A zero client is a small piece of hardware to which peripherals and a display may be attached. But it dispenses with everything in a traditional operating system that's not needed to display virtualized applications. Pano Logic and other startups have produced little boxes that host an application's pixel display, with a minimalist CPU. Now Wyse, the thin client maker, has entered the field with Xenith.
Xenith requires no operating system or configuration to install. It runs the Wyse Zero engine, a stripped down software package capable of responding to peripherals, such as a mouse and keyboard, and utilizing the Citrix ICP protocol with HDX or high definition experience, Citrix' support for multi-media and full motion video delivery over the network to virtualized clients.
Citrix Systems CEO Mark Templeton used the small Xenith device to demonstrate Citrix' enhanced desktop virtualization capabilities at the Synergy user conference staged by Citrix in San Francisco May 11. "When it comes to delivering virtual desktops to office workers, the combination of Citrix XenDesktop and the new Wyse Xenith zero client delivers a level of performance that we believe is going to blow a lot of people away," he said in a keynote address.
Running Microsoft Office applications on the device would yield an experience similar to running them on a PC, said Jeff McNaught, Wyse chief strategy officer. He said the small device, which rests comfortably in the palm of a person's hand with a little antenna projecting upward, uses less energy than a PC or laptop and cannot be penetrated by malware. Its Zero Engine software's attack surface is extremely limited, he said. It also turns on and connects to the XenDesktop Server much faster than a PC can boot up, he added.
The Zero Engine includes Citrix Receiver client. Versions of Receiver are available for many types of devices, including laptops, netbooks and PCs, as well as Blackberries, iPhones and tablet computers, including the iPad, McNaught said.
The Xenith requires less electricity than a PC, but McNaught in an interview was uncertain how much less in terms of wattage. He said it saves $70 a year in electricity costs over the average PC. If the PC is left running around the clock, the savings amounts to $150 a year.
It's powered by a 1 Gigahertz Via Eden CPU and has a 1 Gigabit Ethernet switch with which to connect to the network. McNaught said Wyse configures the "zero client" to last eight years without replacement and without compromising the user experience, which includes visually intensive charts and graphs and downloaded video.