Gabriele Satori, CTO of NComputing, stopped by to introduce me to his company's NComputing M300, a new multi-tenant thin client based upon the company's Numo™ System-on-Chip (SoC). NComputing is addressing the requirements behind desktop virtualization with a combination of technologies that appear to be a happy mix of traditional timesharing, thin client solutions and processing virtualization.
What NComputing has to say
The M300 was built to be a simple, powerful, and highly affordable thin-client deployment option. Working in tandem with NComputing’s vSpace Server software, this 3-in-1 thin client kit allows an organization to add virtual PC desktops for a fraction of the cost of a PC. Customers can lower cost of acquisition by 75%, energy costs by as much as 90%, networking costs by 67% and support costs by up to 75% ¬-- with no compromise in the quality of the computing experience for users. For the M300, the vSpace Server software enables up to 45 concurrent users to be hosted on a single operating system instance and on a single host computer. An entire deployment can be measured in hours and can be managed by either IT professionals or those with only basic PC skills and time.
Key features of M300 include:
- Second generation Numo SoC (system on chip) provides PC-quality HD video streaming without excessive host-side processing
- Up to 45 users per host massively lowers management and overall computing costs per user
- Unique Windows User Accounts for 4-to-45 M300 client devices
- PC level performance for desktop applications
- Seamless HD video performance (up to 720p) and multimedia experience on standard Windows or Linux environments
- Seamless YouTube and other web multimedia content
- Each device includes a USB 2.0 port for peripheral support and two USB ports for mouse and keyboard.
Key features in vSpace Server virtualization software (included with M300 kit) :
- Auto Connect: Allows the client to connect to the vSpace server of choice
- Auto Login: Retains user credentials to allow both auto connect and to log into a predetermined windows user account.
- Push Profiles: A single device’s configuration can be saved and then pushed to many clients for the express deployment in a business or classroom from a central server.
- Auto updates: Firmware updates can be set to be performed automatically.
Like the Numo1 SoC that powers the best-selling NComputing L300, an A9 chip powers the Numo2 SoC providing extensive processing capability for graphics and HD video. As a follow on to the highly successful PCI-based X-Series, the M300 delivers superior graphics & HD video streaming capabilities, increasing the number of users per host PC, connecting at distance with Ethernet, and with support for USB 2.0.
Desktop virtualization means different things to different suppliers. For the most part, desktop virtualization is the use of one or more of four different virtualization technologies to create an artificial desktop computing environment.
The four virtualization technologies in use include:
- Access Virtualization — hardware and software technology that allows nearly any device to access any application without either having to know too much about the other. The application sees a device it’s used to working with. The device sees an application it knows how to display. In some cases, special purpose hardware is used on each side of the network connection to increase performance, allow many users to share a single client system or allow a single individual to see multiple displays.
- Application Virtualization — software technology allowing applications to run on many different operating systems and hardware platforms. This usually means that the application has been written to use an application framework. It also means that applications running on the same system that do not use this framework do not get the benefits of application virtualization. More advanced forms of this technology offer the ability to restart an application in case of a failure, start another instance of an application if the application is not meeting service level objectives, or provide workload balancing among multiple instances of an application to archive high levels of scalability. Some really sophisticated approaches to application virtualization can do this magical feat without requiring that the application be re-architected or rewritten using some special application framework.
- Processing Virtualization — hardware and software technology that hides physical hardware configuration from system services, operating systems or applications. This type of Virtualization technology can make one system appear to be many or many systems appear to be a single computing resource to achieve goals ranging from raw performance, high levels of scalability, reliability/availability, agility or consolidation of multiple environments onto a single system.
- Management of virtualized environments — In the case of desktop virtualization, this means the management of a combination of some of the following: virtual machine software, operating system, application frameworks, applications, database manager, user personalization and/or user data to create a secure, reliabile, movable artificial client system or environment.
NComputing is offering an interesting mix of access virtualization and processing virtualization with an eye towards offering virtual desktops based upon an extremely efficient, highly secure and tightly managed approach.
NComputing's N300 is an example of a special purpose device designed to support desktop computing efficiently, securely and under strong management control.
NComputing's vSpace Server virtualization software is an example of processing virtualization. What's different and interesting about NComputing approach is that this is the use operating system virtualization/partitioning rather than virtual machine software. This means that a single copy of an operating system is being used to support up to 45 different user workload rather than requiring each user workload to have its own operating system.
This approach is far more efficient than deploying an operating system per user workload as offered by VMware, Citrix or Microsoft. It is closer to the approach being offered by Citrix's XenDesktop or Microsoft's Terminal Services. The unique spin is how efficiently designed the remote client is.
Companies seeking highly efficient, cost effective workgroup computing support would be well advised to see a NComputing demonstartion.