Tuesday, March 24, 2009

IBM Gets into Thin Clients with Wyse

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As part of the Virtualized Infrastructure Access (VIA) initiative, IBM will resell Wyse Technology thin client devices and software. IBM and Wyse are looking to replace conventional desktop and notebook PCs in certain settings, putting IBM back in the PC business.

In a slim way, IBM is getting back into the personal computing business through a new partnership with Wyse Technology, the market leading provider of thin client systems. Under a new alliance, IBM will resell direct and through partners Wyse thin client technology in service-oriented engagements.

IBM has been focused on building out its Virtualized Infrastructure Access (VIA) initiative, a series of solutions designed to optimize and enable data center driven application delivery and simplified systems management.

Wyse’s desktop and notebook thin client technology fills a critical gap in IBM’s VIA strategy by providing both the software layer and hardware devices for arm business users with thin client computing, streaming applications and virtualized desktop environments.

“IBM is responding to customers’ wishes to deploy thin client technologies, but can afford the data center deployment on something like the Citrix model,” says Jeff McNaught, chief marketing and security officer at Wyse.

In addition to reselling Wyse products, IBM will work with Wyse to develop thin client solutions, application streaming applications and new client hardware that extend the usability and value of thin client architecture.

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Wyse’s thin client operating system and technology provides a useful layer that extends the life of legacy systems while capturing the benefits of thin client economies, says Jan Jackman, vice president of global end users services at IBM Global Technology Services. Virtualization is consolidating and optimizing the data center, but many of the existing applications require modification before they can be streamed to desktops and end points. Wyse’s technology can stream legacy apps, giving users valuable time to make changes to their applications.

“Thirty years of applications have been written for a fat client and they can’t be rewritten overnight,” she says. “Application stream allows for the use of the current applications while legacy apps are rewritten for a SOA [service oriented architecture],” Jackman says.

Over the past 12 months, thin client computing has gained interest among business technology consumers looking to decrease their costs in physical devices, endpoint management and power. Thin clients have a TCO savings of 20 percent to 40 percent on reduced electrical consumption. Additionally, management is simplified and reduced since all maintenance happens in the data center and images are standardized.

Security is an added benefit to thin clients, particularly in financial institutions and health care environments, where privacy and data integrity is enhanced by the lack of disc-drives and USB ports on the thin client end point.

“A lot of clients don’t have the technical capacity and would like to buy computing as a service,” Jackman says. “As this trend evolves and more services move to the cloud, the virtualized client will take on greater interest.”

Ironically, IBM’s partnership with Wyse will pit it against its former PC business unit now owned by Lenovo. IBM and Wyse say their VIA solutions will look to replace PCs in certain environments, such as call centers and banks. While thin clients are experiencing a bit of a renaissance, PC manufacturers are experiencing steep declines in PC sales – both desktop and notebooks – as business consumers extend the life of existing clients. Analyst firm Gartner predicts PC sales will decline nearly 12 percent this year.

“You probably could argue that with the promotion of the desktop thin client model, especially since the beginning of the year, so you have to ask where the thin client market overlaps with the conventional PC market,” says Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT.

While IBM is targeting PC users with its thin client solutions, it rejects the notion that it’s competing directly with PC manufacturers such as Lenovo.

“We sold the PC business because it’s a commodity business and our desires to move toward business in services and applications,” Jackman says. “The Web has changed everything to be more services oriented.”

She adds, “This isn’t going to replace every PC, but it will replace PC deployments in certain user groups and build out from there.”

Wyse is a leader in thin client devices and software. It competes directly and indirectly with Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sun Microsystems and Lenovo.

“A lot of the vendors believe thin clients is the place to be over the next 12 to 24 months, so they’re looking to embrace it,” King says

IBM will sell Wyse products and jointly developed thin client solutions through its direct sales force as well as channel reseller partners.

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