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Best-in-Class Companies Choose Thin Client Desktops
Dick Csaplar
JAN 22, 2013 09:00 AM
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Aberdeen's extensive research into virtualization adoption has found that server virtualization has been widely accepted by companies of all sizes. While most organizations have deployed hypervisor software on their servers (See "Is the Hypervisor Market Expanding or Contracting?" September 2012), fewer companies have deployed desktop virtualization.

The challenges of desktop virtualization are many, but Aberdeen has identified one tool heavily used by organizations with successful desktop virtualization programs — thin client desktop devices.

In November 2012, Aberdeen surveyed over 120 organizations to learn how they implemented their desktop virtualization programs. This Analyst Insight report will define how top performing organizations are finding advantages through optimizing desktop performance, as well as help your organization identify which desktop device is right for you. The full report can be found here "Best-in-Class Companies Choose Thin Client Desktops".

Difference Between Thin and Zero Clients

A zero client and thin client device are similar in that they do not execute compute calculations on their own. They typically replace the need for a personal computer, individual software licenses and restrict end users from adding unapproved software to the company desktop asset. Both these devices generally consist of a module that connects to the office network and into which the user plugs their monitor, mouse and keyboard.

The zero client is a special purpose-built device that has its operating system embedded in the firmware with no option or requirement to change. The advantage of a zero client device is that there is no need for IT to do software upgrades over the life of the product. On the other side, a thin client device has a stripped down, customized Linux or embedded Windows operating system. Thin client devices need IT to do some software upgrades, particularly as new and desired desktop virtualization features are released by software vendors.

When deciding between thin and zero clients IT must decide if maintaining the flexibility of their desktops for new virtualization features is worth the time and effort required to periodically update the thin client operating system. In other words, if a company purchases a zero client device and a new desktop virtualization capability is created, then the zero client device may not be able to be upgraded to use it. Thin clients require IT to do updates, but end users retain access to future desktop features.

Who is Using Thin Client Devices?

Aberdeen drilled down on those companies that reported using thin client devices. Using IT performance metrics, Figure 1 shows that Best-in-Class organizations, those that are reducing downtime and maintenance costs while still lowering IT headcount, are 50% more likely to use thin client devices in their organization than Average or Laggard companies. Sixty-nine percent (69%), over two thirds of Best-in-Class organizations, support thin client desktop devices for their end users. Almost a third, 31% report that thin client devices are their primary desktop device. It is interesting to note that even Average companies recognized the benefits of thin client devices, as one third of them have standardized on their use, about the same rate as the Best-in-Class.

Figure 1. Bar graph showing thin desktop use.


Companies have many options when choosing what end user devices to support in their desktop virtualization program. Best-in-Class organizations, those with the best performing desktop virtualization programs, disproportionally choose thin client devices. They have decided that the minor (less than once a year on average) software upgrade requirements are worth it to preserve the option of being able to support new and unanticipated features from desktop virtualization vendors. In addition, the Best-in-Class monitor their desktop devices to ensure they are still worth the investment and meeting the needs of their end users.

With the increasingly rapid changes happening in the IT world, it seems a small effort required to leave open future benefits for virtualized desktops.

by Dick Csaplar, Senior Research Analyst, Virtualization and the Cloud, IT Infrastructure Group, Aberdeen Group.

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