back to article Startup makes thin clients look chubby

This week's VMworld conference in San Francisco was the coming-out party for the thinnest thin client we've ever encountered, a sub-pint-sized desktop appliance from Pano Logic of Menlo Park, California. Actually, according to the company's EVP of engineering Parmeet Chaddha, thin client - even emaciated client - isn't the …

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Neat...

I sure hope that every aspect of the network protocols this thing uses are cryptographically secured. From their simple description, I can't even imagine how much fun could be had arp-poisoning a network with a few of those things on it. My bet would be somewhere 'very much fun.'

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Anonymous Coward

Sun Ray

What's new compared to Sun Ray?

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How does it work ?

So, it has no processor, no graphics and no software. How the heck does it work ? The most generous thing I can come up with, is a custom ASIC. However, I suspect the marketing drones are out in force, and there is actually a small CPU in there with a small software stack.

How long 'till someone tries to boot Linux or *BSD on it...

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FAIL

Sunray is better....

Because they have a DVI-Version, they can link many of their clients together for multi monitor setup and they support more than just VMWare ESX...

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Coat

Obligatory comment.

"It has no microprocessor or graphics processor"

I'm getting that it won't run Crysis then?

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@AC re: Sun Ray

Precisely. Nothing new, at least not that I can see reading this article.

Sorry, but this is old hat, pure and simple. Nice that someone else would at least try and deliver a stateless thin client (which I think is what the author was getting at), but seriously, I'm more inclined to go with hardware, software and storage integrated from one vendor (Sun/Oracle) than bits and pieces from multiple vendors.

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FAIL

Hmm, sheep? . . cow? . .

Ahh, bullshit.

A computing device that has no 'microprocessor'? pull the other one, it's got bells on!

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Anonymous Coward

Expensive

Expensive for a thin client - guess their name is right: Zero client as in zero interest.

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A KVM by any other name ...

"The zero-client definition, Chaddha said, is due to the fact that the Pano Device contains no processor, no software, no drivers, requires no patching, no configuration. "It is as dumb as a telephone," he said."

$300+ for a modern-day single-user KVM with a MAC address, only usable at the pre-configured end of a tail circuit? Yeah, sure, right. THOSE will sell ...

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FAIL

It has another problem...

VMware is partnering with Teradici to embed the protocol used for its PC over IP chipset into ESX server. So unless VMware are intending to keep the existing RDP protocol in place as well, these devices may be seen as VERY late to the game.

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@Gordon

It looks like the board is an FPGA to do the decoding wired up to some VGA, network and usb hardware. So pretty much a form of remote KVM with a simple protocol to squirt the display traffic over a network.

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FAIL

What's new?

I was using dumb terminals connected to a remote computer back in the 80s!!

Guess the wheel has come full circle yet again...

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Hmmm Proprietary Protocol

If there is one thing worse than proprietary software, it's proprietary transmission protocols followed closely by proprietary data file formats.

Not way on this earth would I buy a telephone with a proprietary protocol, why is this any different? The marketing droid even compared it to a telephone. The only problem is that it's _more_ dumb.

*yawn* Call me back when they can stop hiding everything and sell products on technical merits.

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FAIL

No CPU?

These days everything has a CPU, doesn't matter if it's just a packet handler and a graphics card it must have a processor. It must also have an operating system, even if thats just an RTOS to translate the packets into the framebuffer then it is still an OS.

What they mean is it doesn't have an OS with a user interface.

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a better zero?

As a user, all I want is to be able to press a switch and <ping> the thing is up, ready and working - instantly. Click an icon and <another ping> it's connected to the networked backend, that holds all my files. Press another icon on the screen and up pops the word-processor - no latency, no rattling around on disks, loading up millions of fonts I'll never use (and millions more functions I don't use/understand/know about). Same with the spreadsheet: just the basics, the 10% of the functions I use 90% of the time. Same with the other applications: browser, email, calc, calendar etc. Basic functions instantly with the possibility of more via the backend if needed: maybe through a virtual desktop, VNC style.

Press the power button again and in less than a second it's switched itself off - ready to be restarted instantly at the next press.

