Wyse Takes Software-Oriented Thin Client Strategy to the Market
November 8, 2005 Dan Burger
Thin client devices have had a very attractive value proposition for a number of years. The secure feeling of having no data stored on the desktop, the ease of central management, the high degree of reliability, the cost-saving benefits relating to a modestly lower acquisition cost, a much more significantly reduced total cost of ownership–all of this would seem to put thin clients in a position of rampant growth, much to the dismay of salespeople who fill businesses with PCs.
Although many experts and analysts have predicted for the past several years that the thin client business was on the verge of double-digit growth, the reality has not lived up to the prognostications. Of all desktop machines, only about 5 percent are thin clients. Wyse Technology, one of the major players in the market, thinks it has the right stuff to now make significant inroads into the 95 percent stranglehold that PCs enjoy.
The focus has been on the hardware device, says Ali Fenn, vice president of business development for Wyse. It’s been a good strategy, but it wasn’t the complete answer to the puzzle. Enterprise customers, by and large, remained loyal to the PC in spite of the management, security, and economic benefits that thin client offered. The hurdle, Fenn says, is that thin client has been “somewhat limited in the types of applications and therefore the types of users to whom it was relevant. All those things in the past were only acceptable for a narrower set of users and types of applications. We have met the needs of the task workers. We are now able to provide a wider spectrum of user needs and requirements on the thin client.”
In order to give the thin client more functionality, Wyse is investing in the software side. It has taken the traditional embedded operating system environment and brought the applications, operating systems, and, for the most part, the entire user environment into the PC world, which is to say as soon as the thin client is powered up and the user is logged in. Wyse refers to its new product technology as Wyse Streaming Manager. Fenn says it is technology that “gets to the stateless device proposition.”
Wyse considers this a major step forward and one that opens the door to a much wider spectrum of solutions. “We’re no longer talking about thin clients exclusively,” Fenn explains. “We’re now talking about thin computing solutions that comprise hardware, software, and services and enable deployment of thin computing architecture. The value prop is still on the edge device, but it provides users with whatever environment they need.”
For some users, the traditional thin client model remains appropriate. Those users connect via session access protocols: primarily Microsoft RDP (Terminal Services) or Citrix ICA (MetaFrame Presentation Server), but also including IBM‘s 5250 (OS/400 terminal emulation) and 3270 (mainframe terminal emulation). However, it is the knowledge-worker/power-user types, who need the flexibility that a robust PC-type environment provides. With Wyse Streaming Manager, users can get applications, operating systems, and operating environments streamed to them. And from an IT management perspective, there remains one central image that makes it easy to manage and maintain.
Fenn says most enterprises will have workers whose functionality requirements will vary. Some will only demand the traditional model, while others could make better use of a fully streamed model. There will also be users that can take advantage of a virtualized model and those who could use a variety of the aforementioned features, which Fenn calls a hybrid model. “Most enterprises that have some history behind them have mixed environments, including legacy applications,” Fenn says. “We are making the effort to work within those environments. It will take many modes of connectivity, which is what we are doing.”
The hybrid model uses well-designed productivity applications (third-party ISV apps) that are well suited for a fully streamed environment. Those can be streamed without a Citrix installation or an RDP connection. It also provides the benefits of a stateless device by streaming the operating system and allowing applications to be executed on the desktop even though they are not stored there.
There remains, at least in many circumstances, heavy-duty legacy applications or highly customized ISV applications that are not ideal for the streaming model.
However, the flexibility provided by Wyse Streaming Manager, Fenn notes, “gives the IT administrators some levers that they can play with so they can create the most optimized environment that is 100 percent thin client. They don’t have anything sitting locally on the desktop and yet they are able to optimize the performance by streaming some applications and not streaming those applications that cannot be streamed. When rolled out over the enterprise, this pulls the overall desktop management costs down.”
Because there is no desktop data storage, Wyse Streaming Manager does not rely on a flash memory module inside the thin client device. If the thin client has flash memory, it will not be used. Wyse has established a minimum requirement of 256 MB of memory on the client hardware along with a minimum X86 processor speed of 800 MHz. On the server side, minimum processor speed is 1 GHz along with a 100 Mb/sec LAN connection. Wyse Streaming Manager supports Windows Server 2000 SP3 or higher, the Windows XP Professional and Windows 2000 professional operating systems, and the SQL Server database.
