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Thin clients and blades are for the weak

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Forget thin clients and blade PCs. Dell will do the virtual desktop thing in its own, less than radical way.

Dell today announced a streamed desktop package that will allow customers to manage up to 100 PCs from a single server. As you might expect, Dell will rely on Citrix's Provisioning Server for Desktops software to send copies of an operating system out from the data center to PCs. By controlling PCs from the server room, Dell thinks customers can cut down on their security risks and management costs - a familiar refrain for anyone familiar with the server-based PC model.

Rivals such as HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems have embraced more dramatic approaches to this sort of virtual PC. Sun, for example, has spent years hyping the thin client where you basically have a smarter than average monitor connect to a server. For its part, HP has thin clients and blade PCs. IBM has followed a similar approach but recently rolled up something kind of unique by partnering with a start-up called Teradici around a super-charged blade PC.

Dell claims that both thin clients and blade PCs require too many tradeoffs to please its customers. Thin clients often suffer from a lag, while blade PCs can be restrictive in the number of users tied to each machine.

So, Dell has simply decided to remove the hard disks from its PCs and put all the storage in the data center.

The company's On-Demand Desktop Streaming, er, offering will consist of diskless OptiPlex 745 and 755 desktops (shipping in Nov.), a PowerEdge 2950 server, a PowerConnect Gigabit switch, the Citrix software and a PowerEdge 2900 storage box. For the time being the streamed desktop bundle will only go to US customers.

Dell promises that end users will see "no difference" from their usual experience.

In the meantime, administrators will handle all of the Windows - and this is a Windows only thing - management from a central place. This can make installing patches and updates much easier. In addition, it offers significant security gains, since users do not have their actual hard drives and since software images can be restored with a couple of clicks if a virus hits .

The new streaming package will cost $1,100 per seat along with the hardware costs. ®

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