Thin-Clients on x86 or ARM?

Did you ever wonder why NComputing is building almost all its Thin Clients on the ARM architecture rather than using x86-PC solutions like everyone else?

Looking at traditional Thin Clients they typically sold on the promise of offering a small form factor, lower energy consumption and most importantly a simpler, secure operating system to access SBC (Server based Computing) or VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) backends. The basic idea being to have all the compute-power and data storage being centralized in a data-centre creating a secure and very flexible work environment compared to the traditional Server-PC model.

When Thin Clients appeared in the market to represent the access point for these centralized IT solutions, they were supposed to be simpler and more secure and more cost effective than PCs so vendors started to develop customized operating systems and receivers for different protocols based mostly on Linux kernels and complemented them with remote management suites to easily manage these Thin Clients. However, developing this software, the developers faced a problem. What platform architecture should they write their software for? At the time many years ago as still today they had the choice to develop proprietary hardware based on one of several available processor architectures or pick a widely used standard architecture. Unfortunately, at the time there was only ONE standard platform in the market… The PC, based on x86 processors!

So this is what they ended up doing and to this date we literally pay the price for this decision. The PC architecture is an overkill for almost all Thin Client needs. It is not optimized for the task and carries a price point that often is even more expensive than a PC due to its form factor and lower production volume. So not only do we pay for the extensive server structure in the backend, the licenses for the virtualization software, we also need to pay at least the price for a PC in order to access the backend. In some cases companies even use a Microsoft operating system on these „disguised PCs“ which increases complexity as IT staff now has to maintain a complex server environment AND a rather error- and malware-prone operating system on the front end.

For a few years now, innovative vendors have been looking for alternatives and tried to position proprietary platforms as Thin Clients. All of those had very limited success though as software offerings by third parties, like receivers and peripheral drivers, were lagging so users shied away from them.

Fortunately, in the last couple of years a new standard platform based on a powerful and inexpensive architecture has emerged. The ARM based Raspberry Pi solution is now in its fourth generation, has been sold in millions of units and is supported by thousands of software developers for a wide range of applications. It offers all the optimization required to build the perfect Thin Client like video hardware acceleration and compression up to the latest codecs like H.265, dual monitor resolutions up to 4k, USB 3 ports etc. and the processing power to run any receiver for any protocol.  NComputing saw the opportunity to develop high performance and cost-effective Thin Clients on the Raspberry Pi platform very early and embraced it for all its offerings today. They are available for enterprise class Citrix protocols and SMB solutions like Microsoft RDS and VERDE down to educational IT solutions like vSpace and are fully supported by the virtualization technology vendors. Comprehensive management suites that support Pi and many different platforms including x86 are completing the offer.

Today, customers have the choice between Pi based cost effective Thin Clients and legacy PC based versions.

About NComputing:

NComputing is a leading desktop virtualisation solution provider serving more than 70,000 companies across 140 countries. NComputing specializes in providing affordable, easy-to-deploy, centrally managed, and high-performing Raspberry Pi-based Thin Client computing solutions. The RX-RDP Thin Client is a cloud-ready Thin Client designed and optimized specifically for Microsoft RDS, powered by Raspberry Pi3. The RX-RDP provides a rich PC-like experience in an affordable, energy-saving device with a small footprint. The new RX420(RDP) Thin Client brings premium performance and native dual display, powered by the latest Raspberry Pi4. Both Thin Client solutions deliver full-screen, full-motion HD multimedia playback with support for Microsoft RemoteFX and NComputing vCAST Streaming, WiFi connectivity, and built-in transparent USB redirection achieving unparalleled peripheral support.


2 thoughts on “Thin-Clients on x86 or ARM?

  1. Ritchie Reply

    Hi please can I have some more info on your Thin client solution?

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