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We haven't heard much from midmarket vendor NComputing lately, and I finally learned the reason why: The company spent the past year or so refocusing on its virtualization platform and thin clients.
NComputing shut down its oneSpace desktop as a service (DaaS) platform in an effort to get back to its roots. Sound familiar? Citrix also recently discontinued several noncore products to focus on its end-user computing tools. With oneSpace gone, NComputing is focusing on its vSpace desktop and application virtualization platform and Citrix HDX System-on-Chip (SoC) thin clients.
NComputing vSpace, the company's server computing platform for small to medium-sized businesses, is a cheaper alternative to Citrix XenDesktop and VMware Horizon. It supports Microsoft Hyper-V and operating systems (OSes) up to Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 R2. HDX SoC thin clients are also a cheap option -- running around $200 each -- compared to other devices in the Citrix Ready marketplace, which are products that integrate with Citrix technologies. N-series NComputing thin client devices support Citrix's HDX remote display protocol and can deliver XenApp and XenDesktop sessions.
Where NComputing went astray
The last time NComputing crossed our radar was September 2014, when Brian Madden tried out the oneSpace DaaS platform that launched earlier that year. OneSpace was cool because it worked. It was easy to install, had clients for every device -- including an HTML5 client -- and integrated with enterprise file sync-and-share services such as Box, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive.
The biggest problem with oneSpace was that NComputing based it on vSpace. There's nothing wrong with vSpace. It's a rather capable desktop virtualization platform for departmental work groups and small businesses. It's easy to install, maintain and use, and it's moderately popular in Asia and Africa. But convincing North American and European corporations to switch to a new platform they've barely heard of made by a company they've barely heard of is an uphill battle at best.
While NComputing was fighting the battle of brand recognition, it also had to contend with the reality that DaaS still hasn't shaped up to be a big market. The companies with successful DaaS platforms are either the large players such as Amazon and VMware, or service providers that cater to smaller deployments. There isn't a lot of business to go around right now, and supply outnumbers demand.
More on NComputing vSpace and thin clients
NComputing silently discontinued oneSpace in 2015 and is focusing on its most successful products. In recent years, that's been vSpace and its Citrix HDX SoC thin clients.
The NComputing vSpace platform is a low-cost alternative to Citrix and VMware that definitely belongs on the list of companies that could fill the void left by the shutdown of Dell vWorkspace. If you remember NComputing from 10 years ago, vSpace was like an early version of the Windows MultiPoint server OS that Microsoft released in 2010 -- now the MultiPoint Services feature in Windows Server 2016. There's a card IT plugs into a computer that directly connects to thin clients for use in small, centralized groups.
The same scenario still applies, but vSpace has also evolved plenty. It's now a network-based app and desktop delivery platform that includes client software, several NComputing thin client models -- including the Chromebook CX110 -- and a broker to manage network connections. NComputing vSpace is most popular in the education sector, but a moderate number of SMBs use it as well.
NComputing was also one of the first companies to release Citrix HDX SoC thin clients back in May of 2012. It's called the N-Series, and although it sometimes seems like there are a sea of thin client vendors out there, NComputing's HDX SoC thin clients managed to carve out a following.
The N400 HDX SoC thin client is NComputing's entry-level design intended for task workers. The N400 only supports a single 1920x1080 display and has limited graphics acceleration capabilities. It doesn't have any support for client-side rendering or wireless capabilities, but it costs under $200 and supports XenDesktop. The N500 HDX SoC thin client, which is usually $20-$40 more expensive, adds in dual monitor support and client side video decoding -- H.264, MPEG-4 and VC1 -- as well as enhanced graphics acceleration. N-series thin clients can help Citrix shops save money on the hardware side, and they also integrate with NComputing's vSpace Management Center console.
I'm always happy when companies identify that they've stretched themselves too far and take steps to remedy the situation. It happened with AppSense, it's happening with Citrix right now and apparently it happened with NComputing, too. The oneSpace DaaS platform was decent, but nobody used it and the company cut bait. It's good to see NComputing again focusing on what it's successful at.
Which vendors will fill the Dell vWorkspace void?
Why low-cost thin clients are the way to go
The future of Citrix looks clearer after turmoil