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    Greg Hart is the author of Magnettech Highlights. DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are my own and not necessarily those of my employer(s). See my Disclosure Policy for more info.
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Posts Tagged ‘Lab solutions’

HP Multiseat and Thin Client Solutions

Posted by magnethart on June 5, 2010

I was recently able to participate in a product demonstration for HP’s new Multiseat and Thin Client technology.  These two new pieces of tech offer some great options for schools wanting to establish new computer labs or refurbish an old one.  The goal of these two technologies is to provide computer environments that go above and beyond the typical desktop environment while also providing a lower cost and easier tech support (both of which I can appreciate).  HP wants to help educators move away from teacher centric learning, to more personal, student centric learning.

The multiseat system allows multiple users to work off of one central computer while sitting at their own “station”.  The station only consists of a monitor, keyboard, mouse and MS t100 Thin Client.  When I say Thin Client, I mean thing.  It resembles a KVM switch in size and shape and provides ports for PS2 mouse and keyboard, and VGA monitor.  The unit draws power from the included 15’ USB cable that plugs into the MS6000 Desktop unit.  Depending on the configuration you choose, the MS6000 may run up to 9 stations.  The MS6000 runs a new version of Windows Server 2010 specifically designed to be used for Multiseat situations.  The current internet list price for a complete setup of 9 stations (1 Master Workstation and 8 stations) runs at about $481.50/station (this is without education pricing).

With cost being an obvious advantage over current desktop prices (around $950 for comparable system), size and fewer network connections, no other feature stood out to make this a new must have lab system.  The current version does not support domain login or the ability of the teacher to see what is students or doing on each workstation, and there was some serious lag when all computers accessed youTube.  The current system also does not support the use of USB at each of the stations, only the master station.  This means no thumb drive use for students.  The goal of a computer lab for me would be one that allows students to work on sites like xtranormal or Glogster without bogging down the system. It also had issues with running graphics heavy applications like DimensionM due to only having a single graphics processor to run all stations from. Some of these issues are slated to be worked out in the next software release but I always say why buy now when you know there are features that you want but don’t have yet.  I do think this product has a great future and I can see replacing a few labs with it, it’s not there yet.

The other solution that was presented at the product demonstration is the HP ThinClient with TeachNow software.  Rather than the Multiseat system which uses the resources from one machine for all stations, the ST5742 Thin Client has its own processor and RAM, but no disk drives.  The Thin Client solution requires only one server for the lab to run while each station gets a Thin Client, monitor, keyboard and mouse.  The operating system is pushed from the server at the beginning of the session and runs from the RAM in the client.  All other hardware is virtualized and runs from the server.  Because the images are pushed to the client at the beginning of each session, this provides for a great amount of flexibility in lab use.  Each period could have a different image depending on what they class is.  I was not able to test the Thin Client setup on YouTube like the Multiseat system as we were not able to get an outside connection at the time from the demo area.  I would think that this system would perform much better however since you are not trying to pull data, graphics, and processing power all from one location through separate USB cables.  These are still not full blown PC’s however; they are powered by an Intel Atom N280 and still pull software over the network so I wouldn’t try running Adobe Premiere or AutoCAD on all machines in the lab at the same time.  Each thin client is connected through a subnet to the server which is then connected to the network.  This allows for the teacher to control everything including pushing images through the subnet without affecting the entire network.  HP Thin Client also comes with the optional TeachNow software.  TeachNow is HP’s learning management system specifically designed to work with Image Manager and Thin Clients.  I don’t see TeachNow as a necessary purchase if you are already using an LMS like Moodle or Elluminate.  The internet price point for the Thin Client is a little more than the Multiseat coming in at $556.40 per seat in a 30 station setting (30 stations plus server).  This cost does not include the switch you would net to create your subnet.

All in all, I would prefer the Thin Client setup for a new lab (although neither setup came out as a must have to me).  The Thin Client offered more flexibility in computer setup with the option of different images for different types of classes.  Both setups showed great improvements in power consumption with the Multiseat unit only using 7W and the Thin Client 17W*, much lower than a standard power unit in a desktop machine.  I’m not ready to purchase either one yet.  I’ve never been one to jump in on the first version of a new technology.  These both have plenty of room to grow and I look forward to what HP plans to do with these two new lab setups.

*Some notes and statistics for this were taken directly from the initial presentation so I don’t have links for them.


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