Backers of thin-computing movement tout slim servers, tightened terminals | GCN

“Even engineers
use Windows,” Gilbertson said.





Thin is in. Again.


If you looked carefully amid the clamor over 450-MHz CPUs, 34G hard drives and
superfast 3-D graphics subsystems at the recent Comdex trade show, you saw signs that the
thin-computing movement is far from dead.


The avalanche of new handheld and portable computing devices could be construed as part
of the movement, but more than one vendor focused on thin clients in the original
sense—as alternatives to bulky, hard-to-administer PCs.


Oracle Corp. chairman Larry Ellison, a keynote speaker, made another push for thin
computing with a follow-on notion to his failed network computer model. This time
it’s thin servers: specialized Internet servers that run only a database
application—Oracle8i, of course—under a small-kernel operating system other than
Microsoft Windows NT.


Ellison dubbed the model Raw Iron. “Getting rid of the bloated parts of the
operating system will allow the database to run faster and more reliably,” an
accompanying press release said.


Oracle officials envision delivering turnkey Raw Iron systems bundled with Oracle8i and
other applications. They said Raw Iron would be ready in the first half of this year and
that Oracle has held discussions with hardware vendors.


Meanwhile, in the actually delivered department, Network Computing Devices Inc. of
Mountain View, Calif., unveiled a $799 Windows terminal scheduled for mid-December
shipment.


The ThinStar 300 has a 133-MHz Pentium processor and is designed to work on NT networks
via Windows Terminal Server and Windows 95’s Remote Data Protocol. It comes with 16M
of RAM and can support 16-bit color displays with up to 1,024- by 768-pixel resolution.


Network Computing Devices’ chief operating officer, Robert G. Gilbertson, said he
expects Windows terminals to account for 75 percent of all future network device
shipments. Competing thin clients are Java terminals, Web browser terminals and X Window
System terminals.


Although the ThinStar could display Java, Unix and Web apps, “the customers
dragged us to Windows. Even engineers use Windows,” Gilbertson said. Microsoft Corp.
specifications for Windows terminals do not permit plain Java to run simultaneously on the
same hardware.


According to Gilbertson, the Army-Air Force Exchange Service has ordered 200 Model 200
terminals for retail operations and will order an additional 1,500 Model 300s. The latter
devices have two serial ports, two Universal Serial Bus ports, and a parallel port to
connect card readers or bar code scanners, he said.  

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