We met with Dell via conference call last week to go over their offering for thin-clients. They basically showed off their Optiplex FX160 thin client. To me, its more of a very small PC than thin-client with options of adding a hard drive and other hardware. It does run XP Embed or a SUSE LInux. It also supports an embedded, customized BIOS version for streamed desktops via Citrix XenDesktop. I actually like the streaming desktop idea the best. Thin clients have always seemed to be under-performers and the end user is rarely happy with the unit. But the diskless aspect of a streamed desktop seems to overcome some of the negatives of thin clients and might actually be a viable option.
We have trialed on other diskless option – the Pano Logic solution – which we really like. The most compelling thing to us about these solutions is that there is no OS image to worry with – nothing to ever need patching. It boots into a BIOS and directs to a desktop solution controlled from the datacenter. Even with thin-client OS’s, it seems there are vunerabilities and upgrades needed in the future and there is obviously a need to have a management interface for these devices. That’s another layer to administer.
The biggest downside to me is price on these units. With the cheapest quote coming in over $500, that’s a good $200 more than Pano’s solution and that’s without significan’t support. The support cost differences between the devices almost rules the Dell solution out all together.
It is nice to see Dell entering this arena and recongizing the viabliity of this market, but their first entry is more towards a fully powered thin-client solution. And yes, I know I just complained earlier about thin-client being under-performers. But, at the same time, you want to have a thin-client that isn’t going to cost just as much as a PC… I dunno, I guess you just can’t please me… though I do like the Pano Logic solution so far.
Update: After posting, I thought I should post a link to the FX160.