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Where regular desktops fear to tread

Have you ever marveled at how fast desktops and laptops start breaking down, even under normal working conditions? Try putting a desktop on the floor of a plastics manufacturing facility. You’ll be lucky if you get a week out of the desktop before something fails, said Kunal Patel, IT director at Nina Plastics USA in Orlando, Fla.

The production facility at Nina Plastics performs a process called plastics extrusion, which releases all manner of dust and grime into the atmosphere, clogging up fans and power supplies, and settling down on hard drives, Patel said.

At first, Patel’s staff would try and fix the broken desktops, which production workers used to log their job start and stop times. “But it became too much of a hassle for IT to constantly fix stuff,” Patel said, so the company eventually gave up on trying to computerize its production facility.

“We shouldn’t be maintenance men,” said Patel, who also oversees application development for the firm. “We all went to college and should be working on more important problems.”

However, that was before Patel, with a handful of administrative staffers, spearheaded a virtual desktop trial using a combination of VMware virtualization plus thin clients from Pano Logic.

By going with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), Nina Plastics derived all the usual benefits you’d expect: faster desktop provision, easier patching and upgrading, simplified troubleshooting, etc. At the same time, Patel also found that the Pano Logic devices were robust enough to withstand the harsh conditions of the production floor. “There’s no CPU, no memory, no fan. There’s really nothing in there to break or get old,” he said. The company has since reintroduced computers into its production facility, giving customer service staff real-time visibility into the status of a particular job.

Patel also plans to add touch-screen monitors to the Pano devices, a feature v and supported in the Pano Virtual Desktop Solution (VDS) 2.5 software.

Patel had lots of other interesting stuff to say about his VDI deployment, but for now, suffice to say that he’s a fan. “It’s easy to fall in love with, especially when you have suffered so much,” Patel said. “I have fewer gray hairs, fewer lost girlfriends, and a lot of time given back to me because of virtualization.”

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Zero clients are ideal for harsh manufacturing environments and to consolidate enterprise computing in general. The challenge with Pano is the limited desktop performance - video and graphics. While better than plain RDP, it is a compromised experience compared to a PC at the user desk. There is another solution that provides and un-compromised user experience and that is PC-over-IP (PCoIP) technology. To be truly cost effective a Zero client needs to be able to handle any user type in an enterprise - from terminal/task workers, mainstream office users and power users that may require full DVI resolutions and full frame rate 3D graphics. Check out this Zero Client that is an all-in-one display that Samsung just announced (SyncMaster930ND) it supports VMware View (aka VDI) and PCoIP to be forward compatible when Vmware VIew integrates PCoIP technology (see vmware announcement with Teradici at the Sept08 Vmworld) Here is a demo of the user performance including HD video and 3D graphics. Also, this flash overview from Samsung For full disclosure, I am the Director of Business Development at Teradici.