NComputing Aims to Disrupt Desktop Virtualization

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NComputing promises that its X- and L-series products will give users the benefits of desktop virtualization for a fraction of the cost of competing solutions by VMware and Citrix.

NComputing is changing the rules of desktop virtualization with its proprietary all-in-one solutions, allowing solution providers to deliver high-performance desktop virtualization solutions at a fraction of the cost of competitors such as VMware and Citrix.

NComputing developed its own desktop virtualization software and associated hardware appliances in-house, allowing its solution providers a one-stop solution for customers in markets as diverse as education, manufacturing and for enterprise customers with multiple branch offices, says Carsten Puls, vice president of strategic marketing at NComputing.

“We developed a disruptively low-cost solution that provides not just the software but also the hardware, and because we developed and manufacture that in-house, solution providers can get to a very low acquisition price,” he says. “That makes it ideal for any size customer – from small, just-getting-started businesses to major corporations,” he says.

Better-known players such as VMware and Citrix certainly have their own virtual desktop solutions, says Puls, but they rely on the addition of third-party hardware, which can often drive up the cost of such solutions as well as introduce unnecessary complexity.

“The other players tend to fall into two categories: either providing virtualization software or hardware. These products just aren’t enough for customers on their own, and when you add up the per-seat price of software with the added hardware components, you get an acquisition price that’s higher than standard, traditional PCs,” he says.

Often, that cost ends up being around $1,000 per user, whereas with the NComputing solution, prices range from $70 (£50) to $200 (£140) per seat.

Puls says the key is recognising that individual PCs now have excess capacity and power that far surpasses what the average user needs. The company’s software works by installing an agent on host machine connected to as many as 30 additional PCs, and creating multiple workstations that function like sessions, he says, harnessing the extra power from those PCs to create multiple virtual environments.

NComputing’s proprietary user extension protocol (UXP) delivers the desktop experience and protocol across a variety of mediums, so users get the look and feel of an actual desktop PC, he says. NComputing’s access hardware is an incredibly small, energy-efficient appliance about the size of a deck of cards, Puls says.

By combining these components, NComputing allows solution providers to deliver a virtual desktop experience using very low-cost, entry level PCs as both the host and the clients, he says.

“The example that we use in our executive briefing centre here is a $360 (£253) Dell PC that’s used to run 11 seats,” he says.

NComputing offers two product lines: the X-Series, which creates a direct connection between the host and client computers, and the L-Series, which connects host and clients via Ethernet.

The X-series uses a PCI card for interconnection, and requires that host and client machines be within 10 meters of each other. The L-series is better suited for manufacturing environments or for larger enterprises with branch offices. The L-series can connect up to 30 users from a single host using a networking switch. Both can be installed and deployed within about 15 to 20 minutes, Puls says, making the solution a great fit for solution providers whose customers want to see fast ROI.

The X-series proximity requirement along with its low cost of $70 (£50) per seat makes it ideal for education settings, Puls says, and in fact, that’s where many of NComputing’s solution providers sell.

Eight percent of new computing purchases for K-12 school and universities are from NComputing, says Puls, and the company’s sold 1.2 million seats in the last two years. IDC research says NComputing is the third-largest provider of thin-clients after only Hewlett-Packard and Wyse Technology.

While NComputing’s solutions ship with built-in management software, the solutions are completely compatible with existing third-party management software, says Puls.

“We made it a point to partner with third-party systems that customers already have,” he says. “We work with standard Linux and Windows operating systems and peripherals, too; we don’t want customers and solution providers to have to make further purchases or spend time learning new software,” he says.