Tiny Cube Virtualizes Desktop Computing

Pano Logic announced Tuesday an all-hardware, no-software desktop device designed specifically for server-based desktop virtualization.

The device connects keyboard, mouse, display, audio and USB (Universal Serial Bus) peripherals over an existing IP (Internet protocol) network to a copy of Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows XP running on a virtualized server.

It has no CPU, no memory, no operating system and no drivers, resulting in a 70 percent reduction in the total cost of ownership (TCO) and an elimination of the security risks most desktops pose, Pano said.

The silver-toned cube itself is tiny — with a footprint about 3.5 inches square — and a sleek appearance created by industrial design firm Whipsaw.

“The right model for desktop computing is to have zero software — and hence no pain — at the desktop, and to centralize all software and management in the data center,” said Nick Gault, CEO of Pano Logic. “And when there is no software on the desktop, a majority of today’s desktop security problems vanish. The Pano architecture fully delivers on the promise of virtualization for the desktop.”

Pano Button

Available in September via subscription or perpetual license, Pano’s desktop offers complete Windows functionality, including full USB support, the company said. In addition, by taking advantage of server virtualization, it provides a number of additional features as well, including the Pano Button, which users can push to solve an array of computing problems.

Configurable by IT providers, the Pano Button can roll back from a corrupted Windows instance to a known good instance, for example, or switch among different virtual machines set up with software for different job functions.

“We are deploying Pano to help us more easily and cost-effectively manage the desktops at our branches,” said David Grant, CIO of Affinity Bank. “We’ve already virtualized many of our desktops in the branch offices, and we feel that Pano’s approach will allow us to provide more security and control over our virtual desktop environment.

“Features like the Pano Button are incredibly helpful, allowing users to access role-based work environments depending on the function they are performing at that point in time within the bank,” Grant added.

Green Alternative

Because it has no software, the Pano design is also immune to viruses and malware, and it gives IT centralized control of all USB ports. In addition, each Pano machine uses only 3 percent of the power required by an average PC — just 5 watts — making it a green alternative, the company said.

Taken together, the savings in energy and IT staff time add up to a TCO reduction of US$3,200 per machine, Pano said.

“The biggest advantage is that it doesn’t have any embedded operating system that needs to be managed or patched,” Michael Rose, associate research analyst for client virtualization software at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

“I think that differentiator is pretty significant, and it aligns Pano very well with the idea of desktop virtualization,” Rose explained. “It makes enterprises better able to manage their desktop infrastructures.”

Easier Management

Desktop PCs might be inexpensive, but supporting them is not, Rose added. “The use of Pano’s technology can help organizations realize the benefits associated with the use of virtual desktop infrastructures by deploying client devices that do not require software management,” he said.

Indeed, the fact that that machine has no software makes it easier to deploy and manage than comparable thin clients, Chris Wolf, a senior analyst with Burton Group, told TechNewsWorld. The device integrates with Windows Active Directory so that when users start up, they can activate themselves and will see only the appropriate software based on their authorization, he added.

The Pano Button is particularly notable, Wolf said.

“If a user system is having trouble, all the user has to do is hit the button for options such as rolling back the computer to an earlier period,” Wolf explained. “Any user could do something like that, so it frees IT from the support of user desktops.”

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