Dell unveils thin client alternative

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Dell On-Demand Desktop Streaming moves the hard drive from the desktop to a centralised server, transmitting all data over the network.

Unlike a thin client, however, the desktop systems still have access to a processor and graphics card on the desk.

Storing all operating systems, applications and user data on a central server makes it easier to deploy patches, roll out new applications and perform system back-ups.

A thin client relies on a central server to store data and execute commands, but the architecture has several challenges.

Network lag means that commands can sometimes take a long time to execute, while many applications, including Microsoft Office, cannot be delivered over a thin client architecture.

Another approach is to put a fully-fledged PC into a blade server, providing each user with their own blade. But the technology is still susceptible to network lag.

Jeff Clarke, senior vice president at Dell's Commercial Product Group, touted On-Demand Desktop Streaming as the best compromise between centralised management and end-user experience.

"The On-Demand user experience is no different than with a traditional PC," he said in a teleconference.

Clarke also claimed that the new product is a continuation of Dell's evolution from a hardware vendor to a full systems vendor.

This is an apparent response to critics who have argued that Dell has fallen behind competitors such as HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems by focusing on low-cost PCs and servers instead of attacking customer pain points.

Dell On-Demand Desktop Streaming is sold as a bundle of desktop systems, switches, a server and a storage server.

The server relies on Citrix Provisioning Server software to store and serve data to up to 100 desktop systems. The bundle is available in the US from today at a cost of US$1,100 per seat.

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