CeBIT: IBM tackles thin client confusion

Summary:Responding to the demands of frustrated IT managers, IBM is simplifying its thin-client technology.

The company has quietly started selling a variant of its Network Station that doesn't require a separate Unix or NT server.

The first in a series of such variants is called "Quick On for running Windows", which enables one thin client to act as an operating system server for up to 14 other thin clients, thereby enabling each to connect directly to a Citrix Winframe or Metaframe server.

Instead of loading the operating system from an IBM AIX or similar server, the first thin client loads its OS from a flash ROM card then serves the operating system to the other clients on the network.

David McAughtry, vice president of marketing for IBM's network computer division, said the company is also looking at other possibilities, such as a "quick on" flash card for running terminal emulation or web browsing. A web browsing variant is in already in testing, the company said.

"This is a further step along the 'appliance-ising' of what used to be a very complex process," McAughtry said. For a small business or branch office, quick-on versions of the Network Station Model 300 are much easier to install, he said.

The Model 300 is already equipped with a flash ROM card slot, so this was possible to do before. However, creating the flash cards used to be a done for each individual customer. IBM has now started to distribute pre-made cards, for about $50 (£30) to $70 (depending on features), each capable of booting up to 14 clients.

"We're seeing a trend for appliance-like devices," McAughtry said. "If you want to do a very rapid roll-out in branch offices and all you need is a browser, a very attractive way of doing that is to put in these black boxes."

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Topics: Networking

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