So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'

So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'

Summary: Can the term "cloud PC" go where the dreaded thin client couldn't? Wyse hopes so.

TOPICS: Hardware

Can the term "cloud PC" go where the dreaded thin client couldn't?

Wyse on Tuesday unveiled a new family of cloud PCs, devices that are diskless, but allow you to get your Windows OS, applications and data from a private cloud. The devices are packaged with a Windows 7 license, Microsoft Software Assurance eligibility, installation, licensing and updates.

Gallery: First look at cloud PCs

Now IT departments just love these cloud PCs arrangements because things are centralized and support is easier. The problem is that workers aren't too thrilled about them. These network-centric PCs were formerly known as thin clients, a term that makes most folks in the IT industry cringe.

The solution? Call the thin client a cloud PC. Voila! The stigma is gone. Wyse says a cloud PC uses cloud computing concepts to use server-based storage and can provide better returns than a thin client. I don't quite get the difference. Wyse's Web site wasn't much help---thin computing and cloud PC are interchangeable.

Wyse's new cloud PC models include the R00L and the R00LE. Power consumption is less than 15 watts and Wyse argues that its cloud PCs are ideal for virtualized environments.

The big question: Does the term cloud PC make you feel better about buying a thin client? And will your employees play along?

Topic: Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Not at all

    My Director of Technology keeps pushing them but I (an many others in the IT department) have yet to see that they are useful at least in our environment. You spend thousands of dollars on a server to manage them on the back end and then another $300 - $500 on a thin client that most times does not even include a monitor when we get a fully featured dual core/3GBram Desktop with a 19 - 20" LCD for $550 with a 5 year warranty. In our environment (education) we find that we always have needs for a "special" program to be loaded here and there and it is not always easy to make that selectively available using a thin client and a distributed OS. It is much easier to make a hardware independent image and then distribute software as needed using a workstation management suite such as Altiris. We can push and pull software on the fly and the machines perform better than the thin clients.

    That being said I think they can be valuable in environments that have limited needs like a retail store or a bank where they only need access to a small handful of standard applications and for the most part every workstation/terminal is the same exact set up. On paper they sound real nice but so far I have yet to see how they make things easier and less expensive.
    • Well, of course IT people like technologies that require massive amounts of

      support. But, future cloud PCs based on ChromeOS and dual (or quad) core Arm, will be much cheaper and trouble free, and lightning fast.
      • RE: So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'


        Actually it has been shown that more man hours have gone into setting up and managing the thin clients that offer less of a user experience and put extra limitations on the users than a regular desktop does. Now this is in my environment along with a few other school districts in the area that have been entertaining the idea of thin clients. I am sure for some they work wonderfully and if they do kudos to them.

        As far as your Chrome OS PC being fast and trouble free you left out one important detail. You cannot do anything with them that is not in the cloud. Again, maybe good for a small handful of organizations and users but not for the majority. Not everything can run in a browser or in the cloud especially on Chrome. I still think Chrome has the worst compatibility out of all the major browsers. Focuses on Speed first and functionality second.
      • You forget that the masses need email, simple work processing, browser,

        access to corporate applications. And, offline web applications will make it so web applications can do things that you can do without an internet connection. Remember, you can NOT send email when your internet connection is down, even with a bloated PC. Finally, you can run web applications off of local servers.

        It has NOT been shown that bloated virus ridden PCs and bloated office suits require less support. Quite to the contrary.
      • RE: So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'

        @DonnieBoy/Frothy2 - lightning fast based on what connection speed?
    • You would probably be better off leveraging

      @bobiroc... Panologic. I will allow you to google it, and look into, but it is different than a thin client, as there is no software running at the end point, it is just hardware. The user gets a VM to use that can be custom for the user, or out of a stock VM. Quite a bit more robust than thin client, Terminal Services.
      • RE: So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'


        We already do some virtualization and distribution of applications in a similar manner using CITRIX and APP-V. It works well and I see value in that. However we have run into some situations like with programs like AutoCAD and Adobe Creative Suite where it really needs direct access to the hardware to run properly or at all. Also many of the little software titles our teachers get with their text books and others have not run so well in that environment but I suspect that is because of they way they are programmed. Many of them still seemed to be designed to run in Windows 98 or earlier.
    • RE: So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'

      @bobiroc you are correct, thin, errrr Cloud PC's, are a niche, we have a some where I work, and they are fantastic for what we use them for (except we didnt build out the VM's strong enough in my opnion) but we use them for cookie cutter machines that all have the same apps, but in your case where you have 1 class that needs one app, and another class needing an completely different app, it probably wouldnt be as easy to manage,
      • RE: So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'


        Thats pretty much it in a nutshell. Most of the areas where we have more of a universal set up they want the availability of some apps that do not play nice like the Adobe Suite. We have a site license for CS5 and they want the Suite available just in case a student or teacher wants to work on a project outside the graphics labs. Tried even photoshop on a thin client and it choked and there is no way we could use anything like Premiere or Aftereffects. So at that point it is better to have a desktop and if there is a problem we image it and 10 - 15 mins later it is all better outside of a hardware problem of course which really does not happen as often as my boss makes it out to be.
      • That's when it easier to manage...


