NComputing vSpace, L-Series virtual desktops

NComputing is the only VDI solution of the three reviewed that provides its own virtualization layer — no VMware (Nasdaq: VMW), Citrix Systems (NASDAQ: CTXS), or Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) hypervisor required. NComputing’s vSpace is a virtualization application with an ultra-small footprint that runs on any Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 host operating system. Much like Terminal Services, it carves up the underlying system’s resources among multiple users, allowing a single computer to host as many as 30 simultaneous desktops. Performance on a LAN was excellent, but the NComputing solution suffered some performance issues over a WAN.

Because vSpace is so low-overhead and well-optimized, it doesn’t require the latest in server virtualization technology to handle multiple users. For instance, an off-the-shelf desktop PC with 4GB of RAM and a decent CPU can host up to 30 simultaneous clients on Windows XP Pro. This does not mean that a group of engineers can all run AutoCAD on this host, but normal everyday business apps, like word processing and email, will have little trouble.

One downside to the NComputing solution, as with Pano Logic, is that it works with the vendor’s proprietary access devices only. There is no support for third-party thin clients, software clients on laptops, or Web-based remote access. The L-Series client devices — I tested the paperweight-sized L300 — are stand-alone Ethernet-enabled devices that require only a VGA monitor and USB keyboard and mouse. There are no moving parts in the L300 — no noisy fans or spinning hard drives. The L300 comes with two USB 2.0 ports for remote devices, two USB 2.0 ports for keyboard and mouse, 1/8-inch microphone and speaker jacks, a 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, and a standard DB15 VGA port. It is powered by a 12V DC power brick. Power consumption never exceeded 5W.

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