Desktop Virtualization Eases Small Business IT Burden

Thursday Apr 28th 2011 by Thor Olavsrud
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NComputing sets its sights on the small business with Office in a Box which, through desktop virtualization, supports up to 33 people from a single host PC or server.

Aiming to ease the small business IT burden of the PC replacement cycle -- not to mention PC maintenance -- desktop virtualization specialist NComputing recently introduced its Office in a Box solution.

"The proliferation of PCs has become a financial and management constraint for SMBs," said Jim McHugh, senior vice president of marketing for NComputing. "Office in a Box uses our virtualization technology to address these challenges so that SMBs can deploy solutions that help them focus on business advancement not technology issues."

McHugh explained that the three- to five-year desktop replacement cycle has become a significant burden in small business computing. With the Office in a Box solution, NComputing offers a different approach to solving small business technology needs.

Office in a Box consists of a single computer (the host server), NComputing's vSpace virtualization software, OS licenses (as needed), NComputing virtual desktops, and peripherals (monitors, keyboards and mice). McHugh noted that small businesses that already have the necessary peripherals don't need to purchase new ones.

The NComputing system consists of virtual desktops that connect an end user’s monitor and other peripherals to a virtualized shared computer via USB, PCI or Ethernet. McHugh said that NComputing virtual desktops are small, durable devices that can be mounted on the back of the user’s monitor or under the desk.

These desktop devices have ports for peripherals (such as a monitor, keyboard and mouse) as well as a port to connect to the host computer. All of the primary functionality is integrated into a single chip that has an optimal set of resources that work with the NComputing vSpace software.

McHugh explained that the chip in the virtual desktops handles all the decoding and transcoding of operating system and applications data between the host server and the virtual desktop, allowing the host server to support multiple employees without compromising any user's experience -- even when engaged in activities that require heavy processing loads, like watching full-screen video.

This works because today's PCs are so powerful that most people only use a small percentage of a PC's processing power. Virtualizing each user's session and hosting it on a single shared PC or server uses that processing power much more efficiently.

With the virtualization software, each host server can support up to 33 people. Companies can support additional users by adding host servers. When it comes time to upgrade software or hardware, the change only needs to be made to the host server, making replacement quick and eliminating the need to support mixed small business computing environments.

Solution add-ons are available for larger deployments, including virtual desktop failover, storage, and server virtualization infrastructure for scaling to support large populations.

Reducing Costs Through Desktop Virtualization

NComputing said small businesses that use its solution can reduce the per-seat cost of a PC for their employees by up to 75 percent (to between $70 and $250 per user, depending upon configuration). There are other potential cost savings as well.

Each NComputing virtual desktop draws less than 5 watts of power, compared with the average of 110 watts drawn by a desktop PC. And because they generate less heat, they require less intensive cooling. NComputing said that translates into a reduction in power and cooling requirements of up to 90 percent.

"It's a lot cooler and a lot quieter," McHugh said.

Additionally, because only the host server will typically require upgrades and maintenance, NComputing said the solution lowers maintenance and support costs by up to 75 percent as well.

"There are no moving parts; there's nothing to fail," McHugh said of the NComputing virtual desktops. "The expected life of these devices is about 10 years."

The Office in a Box solution is designed to run with either Windows or Ubuntu Linux operating systems, and McHugh noted that it has worked hard to integrate its solution with third-party vendors.

"We completely support VMware," he said. "More and more we're working to support Citrix. We can just add a Citrix Receiver to that host machine. We do complete integration end-to-end. We've made a lot of effort, so we just plug into other virtualization technologies that are growing in this space well."

On the administration front, the vSpace management console allows an IT administrator to set up, configure, remotely monitor and, if necessary, control a user’s session. NComputing said virtual desktop settings could be configured centrally from the administrator console, including the ability to lock out connections of USB devices.

McHugh noted that while NComputing is 100 percent focused on its channel partners to sell its solutions and offers them comprehensive training in deploying and supporting its products.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to SmallBusinessComputing.com and a former senior editor at InternetNews.com. He covers operating systems, standards and security, among other technologies.

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