At HP Discover 2012 earlier this month, one of the big topics of discussion in The Cube was the changing face of computing, with an emphasis on thin clients and their place in modern IT environments. Obviously, because the event was an HP event, the focus was around HP thin clients, but the trends apply across the board.
HP’s Flynn: Flexible Thin Client Devices Support Two to Six Screens
Speaking live inside the CUBE at HP Discover 2012, Tom Flynn, Chief Technologist inside HP’s Thin Client Group, discussed the state of the thin client market with Wikibon’s Dave Vellante and Stuart Miniman.
Watch the full video here
The world of the desktop has undergone tremendous transformation over the years, from green screen terminals, to desktop and laptop computers, to today's profusion of end point devices including tablets, smart phones, and an increasing population of thin client desktop devices. What has remained the same is that organizations buy these devices mainly to provide employees with tools to achieve business goals.
For years organizations have been attracted to thin client end point devices by promises of lower costs, easier deployment, easier ongoing support, and increased security. While some verticals have been extremely successful with traditional thin client devices, many others have struggled to implement them in a way that achieves desired cost reductions while maintaining an acceptable end-user experience and productivity.
We’re at a crossroads
And that is where I believe we’re at a crossroads. I believe the issue is end-user experience, not the corporate cost savings, and I believe that organizations are coming to the same realization.
PC shipment volumes remain very high and with good reason. They just work. PCs provide end-users with the performance they need to do their jobs without (much) frustration. Over time, as the hardware, operating systems, and software have improved and desktop management tools matured, the total cost to maintain that environment has dropped. Moreover, PC purchase costs have plummeted in the past ten years, so the desktop environment isn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be.
All that said, we’re moving to the next phase of computing, which is much more decentralized than we’ve seen in the past. This trend is being driven by improvements in bandwidth and mobility and by users acquiring consumer-based devices that can also function in the business world, thus heralding the introduction of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives.
Whereas the previous “computing era” consisted mostly of Windows-based PCs and laptops, the coming age looks to be much broader from a platform perspective and will include pretty much any device under the sun, from iOS-based devices to Android systems, to thin clients, to the aforementioned PCs and laptops. While many like to talk about the “post PC era,” and the coming years may see more device variety, we’re hardly going to see the demise of the PC. That is simply marketing hype in overdrive.
This era will be powered by a variety of different architectures, including corporate-owned VDI environments, cloud-based services, and platform applications.
Thin clients have a growing role
From a thin client perspective, the future is bright, too. Whereas the thin clients of yesteryear left a lot to be desired, newer clients are truly compelling. With support for the three major enhancement protocols--RemoteFX, PCoIP, and Citrix HDX--modern thin clients gain an end-user experience that approaches that of a traditional PC. This removes a major barrier to entry.
Further, on the end-user experience front, there are terminals on the market that can support up to six individual displays, making them suitable for even the most demanding professionals who need mass screen real estate. Further, when coupled with great support for USB and dual core processors, these newer devices provide ample extensibility, removing yet another barrier to entry.
This is a good trend. According to HP’s Tom Flynn, whereas the thin client debate just a couple of years ago focused on the cost of VDI vs. the cost of a desktop, today’s discussions revolve more squarely around the application. Further, IT departments in many places are embracing thin clients and mobility. IT has built out networks connected to the the Internet and users are flocking to it. And, to be sure, the network is critical. A bad network will result in a bad user experience no matter how you look at it.
Thin clients have come a long way and still retain many IT-friendly benefits. For example, when a terminal dies, its stateless nature makes it a breeze for an IT support person to replace very quickly, ensuring that the user is brought back into service faster than can often be done with a traditional PC.
Among some of the standouts in HP’s thin client portfolio:
- HP t410 All-in-One Smart Zero Client. This is an all-in-one client that includes an 18.5” monitor and the terminal guts all while supporting DSP-accelerated RemoteFX and PCoIP for a good end-user experience. Better yet, the unit sips just 13W of power and can be powered using just power-over-Ethernet (PoE).
- HP t610 PLUS Flexible Thin Client. This beast boasts a dual core processor, 4 GB RAM, up to four monitors and more. This is the definition of the word “scalable.”
Action Item: If you’ve avoided the thin client market because of the traditional shortcomings inherent in these solutions, now is the time to give the market a second look. New devices with new capabilities have reshaped the space and, when coupled with BYOD, VDI and increased mobility options, thin clients will play an important role in the emerging, broadly targeted endpoint space.