Create Additional Desktops using just One: NComputing L300 Virtual Desktop


Video Introduction: NComputing L300 Virtual Desktop (Ethernet)

NComputing L300 Virtual Desktop offers an interesting way to create additional desktops using just one desktop (to begin with). Actually, this hardware L300 device is basically a replacement of the CPU (in a computer).

The concept:

The processing power available in most computers today is exceedingly high, when compared to the actual usage or requirements (5 – 10% of the resources are used in most cases). Hence, why not use all the remaining processing power and share them with others to create many additional computers, without buying additional (costly) motherboard, processor, RAM and other CPU components?

Implementation:

The concept sounds cool, but how is it implemented? Simple – L300 is a hardware device that can connect to a keyboard & mouse (via USB). This device also connects to the network (RJ-45, LAN port) to interact with the host Computer.

So, when a user keys something on the keyboard attached to the L300, the keystrokes are recorded, sent to the host PC (or server) where it is processed and the result is sent over to the network to L300, which displays it on the attached monitor. It uses the host Computer’s resources to do all the processing. The user might think that CPU is near him, as networks offer good speeds thsee days.

Of course, you need to connect all the devices to a network switch (or multiple network switches) to create a Local Area Network (LAN). You have to do that even if you want to connect a bunch of normal computers.

What are the advantages?

The main advantages include,

  • Lower upfront cost (L300 costs lesser than a full-fledged CPU). Multiply that with the number of units, and the savings could be considerable.
  • Lower power consumption – L300 consumes 5-10 W of power. Compare that with 110 W of power consumed by normal CPU, you get the idea. And power doesn’t come cheap these days.
  • Quick deployment, easier maintenance & centralized control – Just one computer to maintain or do software upgrades, etc. for every few users.
  • Lesser quantities of eWaste generated. Well, resources need to be disposed after its lifetime, right?
  • If users are not doing computation-intensive activities like 3D graphics rendering or HD gaming, etc. this solution could be very cost-effective, considering both capital and recurring costs.
  • Depending on your software strategy, there could be considerable savings there too.
  • Full screen video playback on individual nodes is supported by L300.
  • Two USB ports connect it with keyboard & mouse, 2 more connect to additional USB-based devices – the device driver needs to be installed only once, on the host computer. There are even speaker & microphone ports on each device. VGA port connects the monitor and LAN/Network port connects to the network.

So, can I just install one Windows OS on the host PC/Server and use that on all computer (sessions)?

No, you can’t. For individual devices that employ desktop virtualization (or shares a single piece of hardware), one needs to buy Microsoft Server Licensing and CAL user licenses, for each node. There are other options, but the point here is: The software cost is almost the same, whether you buy individual Windows OS or you buy Server and CAL licenses for each node. More details here. While you visit that link, also have a look at the interesting use cases enabled by L300 (like remote access, multiple monitors, display network, etc.). Likewise, MS Office may also need individual licenses.

What if I use Linux OS?

The L300 maybe an excellent option to use with Linux. Imagine – One person who is knowledgeable about Linux and its applications can take care of all software installation and maintenance. Others just need to be trained on using the applications or they can just start using it. Equivalent applications to almost every Windows application is available in Linux. Since most of the applications (and the OS) is free anyway, L300 might make an excellent proposition to reduce costs further – Initial hardware acquisition costs, software costs & maintenance costs. This could help schools, start-ups, small businesses, etc.

What are the limitations?

If the host Computer/Server fails, all your desktops are down! You might want to seriously consider having a backup computer/server ready. But that still makes only two computers! Processing intensive applications (like graphics, gaming, etc.) may not run that well, especially if you are sharing one computer with many users. I guess it comes down to how much resources you require for your set up, and how many computers can do that job. Right-sizing the solution is very important. For small applications, like 2-5 nodes, there shouldn’t be much issues – You can try it. Also, the host computer needs to have a solid configuration.

How about thin-clients & desktop virtualization software?

Thin-clients cost as much as basic computers and desktop virtualization software requires thin-clients or computers at the user-end to function. This solution has other benefits and is good for enterprise segment, but is as expensive as buying individual computers, for small business.

Should you buy it?

Well, it depends on your situation and applications. Why not buy a couple of these units, use/test it in your environment for sometime and see what problems you encounter. If you are satisfied with the performance (you’ll need to measure the resource usage), the cost savings (both initial & running costs) offered by L300 is difficult to overlook.

Further Information: NComputing L300 product page.

Where to buy: Amazon Product page for NComputing L300 Virtual Desktop unit.

You can follow the latest Computer Networking/IT Products released for homes/small businesses & reviews by subscribing to this blog with your email address in the top right-hand sidebar box: ‘Follow by E-mail’. You can expect one mail per week (max).