HP Puts Its Faith in Thin ClientsBy Scott Ferguson | Print
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The IT giant is rolling out two new thin-client PCs plus improvements to its blade PC architecture that it hopes will capture expanding vertical markets like health care and outsourcing.
Hewlett-Packard believes thinner is better, and is rolling out two new thin-client PCs on Jan. 26, as well as offering new features for its blade PC architecture.
With the additional investments in thin clients and blades, the Palo Alto, Calif., PC maker is aiming for vertical markets, such as health care, where it can make a significant margin by leveraging a package of hardware, software and services.
Within the worldwide PC market, HP has caught up to its main competitor, Dell, within the last year. Two separate surveys by IDC and Gartner released on Jan. 17 show that HP continues to hold the top spot among PC vendors both inside the United States and worldwide.
In the thin-client space, however, HP is second to Wyse Technology, a San Jose, Calif., company that has specialized in producing these type of PCs for years, said Mark Margevicius, an analyst with Gartner, based in Stamford, Conn.
By stepping up its thin-client offerings, HP is looking to catch up. Since it started selling its own thin client in 2005, HP has sold 1.5 million of these PCs and should surpass the two million mark in 2007, company officials said.
For years, thin clients have been considered a niche market but with pressure by lawmakers to provide more privacy for a variety of recordsthe Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the financial realm and the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the health care fieldHP is betting that more companies will look for the security that thin clients promise.
"Thin clients have a history of being a fairly niche market," said Margevicius, adding that these new concerns have started to open up new markets for thin clients.
"There are lots of customers out there for a computer that offers a higher level of security and there are also a lot of customers concerned about compliancy requirements, like Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA. Those are legitimate reasons to look at thin clients," Margevicius said.
With improvements to the back-end architecture in the data center and the proliferation of remote configuration and broadband, the thin client might have a shot at the mainstream.
"I like to think of it as the stewing stage," Margevicius said. "It might not be ready to serve but something smells like its cooking."
In general, server-based computingthin clients and PC bladesplace the key components of a PCthe processor, memory, hard driveon a server that is housed within a data center. IT administrators can then manage the applications from one central location, while the user is left with a keyboard, mouse and display that function like a standard desktop computer.
For Manoj Malhotra, the product marketing manager for HP's thin-client business, the market for this type of PC is verticalshealth care and educationas well as companies that outsource work. "Health care is very concerned about security," Malhorta told eWEEK.
Next Page: Thin clients save power.
"If you lose data, it is the responsibility of the IT administrator and the responsibility of the company," Malhorta added. "They are very actively looking at any solution that provides more security. Security is probably the number one reason clients are going for thin clients. There is also the ease of manageability and ease of deployment and, as a result, the total cost of the solution goes down for thin clients."
Within outsourcing, Malhorta explained that U.S.-based companies that send projects to engineers in India or China want to keep the code secure on a server and send the work piecemeal to their employees. Thin clients, Malhorta said, allow this type of overseas arrangement with the help of secure VPNs.
With the push to provide more "green" solutions for IT departments, HP will also tout its thin clients' power savings. While a typical HP desktop uses about 75 watts of power, the thin client uses 15 watts.
To that end, the company is unveiling the HP Compaq t5153 and the HP Compaq t5530 thin clients. The lower-end Compaq t5153, comes with a Via Eden processor, which is clocked at 400MHz, and runs the Linux operating system.
The high-end Compaq t5530 uses a higher-performing 800MHz Via Eden processor and runs Microsoft Windows CE operating system. This thin client also comes with a number of extra features including a Web browser and media player.
These two new thin clients also come with additional features including a secure USB compartment, the use of HP's Quick Release technology, which allows for easier mounting of the PC, and wireless access through either 802.11b and 802.11g wireless LAN with an external USB option.
Each thin client has a 64MB flash memory and 128MB of DDR SDRAM (double-data-rate synchronous dynamic RAM).
In addition to these features, HP is offering three different ways to create "stateless" capabilities with its thin clients. The first allows users to load all the application onto one thin client, copy the information to a USB flash drive and then load the images and application onto other think clients.
The second, according to Malhotra, uses an FTP server that allows the thin client to connect to the network automatically when the machine is first powered up and find the settings and applications it needs. When the machine is shut down, the applications and images return to the network and are not stored within the thin client.
The third capability uses Microsoft's SMB. This allows the user to create a "master thin client" that can connect to other thin clients through a company's network. The images and applications are stored onto the master client and users can then migrate those applications to the other thin clients.
The HP Compaq t5153 Thin Client, which carries a price tag of $199, will be available as of Feb. 1. The Compaq t5530, which costs $299, will hit the market on March 1.
In addition to its thin-client portfolio, HP is also expanding its CCI (Consolidated Client Infrastructure) for its PC blade architecture. This includes virtualization and streaming software from Microsoft SoftGrid and Altiris' SVS (Software Virtualization Solution). Also, HP is including new manageability tools that will help customize thin client and blade PCs.
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