        "but in your case where you have 1 class that needs one app, and another class needing an completely different app, it probably wouldnt be as easy to manage,"

        Using VMware ThinApp you can easily manage what apps people use. Give everyone a stock VM, then give access to ThinApp's applications to the just the people that need them! This could just be a exe on a network share, or deployed via Group Policy.

        Okay, I'm massively biased because I manage a Virtual Desktop Environment of around 200 VMs with VMware vSphere & VMware View and it's a doddle!

        As for performance loss on VMs then crank up the resources available for the VM, and use PCoIP instead of RDP for a full desktop experience.

        I'm guessing these "Cloud PCs" are using PCoIP instead of RDP.

        I've only got experience with VMware but when talking to consultants who have experience with VMware, Citrix, and Hyper-V they've always said VMware is the best option from a management point of view.
    • RE: So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'


      How many times does it take for a thin client scam to work? Every few years, up they pop again like cockroaches (or yoyos). Brilliant for call centers, useless for anyone else and you get that wonderful proprietary lock in.

      This is not new. It's been tried and discarded time and time again. It's the ghosts of the mainframe high priests wanting to get us back to terminals ;-)

      So looking forward to you getting any computer with a Chrome OS Donnie, so you'd shut up and go and worship it somewhere. The rest of us will use applications that you may see OSS clones of, some time in the next decade. What it like to worship an advertising company anyway?
      • RE: So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'

        Too true. First time around they were called "Net PCs", and Java was going to be the platform for all the client software. Sun were even claiming they would be popular with consumers!
        Thin client solutions are good for certain narrow business niches, but pretty useless for general information workers or engineers.
        Give one to a senior manager (or worse to his admin) and see how long the policy lasts.
    • RE: So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'

      This is certainly a good move on Wyse part as including a Windows 7 licence and software assurance will remove the legal restriction of running Windows on the Cloud

      It need not be complex as you can always use simple software like ThinServer to provide desktop virtualization and management

  • Client Selection

    What I find missing in these discussions is a real-world matrix of where these solutions (whether you call them "thin clients" or you call them "cloud PCs") do and do not fit.

    Let's talk about where they fit well. First, they are generally excellent for where you have a large number of homogeneous users with non-multimedia intensive computing needs. What do these users look like? Typically, these are your general knowledge worker or contact center agent. Second, this same environment can provide this same user population a common experience whether in the office on their cloud PCs or at home accessing the same sessions via Citrix or similar virtual client access software.

    Now, let's talk about where they fit poorly. Anyone who needs to create, edit, or render multimedia would find it difficult to work on a cloud PC. In addition, small populations who need non-standard applications, where creating special images or deployment packages would not be cost effective, would not be good candidates for this solution either.

    I find that the best approach is to examine your users to determine if there is a large enough population to make a cloud PC solution attractive. Then you go through the exercise of determining how you would rationalize who gets a cloud PC vs a standard PC, similar to what has been done for years with desktops vs laptops. Finally, you have to examine the costs and support needs to have cloud PCs added to, or in lieu of, you existing support models.

    The key here is to consider this a business alternative exercise, focus on the facts, and make an informed decision.
    • Very good points, there are places where you need more computing power. You

      can give the masses a "cloud PC", and give the few that do multimedia a more normal type PC. Though, it is more of a problem of developing applications. A quad-core Arm box running at 2GHz, and a hot video card will do quite well. And, the rendering for those multimedia applications can be done in the local cloud to speed it up even further.

      But, if you have plenty of bandwidth to the cloud servers running your application, you can still do some very compute intensive applications from a Cloud PC (again, whatever you want to call it).
      • RE: So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'


        Your concept of what people actually need in a computing device is severely warped. You need to get out more.
      • Actually, it is your concept that is warped. The masses do NOT sit around

        creating multimedia presentations, or using MS Office. They use email, browser, simple word processing, corporate applications, etc. Most worker's lives do NOT revolve around a PC.
      • ^ Really? Cus around here they do.

        bobiroc is right, you do need to get out more. Your vision of peoples needs is severely warped.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • What I call it...

        is remote desktop sessions to a terminal server. Nothing new to see here from my point of view.
      • RE: So long thin client, hello 'cloud PC'

        @DonnieBoy "Most worker's lives do NOT revolve around a PC." Wow you would not last two weeks here with that attitude. That statement applies to our sales people...and collective bargaining but that's about it.