by Patrick Moorhead

Dell Wyse 3040: not your father’s thin client

Mar 28, 2017
Computers and Peripherals Servers Virtualization

Thin clients don't get a whole lot of attention in the world of iPhones and PC detachables, but the latest improvements in VDI and thin clients like the Dell Wyse 3040 could make a big difference in that. Security challenges and management costs could be the reason to take another look at VDI.

Thin clients have been around for the last three decades in various forms, but many CIOs have shied away from them due to technological limitations or cost. However, over the last ten years a lot has changed on the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) front to enable thin clients to be much more powerful. Additionally, thin clients themselves have become more powerful and capable while reducing size and cost with nearly every generation. With the latest generation of GPU-accelerated VDI from NVIDIA introduced in 2012 and AMD as well as the raw horsepower increases from Intel on both the data center and thin client side, the overall VDI experience has gotten much more competitive with traditional desktop environments. Not to mention, the overall security of VDI has gotten much better than in the past and is without a doubt more secure than deploying something like Chromebooks with hard drives as other analyst firms have suggested.

Compute options have improved

When it comes to VDI, your compute options have improved significantly. Now you have the raw horsepower of GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA which allow for graphically accelerated VDI, something that simply didn’t exist in the past. With the latest generation of NVIDIA’s graphically accelerated VDI, there is virtually no power user that cannot be transitioned to a VDI platform. As always, there is still a need for CPUs in the data center and most VDI solutions are powered by Intel’s server CPUs which provide much of the compute in most VDI solutions today.

However, Intel’s presence in VDI is not only limited to the data center as their very low power Atom chips are also present inside of many of the thin clients we see today. Not only that, but their very low power chips have become increasingly more capable of delivering a broad array of user experiences thanks to their quad-core chips. Such user experiences can now range from single VGA displays to up to four HD displays for a single user.

One good example of this is the new Wyse 3040 from Dell, which is only 4 watts and offers a user the ability to drive up to two 2,560 x 1,600 monitors off a single thin client. This new thin client is small enough to be monitor-mountable, but powerful enough to blur the lines between a desktop and thin client experience with a plethora of connectivity.

Security threat mitigation

The threat to the enterprise from external actors has only become an increasingly greater risk. The IT infrastructure is the lifeblood of most companies today and as a result has become the prime target for foreign criminals and even domestic actors. Industrial espionage from foreign governments and competitors are a bigger risk than they have ever been before, and VDI is one way to mitigate those risks.

Security has always been one of the hallmarks of VDI and one of the big reasons for utilizing it. However, now VDI isn’t just about keeping sensitive data from leaving the network, it’s also about mitigating external threats. With the latest generation of VDI you can easily utilize methods of authentication like biometric authentication to ensure the user gaining access to the device is not only the correct user but one physically present. Additionally, administrators can enable or disable hardware features on the thin client that may be considered points of vulnerability like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or USB. Many of these security features are thanks to companies like Dell who have their own hardened operating systems like ThinOS and ThinLinux which run on the Wyse 3040.

As external actors become a continued threat to sensitive data, VDI will continue to offer the most secure client computing environment for CIOs. However, some of objections in the past have been around performance, cost, compatibility and user experience and the new Wyse 3040 helps to address some of those concerns.

VDI is more accessible than ever before

With devices like the Wyse 3040, enterprises now have VDI options that include Citrix XenDesktop, VMware Horizon and Amazon WorkSpaces. This is thanks to the Wyse 3040 supporting both Dell’s own ThinOS and ThinLinux which make compatibility and security easier.

The Wyse 3040 offers the best entry-level VDI experience that I have ever used before. It blurs the line between entry-level and mainstream VDI solutions which can cost significantly more per user and does so while bringing down cost of ownership. The Wyse 3040 is the company’s smallest and most efficient thin client solution which means that it takes up less space than ever before and does so with even less power, making end-user power consumption a thing of the past. Even though the Wyse 3040 is so small and efficient, it still delivers a quality user experience with dual monitors and plenty of I/O that would make most users unaware that they are even using a VDI system.

Dell also offers secure and easy management of thin clients through simple automatic setup, configuration and management through their Wyse Device Manager and Cloud Client Manager tools. Additionally, management can be done completely remotely since its VDI and downtime can be limited to minutes if an issue exists client-side. The Wyse ThinOS and ThinLinux offer secure hands-off device management that can be scaled from a couple to a couple thousand devices. All of this is possible at a lower cost per user than VDI has ever been able to offer in the past.

VDI and thin client are worth a second look

With these innovations in the VDI compute capabilities as well as the shrinking of thin clients while increasing their capabilities, VDI is really looking a lot more attractive. The inherent security of VDI and thin clients has only gotten stronger as threats have increased in quantity and complexity, but their performance, user experience, manageability and cost have also improved as well. With devices like the Wyse 3040, companies like Dell are helping to make VDI much more attractive for CIOs. Being able to deploy a scalable, cost-efficient and desktop-like experience across an entire enterprise without sacrificing performance or security should make VDI much more attractive to many CIOs today.