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Yes, they can even play Crysis

The idea of so-called "thin-client" virtualization is simple and not terribly new.  The idea is basically you take a very powerful server computer and create a number of hosted environments on it, and then stream video to cheap, low-powered desktop clients.  The hosted environments receive all the input (say keyboard and mouse) from the clients.  

I. Power Efficient CPUs Drive HP's Growing Thin-Client Army

While the idea itself is not all that new, low-power processing and broadband streaming technology has only just now reached the point where server makers can come up with the products to make it attractive and affordable on a wide scale.

One of the key companies leading the way is Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ), which is looking to leverage emerging processor design to offer businesses cheap and capable thin-clients.

It's current demoing two designs -- one based on a 1 GHz Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN) chip using an ARM Holdings Plc (LON:ARM) Cortex-A8 intellectual property core + instruction set, and the other using a 1.65 GHz dual-core T56N "accelerated processing unit" (APU) from Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), which comes with a built in Radeon graphics processing unit.

These cheap, low-power processors from TI/ARM and AMD prove the key to HP's ambitious thin-client vision.
 
HP t610                      HP t610
A pair of HP t610 thin-clients (powered by AMD APUs)

(The ARM product is dubbed the HP t410 AiO Smart Zero Client, while the AMD APU variant is named the HP t610 Flexible Thin Client.)

Michael Clifford, HP Director, Cloud Computing, UK&I, spoke about showing the new designs at the upcoming IP EXPO, which is being held this Wednesday and Thursday in London.  He comments, "The Cloud Computing space is constantly accelerating and maturing, and it is important that IT departments are not left behind.  At this year's IP EXPO, we will demonstrate how our secure cloud solutions establish the ideal foundation, allowing businesses to become the 'service broker' and decide how and where to deliver IT services, opening limitless horizons of new abilities and powers."

So what does all that mean?

Your employer may soon be replacing your full-fledged PC (expensive) with a small, lightweight, power-efficient thin-client (cheaper).  But you won't see any performance hit (in-theory), thanks to the beefy server back-end.

II. Enabled by Windows 8

Speaking of that back-end, that gets back to a final player in both HP and its rival's thin client experience -- Microsoft Corp. (MSFT).  Microsoft's latest Windows 7 and Windows Server operating systems are offering a technology called RemoteFX, which allows the server backend to deliver a so-called "remote desktop" (the virtualized workspace) to the thin-client.  Microsoft shows off the might of RemoteFX in a recent video, showing that yes, a thin-client really can play Crysis.


While Windows 8 is oft demonized for introducing the controversial Metro reskin of the start menu and other features businesses don't care as much about (say, touch), the upcoming OS is good news for businesses when it comes to thin-clients.  Why?

Well, the latest and greatest upcoming thin clients such as the HP t410 AiO that use cheap, power-efficient ARM processors -- the same chips used in smartphones and tablets -- won't run on Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP.  Windows RT -- the ARM-centric version of Windows 8 -- will be the first Microsoft operating system to add support.  In that regard, the ability to leverage ARM-endowed thin clients could prove a key carrot to driving businesses to Windows 8 -- something that would doubtless please Microsoft.

Sources: HP [1, press release via IT News Online], [2]



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Why is this cool?
By deeceefar2 on 10/17/2012 2:38:48 AM , Rating: 1
It's been pretty obvious to me for a while that the future of computing is thin client with software as a service powering the apps. This is the stop gap solution to get the every app running in the cloud even if it isn't designed for it. A perfect usage for this iteration right now is the 3d rendering company, or for that matter any company that currently has to have workstations with legitimate graphics cards in them. Instead of having to upgrade individual workstations, you can deploy a single thin client to each end user, and those don't ever have to be updated. Then as you need you upgrade the servers in the enterprise cloud to handle the workload and increase performance as necessary. You could have one server designed for high end 3d applications serving just that app to users that need it and other servers rendering the less demanding ones. In the future this could allow any user running either a windows tablet, or smart phone to use any application no matter how demanding the graphics are. The biggest issue I see is that this solution is incomplete and under supported by the company, likely to prevent cannibalizing their own business. Meanwhile everyone else is having to just develop around the lack of this capability. Way to develop the software to save the company and then not get anyone to use it.




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