Wyse has a stake in making virtualization faster and more user-friendly, given that sales of its thin clients – terminals that use remote servers to provide the bulk of their data and computing power – rely on providing an experience as close as possible to a good old PC.
But in its Wednesday announcement of Virtual Desktop Accelerator – its new software to speed up virtualization across continent-spanning networks - Wyse is also plugging the eco-friendly nature of remote computing.
The pitch is that VDA, by circumventing the aspects of IP-based networks that slow data transfers between thin clients and the servers that actually do their work, can help companies avoid building new data centers to support remote work sites.
"As companies start to roll out global installations of desktop virtualization, they're finding that the global users aren't really getting the desired performance," is how Jeff McNaught, Wyse's chief marketing and strategy officer, described the problem Wyse's new software is meant to solve.
"Customers are telling us they're being forced to add data centers in these faraway places," say, China or India, he said. But Virtual Desktop Accelerator can speed up the performance of thin clients over long networks by a factor of three or so, he said.
Wyse is now building the software into its thin clients, and the cost per server – which can serve 200 to 300 thin clients – is about $1,800, he said.
Beyond the offshoring that could be enabled this way – a point McNaught did not bring up – making the move to thin clients saves big money on energy bills, he insists. Thin clients aren't just cheaper than PCs, they also use less power – about 6 to 20 watts each, compared to PCs that use between 70 and 300 watts apiece, he said.
That's the same premise that has led utilities around the country to offer rebates to customers that switch to thin clients and virtualization (see The $45 Desktop). It's a welcome trend to companies like Wyse and fellow thin client maker NComputing, as well as to companies like VMWare, Microsoft, and Citrix that make virtualization software.
Not everybody sees virtualization as an energy-efficient move, given that thin clients require servers that suck energy and tend to be located in data centers that require massive amounts of power for cooling (see Energy Star for Servers Arrives – And It's a Bit Short).
But Mark Bowker, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said that while that's true to a point, moving to thin clients usually does end up cutting energy bills overall, given that one server can serve the needs of many more terminals.
More and more corporations are seeking to use faraway data centers to support overseas employees equipped with thin clients, he said.
"The shortcomings are, the end user experience is not the same as it would be locally, meaning on a corporate network," he said. "Wyse is looking to improve that desktop experience over longer distances. If they can do that, it becomes a bigger population of end users."
Concerns about performance have been one factor limiting the uptake of virtualization. Research firm Gartner in February estimated that virtualization is being use by only about 12 percent of companies worldwide despite the potential savings it provides, although it also projected that would grow to 20 percent this year.