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VDI in healthcare possible with thin clients like Raspberry Pi

Because of its small form factor and low cost, Raspberry Pi as a thin client is becoming a popular replacement device for the traditional healthcare workstation.

On every floor of a hospital where clinical or administrative staff work, a handful of computers are typically set up to allow end users to access patient data and other hospital systems. These devices are constantly being updated, upgraded and replaced. In the past their size was considered an eyesore, and the demand for smaller form factors, faster processors and cheaper devices has become a common theme for hospitals. Raspberry Pi devices have made their debut in the enterprise to answer that call. These devices support VDI in healthcare by offering a new set of miniature computers that deliver adequate processing power and security while consuming less power at a lower cost.

Hospitals have come a long way when it comes to the types of endpoint devices their staff uses. Prior to having access to Citrix farms, terminal servers or virtual desktops that allowed the use of thin clients, IT relied solely on thick workstations that were costly, bulky and required lots of resources to maintain. The use of traditional workstations often caused disruptions since those machines required frequent support and maintenance. However, since the introduction of server-side options by VMware, Citrix and Microsoft to host applications and store end-user settings, thin clients quickly rose in the ranks and became the favorite replacement device. 

In healthcare, thin clients offer a smaller and lower cost alternative to PCs. They also offer management tools that make it easier for IT to quickly update, patch and manage. These factors helped IT transition to and adopt these devices for VDI in healthcare, along with the server-side tools that run them. Thin clients use different tools on the back end that provide the heavy processing and resources needed for the applications running on them, allowing the thin client to require very little processing power and storage capacity.

Thin clients have also worked well for organizations deploying virtual desktops, and more hardware vendors have partnered with providers like VMware and Citrix to deliver more thin client options. This has also attracted Raspberry Pi hardware that was initially popular among tech hobbyists.

The history and appeal of Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi started out as a small operation in England designed to deliver affordable devices for hobbyists to use and learn programming on. Its small form factor and cost has quickly appealed to a wide variety of audiences and turned into 14 million units sold at an average cost of $35 per unit.

The latest release of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ includes some significant hardware upgrades that support faster desktops and overall improved performance to enhance the end-user experience. These improvements include 1.4 GHz quad-core processor, along with Bluetooth 4.2 and support for faster built-in Wi-Fi (dual band), HDMI 1.4 port, USB 2.0 ports, 1 GB LPDDR2 RAM and Power over Ethernet (PoE). Resellers of the Pi who convert it into a thin client also add hardware and software components to make it enterprise ready.

VDI in healthcare addresses many of the demands IT has to modernize their environments and reduce costs. Pi-based VDI tools lower device footprint and reduce hardware or infrastructure costs while still meeting end users' need for computing power.

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