vastly better than PCs. The big problem is the servers don’t scale well and this won’t 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.

Next page: The SmartPhone UMPC Desktop

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