At it turns out, I've already got one of these: it's the PDA I've had for years. Apart from minor niggles, just as a tiny, little screen and no keyboard or mouse it's just right for the vast majority of work - and I suspect, would be the ideal desktop for the overwhelming majority of office workers. Just give it a 19 inch screen, proper detatched keyboard and mouse and off you go: No disks to slow things down, no gigahertz processor to suck up power and cooling and if it's designed properly, the ability to hitch the keyboad & mouse onto the screen and walk away with it, under your arm ready to set up at a different desk through the wireless LAN connection.

The business administrative savings: with it's zero upgrades, no config required - just plug it in & search for the (secure) network and absolute uniformity would recover it;s cost in a year. So, why can't I buy this?

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No CPU and memory my ass!

Oh, cmon! Even your electric toothbrush has a CPU with memory, etc.

This might be a single chip SoC (system on chip) solution, but I bet there is at least one 32bit RISC core in the SoC! so, there goes no CPU.

LAN, USB, audio, VGA - all those IP cores can be fitted to the SoC, but I am pretty sure there is an external RAM die somewhere (even if in the same package as the SoC ASIC).

And there is also FW in the ROM & FW patching capability in there.

There's no pictures of the innards; guess there might even be an FPGA, not ASIC in there (due to low volume/high unit price).

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Go

@AC

That suggests to me that it's- at least partly- based around a microcontroller rather than a microprocessor. Things like the PIC18 have had Ethernet & USB for quite a while- and could handle the I/O perfectly well. Get one that can strip headers etc from the packets and forward the video packets to a decoder chip (i.e. say it's sent as H.264 surrounded by IP routing stuff- the microcontroller would remove the IP routing stuff and pass the H.264 data off to the decoder IC). After that it's just a case of writing some driver software to route all the devices' I/O over Ethernet to a specific device.

The above isn't quite as "dumb as a telephone", but would be an incredibly component-light, simple, reliable and inexpensive way of doing it.

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Anonymous Coward

Missed a trick

These should be compatible with the mount on the back of modern LCDs. Would add an element of security too.

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could be possible

I mean what does such a device need to ndo?

It gets ethernet framees, looks at the first few bytes and the either takes the next bytes as an address for the framebuffer to dma it in, or forward it to usb or audio.

It's not much more complex than your average good ethernet controller. Overall it's a nice idea, but still way to expensive and it uses a proprietary protocoll. (which will in no doubt quickly be reverse engeniered)

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Pint

So basically it turns a monitor into a terminal, with the server being the mainframe.

So basically it turns a monitor into a terminal, with the server acting as mainframes used to.

Good idea.

Looking at the back it looks like all the USB ports are so crowed against other ports and wires that this device will only be good for people with tiny fingers.

So please make one of the USB ports easy to access.

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Power over ethernet?

Looks like it needs a separate power supply: another trick missed.

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Paris Hilton

Looks geat but...

A possible flaw is a single (or narrow) point of failure for all / many users; if a desktop PC, thin client terminal or node switch goes down then only one or a few users are affected, but with this model a problem at the data centre or VM server cluster could potentially affect many or all users...

I suppose infrastructure investment is simply moved from the user to the server end where more heavy duty processing and multiple redundancy will become fundamentaly essential, however, I cannot see this fully mitigating the narrowing of potential failure points.

It would also be interesting to see a comparison of the costs of this model vs a network with more distributed resources, but I would imagine that the main drivers for implementing such a centralised model would have to be functional and pragmatic rather than ecconomic, (i.e. security, centralised governance / administration etc.)?

Paris, because of the 'dumb box' angle.

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Grenade

Nothing new

Been using something smaller for the last 3 years. ChipPC is the size of a light switch, supports PoE, RDP and has management software, Yawn....

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It is an ASIC

Pretty much - a custom ASIC, anyway. Fantastic technology, a bit less capable than a SunRay, but also cheaper (and easier to implement) in the end. Great solution for a windows-only shops. Now... if only they would be purchased by a real "enterprise" company so I could recommend to my customers that they actually base their business on this technology! Come on EMC... you have lots of cash... buy 'em and brand the devices as VMware, and make it part of the VMware View suite of offerings.

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Paris Hilton

Great name

Pano means shag in Finnish

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$329 ? AND no processor?

I think I'll stick to ... a beagleboard, or one of my little Buffalo NAS's ... both clock in under $200

Haven't they heard - general purpose CPU's are so much cheaper than custom hardware :-)

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Unhappy

Interesting but not really special.

You have to give them credit.

