If imitation is flattery, Microsoft MultiPoint will make NComputing blush

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Last week Microsoft announced something called Windows MultiPoint Server 2010, a technology for classrooms that lets up to ten students use individual terminals to share the resources of one single host computer.

Last week Microsoft announced something called Windows MultiPoint Server 2010, a technology for classrooms that lets up to ten students use individual terminals to share the resources of one single host computer. In technical terms you could think of this as Terminal Server meets the ease of user wizardry of Small Business Server with a dash of custom software for teachers and students.

MultiPoint Classroom

The idea is Microsoft makes the MultiPoint OS and partners will make the hardware bundles which is how it will be sold. HP was the first partner to announce products, with the HP MultiSeat being some new custom thin client terminals which connect to desktop-class HP 6000 series host. These thin clients are actually new products, the HP t100 series, and they connect to the host PC via USB!

Multiseat1

If this whole "multiple clients sharing a single cheap desktop-class machine" thing sounds familiar, it's because it is: NComputing has been doing this for years. They wrote their own multi-user stack for Windows Server which also lets multiple users share a single host. (They have direct-connect clients and IP-based clients.) All you need to use it is that NComputing kit (hardware plus software) plus a $500 Windows Server license for your shared host and a TS CAL for each station.

The people I've talked to at Microsoft always liked NComputing, because hey, if they were going to sell TS CALs, then great! But this MultiPoint clearly shows that Microsoft wants to get into that space. And the MultiPoint marketing material contains some aggressive text, like "Experience peace of mind that support can be obtained through Microsoft’s authorized partners or directly from Microsoft." Ouch!

NComputing has been on fire recently, having recently shipped their two-millionth(!) thin client. It's funny that if you consider what they're doing to be "VDI" (which I do), then they actually have more deployed seats than Citrix and VMware combined! Maybe that's why Microsoft wants to copy them. :)

The Microsoft MultiPoint 2010 product is definitely based on Terminal Server, as evidenced by the answers to the last question in the FAQ about the product.

So what do you think? Do you like the super-cheap, PC-based, 10-to-1, TS-in-a-dummy-box offering? Do you think it will help our cause? Can you see this used your own environment? (There will be academic and non-academic packages available.)

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come on, if you compare NComputing to DI, you also have to englobe Published Desktop and then the comp' with Citrix or other just stop there. Antway, trully good product for what it is : classroom.


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It will "help our cause" by reaching terminal services into more markets than it has. This means software vendors for many markets (especially education) need to pay more attention to writing their code properly without cheap shortcuts to compatibility. The more ISVs wake up to the fact that multi-user environments matter, the better it will be for us and the users our systems serve.


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It is good to see this type of solution get some notice. As mentioned, NComputing has deployed 2M of these virtual desktop seats (as noted more than all VDI seats), and had hardly got notice in this forum.


I have deployed NComputing in schools with good results, and now also use it at home for the wife and kids on existing PC's. I looked at other desktop virtualization products but bottomeline is that the cost wasn't that compelling vs cheap PC's. I figure my  deployment is 1/6th the up front PC cost,


Per the HP annnouncement, looks like HP wants to bundle and force feed with their specific PC/Servers. Who out there would buy VDI if they could only use on one make/model server?


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Ncomputer gave me some units a year or two ago.


I have them stting in a box on my office floor.


Here is my take....


There IP based units suffer screen scrape issues, with video/flash based content.


To get multimedia performace you have to go to  other product line, which means seperate cable runs and limited client count per hosted machine (11 clients)


If you have 20 machine requirement for a room this would mean you would need two host machines  and seperate cable runs....


I really wanted there L series (ethernet) to handle video.... by using the L series you get higher denisty and no cable runs. The host machine can then live in the datacentre..... but with the ethernet series utililing a server OS.... you are left thinking why dont I just use plain old TS and thin clients?


If you leave the end point in the room, I would want to lock this away so students cant pull out the cable or turn it off, and probably mirror the systems disk.


Now onto MS offering:


I wonder if this running on Windows Server 2008R2 base.....Just thinking which of my 100 apps will run on it?


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I think it's pretty cool that MS is legitimizing this space.  I do think it's unfortunate for NComputing as it'll obviously contend with their sales.  I wonder what HP was thinking in all of this?  Clearly they want to be aligned with MS GTMs, but a MS GTM that pretty much guarantees LESS HP PCs sales, I don't get it (yeah they'll get the thin client, but...).  Then again I guess the same could be said about Windows and Windows sales, but they're getting TS CALs.


Now I'm wondering how many thousands of new people are going to be asking "What's change user /install?" ;)


Shawn


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I wonder if there's any sense in using a provisioning solution like DoubleTake Flex or Citrix Provisioning Server for Data Centers with these MultiPoint servers.  For a company with no other VDI or SBC solution, it could represent a Branch Office in-a-box.  Or, in the classroom or lab setting, it could mean being able to repurpose your equipment for math/science/basketweaving, or whatever.


It's not something that everyone would use, for sure, and the USB connection certainly limits the ability to spread this out to a branch office, but it's not like a Cat5/network solution doesn't exist -- nComputing has had one for years now.


Incidentally, Brian is going to update this article or write a new one mentioning that nComputing has also announced a USB-connected MultiPoint-integrated solution, but it happened after this article was written.


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Until the Cat5 solution can handle video, then its a no go in my book. PVS for the hosts could be a good solution, Double Take Flex requires clustering to get high availability, this increases complexity that you are trying to remove.


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Hmmm.


What this article does not say is that, AFAICT, most of nComputing "servers" are actually running... Windows XP or Vista.


Thus, each usb terminal must have its own Windows XP/Vista RETAIL license (not an OEM license, but the full-priced boxed version of Windows). If not, well, the system is illegal as far as Windows Licensing is concerned. This "licensing model" is called "end-user" licensing: The end-user is responsible for acquiring the needed licenses for his/her Operating Systems. ANd if you wanted to stay compliant with WIndiws licensing, then any nComputing solution was clearly quite expensive, not even mentioning the  TCO of these "small server"


It seems to me that nComputing has not been supporting Windows Server OSes until very recently.


BTW, there are several companies that provide software solutions that enable sharing "multiple-heads" confgurations (a PC with several VGA/DVI outputs, with one monitor per output and one user per monitor). For instance MiniFrame, (BeTwin), SoftXPand.


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@Gabe - with regards to Flex (or PVS) I can't vouch for Microsoft's new solution  - especially if they are using USB to connect...


but I can state that Double-Take Flex works quite nicely with both nComputing and the MiniFrame / SoftXpand products. The combination lets you diskless boot the 'master' PC from SAN...which provides the usual goodies that said diskless boot can do. In a classroom situation, say with 30 PCs,  25 of them being powered by nComputing 'master' nodes, if each master was supporting 5 (client) systems, then the 5 masters themselves could be booted using a single shared image.


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