Thin client vendors have shown a greater presence at this week’s LinuxWorld conference than in the past, with Wyse Technology, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems all offering new products. The moves set the stage for broader deployment of the technology in the coming year.
IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell told LinuxInsider that the announcements are a clear indication that Linux is growing to be a force in the market. “It makes a strong statement about this space,” he said.
Wyse, HP and Sun
Wyse made the most notable move, announcing on Monday that it will make Linux thin clients an integral part of its product offering. In terms of market share, the company has been ranked at number one for thin clients for the last seven years.
In a statement company director Mike DeNeffe noted, “We’re addressing the growing need in organizations to embrace the advantages of Linux as a desktop alternative.”
Also at LinuxWorld, HP announced a new thin client, while Sun showed off new software that lets Linux servers control the company’s Sun Ray thin clients.
Thin clients have not always been so warmly embraced. Touted as the next big thing in the 1990s, the technology floundered when it failed to gain widespread corporate adoption.
O’Donnell said that the market is now growing at a decent clip. He noted, however, that the recent growth has to be kept in perspective. “It’s getting stronger, but you have to realize that thin clients only have about one percent of the market. Most of the market is still dominated by some flavor of Windows.”
In the thin client market, Linux has about 20 percent, an increase of about 5 percent over previous years. The use of Linux for thin clients is the fastest-growing trend in the space, said O’Donnell.
“It makes sense,” he said. “The fact is, Linux is a great OS in the embedded space. In my opinion, it makes a lot more sense there than on the desktop.”
O’Donnell noted that while Wyse has been active in the Linux thin client market for some time, it is now putting greater focus on the newer 2.6 kernel.
Wyse has developed its own version of the operating system, called Wyse Linux V6, with kernel and software provided by MontaVista. Named the Wyse Winterm 5150SE, the thin client runs on an AMD Geode GX processor.
Wyse noted that the 5150SE is geared toward advancing Linux to the desktop. The company has stated that its thin client is distinct in the marketplace because it provides a more versatile, cost-effective, secure and manageable IT infrastructure in the Linux environment than a PC.
The company added that the launch of the 5150SE and Wyse Linux V6 is part of a series of planned Linux products. Both the thin client and the operating system will be available in the fourth quarter of this year.
HP’s Thin Client
LinuxWorld’s other high-profile announcement surrounding Linux-based thin clients came from HP, which unveiled its Compaq t5515, which uses an 800-MHz Crusoe processor from Transmeta.
Aimed at midtier enterprises, the thin client comes with a free copy of Altiris remote management software. For customers in the high-end, HP has noted that it now has full Linux support across its entire Integrity server family and HP StorageWorks portfolio.
Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio told LinuxInsider that the t5515 will fit in well with HP’s other products. This is striking, she said, because HP also has partnership arrangements with Microsoft.
“HP has all these incredibly complex and seemingly antithetical relationships,” she said. Being able to offer a Linux thin client is another example of the company’s ability to handle many products in multiple channels.
“They’re able to juggle,” she said. “Amazingly, they even do it gracefully.”
With the efforts of Wyse and HP, it might be possible that thin is back in. On the other hand, the market could replay the antithin theme of a few years ago. The next year should show whether enterprises are ready to beef up on thin client.