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Moving to a zero-client model for VDI can alleviate some of the limitations of a tight IT budget, as well as the need to update infrastructure so frequently.
Essentially, a zero client gives you enterprise computing at a lower cost -- including the cost of the unit and its power consumption -- with less administrative effort than traditional desktop computers or even thin clients. Plus, because data is saved to a server rather than locally, zero clients minimize the risks of data loss and are considered more secure than endpoints that have storage.
When evaluating zero clients for eventual purchase, be sure to consider the cost of virtual client licensing along with the costs of zero-client devices. Most zero clients cost anywhere from $300 to $870 per device based on feature sets, but virtual client licensing can increase per-seat costs by $100 or more.
Let's look at four well-known zero client products on the market today.
Dell Wyse P25 and P45
The Dell Wyse 5020-P25 and 7020-P45 are both designed for VMware Horizon View environments. The units both include Teradici PCoIP processors and client-side caching for high performance over available network bandwidth, along with four external USB 2.0 ports and 10/100/1000 Base-T Ethernet or SFP fiber ports.
The 5020-P25 supports dual high-definition (HD) displays, whereas the 7020-P45 supports four HD displays simultaneously. The 7020-P45 is better equipped for high-end graphics use, such as three-dimensional modeling and geophysical simulation. Both devices provide 32 MB flash memory and 512 MB DDR3 RAM. Regarding power requirements, the 5020-P25 runs on fewer than 9 watts, and the 7020-P45 draws fewer than 15 watts.
The Dell Wyse P25 retails for $369 and the P45 costs $869. Dell also sells the Wyse 1000 series zero client for Windows MultiPoint Server with a scaled-back feature set for $49, and the Wyse 3000 and 5000 Series Xenith zero clients for Citrix for $299 and $399, respectively.
HP t310 Zero Client
The HP t310 Zero Client is another product made specifically for VMware environments. The unit includes Teradici Tera 2321 PCoIP technology, 512 MB of DDR3 SDRAM and supports up to two displays. You can choose from 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet or a 100 Mbps fiber network interface card, along with four USB 2.0 ports and one RJ-45 port. The two display ports are DVI-D and DVI-I with support for 1920 x 1200 resolution.
The HP t310 Zero Client comes with a three-year limited warranty, and you can purchase HP Care Pack Services to extend service once the warranty expires. HP t310 Zero Client models range in price from $359 to $409 per device.
Thinspace Pano Zero Client
Pano Logic was the original manufacturer of the Pano Logic zero client, which went through a few buyouts and ultimately landed with Thinspace. The latest rendition of the product is the Pano G2 Zero Client, part of the Pano System for VDI 6.0, a versatile zero client package that supports Citrix, Microsoft and VMware virtual desktop platforms.
The Pano System for VDI includes Pano G2 Zero Client endpoints, the Pano Controller for VDI appliance, and the Pano Maestro front-end for managing Pano Controller groups.
The Pano G2 Zero Client unit features four USB 2.0 ports, 10/100 Mbps Base-T Fast Ethernet twisted pair (RJ-45) network connectivity, and DVI and video graphics array (VGA) ports for video display. Power consumption is a mere 6.5 watts with dual monitors attached.
Because Thinspace sells the Pano G2 Zero Client as part of a package, the price of the unit itself is not available. Thinspace does state that a Pano System Zero Client VDI seat with a VMware vSphere 4 server license costs about $625. The package price includes a one-year maintenance plan for software updates, and the Pano G2 Zero Client comes with a three-year limited warranty.
Digi International ConnectPort Display
The Digi International touts its ConnectPort Display as a zero client or ultra-thin client. Unlike other products mentioned, the ConnectPort Display allows users to store up to 1 GB of audio and video files. The device supports Citrix Presentation Server, Microsoft Virtual Server, Windows Terminal Services and VMware VDI, among other virtualization applications.
ConnectPort Display features two USB ports, two RS-232 serial ports (DB-9 and RJ-45), an analog VGA port and an Ethernet to VGA/super VGA display port, which supports up to 1600 x 1200 resolution.
Network connectivity includes a 10/100Base-T Ethernet port with an RJ-45 connector. The ConnectPort Display also supports standard terminal emulation.
The retail cost of the ConnectPort Display is $424.
Comparing VDI hardware: Thin vs. thick vs. zero clients