Mental Ward

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Pano Logic: A Big Zero, and Happy About It

Executive Editor Tom Valovic and I had a briefing yesterday with Pano Logic, makers of a little silver box that goes "thin client" one better, down to zero client. The idea is that you plug your keyboard/mouse/monitor into the box (Pano execs like to emphasize that in terms of design, the box is on a par [at least according to one design competition] with the iPhone) and start working.

The box connects to your datacenter, where all the user desktops (including associated apps) are stored in VMs. All processing is done at the server -- no drivers, hardware, etc. to mess with. This is different from Wyse and other thin-client solutions, which at the very least contain an OS, even if it's very lightweight.

I can see serious advantages to this architecture. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure means no sneakernet; no mass patching of your desktops every second Tuesday of the month; no BitTorrent and other dangerous peer-to-peer programs being downloaded to your users' computers; and, of course, hugely reduced hardware costs.

The potential drawbacks, however, are also significant. The top hurdle to overcome (similar to the situation with thin clients) is performance. You'd better have a blazing network (that never goes down) with mega hardware, preferably designed and funded by Tony Stark, on the backend. And what do you do with your existing desktops? Here are some good ideas.

On the performance front, Pano believes it's close to solving the major issues so that power programs like CAD, CRM, ERP and the like (in other words, tasks that tax I/O) can be used with the device. How soon? "Early next year" is what I was told by Aly Orady, Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer. I told him I'd hold him to it; I'll get a demo Pano, do some video editing with it, and report back to you.

Pano says that its largest installation has about 250 users; that puts it squarely in the SMB space now. How much this architecture can scale in the real world is open for debate (if you're using Pano, I'd love to talk to you). But it sure looks promising from where I sit.

Desktop virtualization (here's my definition of what that means) is still a very, very new space within virtualization, even though it's quickly getting crowded. But I wonder if vendors aren't getting ahead of themselves, and creating a product in the hope that a big market materializes. It's difficult to find an organization using this technology for more than a few users; I don't know of any companies fully relying on this zero-client (or other VDI) architecture (outside of the vendors making the products). If you are 100 percent thin or zero-client, please contact me so I can chat with you.

That doesn't mean that I think a substantial market could not develop; indeed, I believe the technology has tons of advantages. I just don't know if a) Companies are ready to ditch the entrenched mindset of full desktops, and b) Even if they are, if they trust the technology enough at this point to commit fully.

For myself, I hope desktop virtualization takes off, since it will make this a safer, more efficient computing world; I just don't know if it will.

Posted by Keith Ward on 05/09/2008 at 12:48 PM


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