Dell Optiplex 160 Series: Bridging the gap between “dumb” terminals and Windows desktops in a sbc environment?

Among the benefits of a server based computing (SBC) environment, are the potential savings that exist when purchasing cheaper desktops or terminals on the client side. The logic being that because applications are being run on a server, the client just needs enough horsepower to present the server based applications to the user. Of course this might not be a driving factor of deciding to go to a SBC environment but it could result in some cost savings over a traditional desktop environment.

Organizations that start to design a SBC environment will most likely entertain Wyse terminals or other equivalent terminals that can run the ICA or RDP protocol to present a XenApp/VDI environment. These terminals have a small profile, are low power and reduce management overhead over traditional desktops. The obvious drawbacks are the lack of flexibility these terminals provide because they don’t run Microsoft Windows. In the scenario a Windows application does not run/will not run in the Terminal Server or VDI environment, there is no option to run it locally on a terminal. This variable is large enough for organizations to opt for traditional Windows desktops to serve as “thin clients” resulting in minimal or no cost savings on the client side (from a power and hardware perspective).

Recently, Dell released the Optiplex 160 series line of desktops. They are classified as “Tiny Desktops” because of their ultra small form factor. About the size and weight of a textbook, they can be configured with Windows (XP or Vista) and leverage the low power Intel Atom processor found in most netbooks. (Dell claims 87% power efficiency over traditional PCs.)

The 160 series bridges the gap between Wyse terminals and traditional Windows PCs with its low power draw and tiny form factor. However, it has a seemingly inflated price, which starts at $567. For some reason, Dell has priced it only a couple of hundred bucks less than a modestly configured traditional desktop. Price seems to be a limiting factor right now but does open up another option on the client side for an organization moving to a SBC environment.