General availability of Wyse Streaming Manager is expected in January 2006. The initial release will be on Windows only. Pricing has been set at $250 per seat.
Something New in Hardware, Too
Wyse continues to develop new thin client hardware as well and has introduced a new high-resolution model called the S10. The product literature lists the S10 as having up to 1280×1024 resolution with 24-bit color depth. It is highly optimized for RDP and ICA session performance and Wyse claims it to be “several times faster” than other full-featured (and more expensive) thin clients. The promise of better performance means faster downloading and scrolling of images within Web pages.
Wyse Partnership Announcements
In a flurry of announcements today, Wyse Technology also has announced plans to enhance security and management functionality on a number of fronts, as well as collaborating on efforts to strengthen both its marketing and global positioning.
Those plans begin with integrating the functionality of Wyse Device Manager (currently known as “Rapport” and priced at $49 per seat) with Computer Associate‘s Unicenter. Wyse, which has received certification from CA on this integration effort, offers a host of product benefits to Unicenter and Device Manager users. For instance, Wyse thin-clients can now be monitored in the Unicenter management console. From an ease of management perspective, network administrators can launch external applications, such as rebooting, startup, and Wake-on-LAN, on the family of Wyse thin-client devices, and end users will also be able to launch the Device Manager console directly from their Unicenter environment.
Wyse will also market and deploy CA’s eTrust Antivirus software for its Windows XP Embedded-based thin clients. eTrust for XPe helps has been designed to eliminate virus infections, ease administration, and automate the updating process. Wyse officials say this technology strengthens the inherent security of the thin-client, even when situations dictate that units be placed in public areas, outside of the firewall, or on the Internet. A specific date for this arrangement to be supported by both firms has not been established.
Wyse Technology also joined with Sun Microsystems today to announce an alliance designed to jointly market solutions based on Wyse thin clients and Sun Secure Global Desktop Software (Sun SGDS).
The two firms plan to work cooperatively on joint engineering projects, customer engagements, channel partner programs, and co-marketing initiatives. Wyse plans to also bundle the Sun SGDS client software on its S- and V-Class thin clients across three operating system platforms, including Linux, Windows CE and Windows XPe. The architecture behind Sun SGDS client software provides Wyse customers with a way to gain highly secure access to applications on a variety of operating systems. The end-to-end solution, including Sun Fire “Galaxy” X2100, X4100 and X4200 servers powered by AMD Opteron processors will be available through Sun and Wyse joint channel partners.
AMD has also joined up with Wyse Technology to deliver thin computing solutions to emerging markets. Wyse, with its Digital Inclusion program, joins forces with AMD, which has its 50×15 initiative to empower 50 percent of the world’s population with affordable Internet access and computing capability by the year 2015.
Wyse’s Digital Inclusion program was launched with e-Governance projects in India in June 2005, and is also now underway in Uganda, where Wyse partner Inveneo has deployed solutions based on Wyse’s S50 Linux thin clients. These systems, leveraging AMD Geode processors, are the computing component for Inveneo’s Solar Power Communication Systems, which are designed to run in alternative power environments, provide both computer and telephone access via wireless networking, and in turn enable a variety of educational and social services. AMD and Wyse plan to replicate similar programs globally as part of the Wyse Digital Inclusion program and AMD’s 50×15 initiative.
Also within the realm of thin client security enhancements and riding on the coattails of the Wyse announcements, Trusted Computer Solutions (TCS) today announced the addition of SecureOffice NetTop2 – Thin Client to its SecureOffice family of software products. Based on the only Linux operating system in the world with a Common Criteria EAL4 Labeled Security Protection Profile, NetTop2 – Thin Client will enable users to simultaneously access multiple security levels on a single computer.
NetTop2 – Thin Client puts trusted Linux technology on the desktop, enabling users to access multiple independent networks, and by extension, multiple Microsoft Windows and Unix sessions at differing sensitivity levels or domains using a single thin client appliance. Unlike other solutions, NetTop2 does not require proprietary hardware, a single vendor or proprietary operating system. Wyse will feature NetTop2 – Thin Client on its Winterm thin client.