This device is just an I/O hub. Think back to a terminal server. (Ok if you're not that old....) A terminal server connected a bunch of dumb ttys via serial cable and then had a single cable back to the server where it was then demuxed to a bunch of serial ports.

Jump forward, you have a virtualized server, and this device wraps tcp/ip around the KVM&Sound data to each device.

So you virtualize your server, had decent network bandwidth and you can now virtualize the pc to be this box, a monitor, keyboard and mouse. (speakers too)

It will work, but you're at the mercy of your network, not to mention that this little thing can only do 10/100 MBits. Not good for a gamer, assuming that the virtualized PC is good.

What it could be useful for is an internet cafe, kiosk, or remote pcs in high traffic areas.

Want to bet they do a partnership with IBM that puts virtualized servers in the cloud? So you can centralized your PC virtualized desktops, then put an el cheapo device at a desk . You can have a virtualized office where no matter what desk you sit at, when you log in, you have access to all of your work.

There is a market, but now you've just lost your cube and you're now in a work farm.

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Good Idea

but nothing new. SunRay has offered this for ages. SunRay 2 is also small, weighs 0.38kg and uses 4Watts of power, costs 200 USD. The SunRay HAS a CPU which is used to transmit I/O back and forth to the server. The server receives input (keyboard, mouse) and the server outputs bitmaps which are shown on the SunRay. The SunRay client never processes any application, it is super thin. Just like this client. If you need more oomph, just upgrade the SunRay server.

One quad core CPU drives 20 SunRay heavy office users. One quad core CPU in the basement, and a SunRay in each house or apartment. That saves loads of energy and administriation.

The SunRay server software runs on Linux / Solaris. Just plugin the SunRay and in 2-3 seconds you will se a login screen. Easy to test at home. Refurbished SunRays costs 40USD at ebay.

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Pop the top already

No CPU? Sorry, no. It works with various USB peripherals, displays 1920x1200, communicates over ethernet, and they claim there's no CPU? Um, no.

This is old technology, and it's called a "graphics terminal." I used to use one that required a TFTP server set up so it could load up its software. Yes, they have a CPU. Yes, they have memory. No, they don't run your application. And they only work well when you have decent bandwidth.

I have seen virtualization environments for Windows where a rack of blade servers each runs a few users, and when one blade failed the whole session seamlessly failed over to a different blade and your productivity wasn't interrupted. Well, you had to wait like five to ten seconds, but that was it.

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shove rs232 on it...

and I can connect it to my phillips p9000.

Can I have green phosphor too?

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Joke

No CPU just screen, keyboard, connectors

Its called a *dumb* terminal.

Albeit a neat compact one with *lots* of connectivitiy.

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Great feedback!

Great candid feedback. Pano supports USB remoting, optimal display performance, DHCP client, UDP-based bus protocol … all purpose-built for VDI … without a CPU or SoC in the end point device. We invite you to check it out: http://zero.panologic.com/PanoLogicWebinars.html?source=Webinar .

We have hundreds of customers, successfully deploying our zero client solution that just works on their existing virtual infrastructure. Here are a few samples: http://www.panologic.com/case-studies-education .

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$300?

Given that you can buy a netbox for less than this, and then use the netbox as a thin client with a bit of linux, why would you want to buy one of these? Sure it's really small, but given the user will have a monitor of 17"+ on their desk, and several netbox manufacturer provide a mount to bolt the box onto the back of the monitor, I can't see where the benefit of the extra size reduction comes in.

As for no CPU... Of course it's got a processor! Silly sales spin. I can't see anyone implementing ethernet, USB and video without a processor or some sort!

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@pchaddha

"We have hundreds of customers, successfully deploying our zero client solution that just works on their existing virtual infrastructure."

Earth to marketing, Earth to marketing, are you there, marketing? Here's a GreatBigClue ... infrastructure isn't virtual by any stretch of the imagination ...

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Happy

@ Martin Owens..

"Not way on this earth would I buy a telephone with a proprietary protocol, why is this any different?"

Millions have, little company called Cisco use "Skinny"

Me, I'm the one with the bank of SIP devices on my desk!

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FAIL

Wow!

They've reinvented the X Terminal. I remember having one of those on my desk way back in, oh, 1988 or so.

I can't say $300 for zero is an attractive prospect either, how long does it take to amortize infinity?

Like the others have said, get a SunRay & virtualbox. Cheaper and more versatile.

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WTF?

HOW MUCH !

who going to buy these.......

NHS lol

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