As desktop virtualization becomes more prevalent, many of you are evaluating the option of hosting desktops on servers in the datacenter using either VDI or Session Virtualization. The key benefit here is being able to centrally secure and manage your data.

Evaluating the devices that your employees will use to connect to their hosted desktop or application is a natural next step when moving desktop workloads to the datacenter. This can help minimize the footprint and management costs of the device.

Last month, we announced the upcoming Windows Thin PC (WinTPC) product, which is a locked down version of Windows 7, designed for you to repurpose your existing PCs as thin clients.

Our goal with WinTPC is to help you get the most out of your technology investments. WinTPC can help you lower your upfront Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) costs by enabling you to repurpose PCs you already own as thin clients. And because WinTPC is an upcoming benefit of Software Assurance (SA), it can help you eliminate additional VDA licensing costs for VDI. However, if you don’t have SA on your Windows PCs, you can still purchase a VDA license for each device to get access to WinTPC.

We’re excited as we are getting some great questions and seeing a lot of interest on this topic from you. Based on this, I thought it would be helpful to provide some guidance on how you might think about WinTPC as a component to your overall desktop strategy.

Since WinTPC essentially is a thin client solution, here are some key differences between thin clients, zero clients and PCs:

  • Hardware Configuration: Traditional thin clients differ from a PC in that they have a lower CPU and less RAM than a typical PC, typically use less energy and have very little (if any) local storage for data and applications.
  • Zero Clients: New form factors such as Zero Clients are also piquing interest in the market. They are thin client tierminals with no local operating system or storage, and depends on the server for all of its computing and translation capabilities..
  • Functionality: Traditional and Zero client devices must always be network connected, cannot run local applications. They are essentially single purpose devices.
  • Management: While thin clients require less management than a PC, they are not “zero management” since they also require firmware and security updates. It’s important to choose a thin client that can integrate with our existing management strategy and tools.
  • Cost: Although traditional thin clients reduce management and operational costs, they are not free since there is an upfront acquisition cost. Depending on the device and the capability, a thin client could cost as much as a low end PC. Many of you told us that budgets for buying new devices have been reduced, and that you prefer allocating funds towards devices that offer more functionality and flexibility, such as new Windows 7 PCs, tablets, or slates. Additionally, all traditional thin clients and zero clients require VDA licensing for VDI
  • Multimedia capabilities: Many VDI vendors use the graphical processing power of the end point device to render multimedia for the remote desktop in an attempt to improve the user experience. Not all thin clients or zero clients are able to execute high fidelity graphics locally, and those with built in multimedia capability may cost more than those without this functionality. Our guidance is to evaluate the costs of these devices and weigh them against your business requirement to ensure you choose the right one.

So how should you think about adopting Windows Thin PC for your organization?

1. Take a look at our Microsoft’s Optimized Desktop strategy to help narrow down the scenarios for centralized desktops within your organization. Network connectivity, datacenter maturity and complexity, and existing desktop management capability are all important considerations when deciding to centralize your desktops.

2. For centralized desktop scenarios where your users need local computing capability -the user needs the ability to execute productivity applications locally- consider using a PC. Thin clients will not fit this scenario, as they do not have the capability to run local applications

3. For pure server based desktop scenarios, evaluate your existing PC hardware and see if you can repurpose it by using Windows Thin PC to minimize your initial costs associated with VDI or RDS. As these PCs reach their end of life you can create a hardware refresh cycle plan to replace them with traditional thin clients.

4. If you’ve purchased hosted desktops or applications and your existing PCs are not viable for repurposing, budget for tradition thin clients or zero clients as well as a VDA license for each thin client/zero client device as part of your VDI or Remote Desktop Services (RDS) infrastructure.

5. If you have unique requirements, OEMs like HP and Wyse use Windows Embedded platforms to create low footprint thin clients featuring interoperability with existing Microsoft infrastructure, enhanced security and manageability for customized enterprise environments. Take a look at our announcement from last month on Windows Embedded platforms for thin client devices for more information.

We’ll have more to share on WinTPC and our desktop virtualization strategy later this week at our Desktop Virtualization Customer Roundtable. We’re excited to be putting on this event and look forward to hearing your thoughts desktop virtualization during the live Q & A. At the roundtable, you’ll hear from IT leaders from Kraft Foods, Royal Caribbean and LogIn Consultants about how they’ve used Microsoft Desktop Virtualization technologies to give their employees the flexibility to work everywhere on a range of devices, while simplifying compliance and management through a centralized and unified infrastructure.

Here are the details.

March 10th, 2011 at 9 a.m. PST

Click here to join the event