Citrix owns most of the server-based computing market. Tarantella and Microsoft mop up much of the rest. But there are a couple more unusual remote access options IT departments can consider.
For remote terminal access on the cheap, there’s the Linux Terminal Server Project. The project began as a successful consulting job and matured into a movement among a small group of Linux programmers who felt the world needed an alternative to high-priced hardware and software upgrades. Users of the freely downloadable product get remote access to a full-featured Linux server, allowing them to run both Linux and Windows applications (the latter through Windows emulation software).
ClearCube, meanwhile, takes a more radical approach to remote access. The company, founded in 1997 by Andrew Heller and current CTO Barry Thornton, set out to reinvent desktop computing. Instead of moving the applications to servers and having remote PCs connect to them, ClearCube moves the entire PC to a central location, leaving little more than a monitor, a mouse and a keyboard on a user’s desk.
The PCs are housed in blades?super-slim computers that hold all the components of an entire PC. The blades live in a cage?a centralized, stackable chassis. A C-port (command port), about the size of a VHS tape, then connects keyboard, mouse and monitor back to the cage and blades. With blades, a software upgrade for a couple hundred users easily becomes an overnight project, says ClearCube CTO Thornton. And, if a blade fails, ClearCube’s Switch Manager feature notifies IS via e-mail that a blade is down and allows an IT manager to switch a user to a spare blade.
The systems also solve some other tricky problems. Guy Fuller, information systems manager of Northwest Memorial Physicians Group of Chicago, uses ClearCube systems to avoid bringing noise and heat into his medical exam rooms, for instance. As an added benefit, if a blade goes down, it can be switched outside the exam room, without interrupting patient or doctor.