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IGEL thin clients provide HP, Wyse alternative

IGEL thin clients support nearly every major desktop virtualization product and remote desktop protocol, providing an alternative to HP and Wyse.

Remember IGEL Technology? A decade ago, the thin client company was an industry darling that sold nice-looking...

client devices along with smart card authentication and a conversion kit to change abandoned IBM thin clients into IGEL thin clients.

Around that same time, the market became flooded with other thin client vendors, many of which have either gone out of business or have been absorbed by bigger companies. Use Archive.org's WayBack Machine to look at old iForum websites -- it's a who's who of companies that are gone.

I assumed IGEL was lost in that mix. So, when someone from the company approached me at Citrix Synergy last year, after 10 years of not hearing anything from them, I suspected that it was IGEL in name only. As it turns out, it never actually went away.

Germany-based IGEL re-established a presence in the United States over the past few years by opening a U.S. headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. I recently got my hands on one of its thin clients and through a guided demo, I got a look at what today's IGEL thin clients are about.

The short explanation is that IGEL wants to support everyone, and I think they do a pretty good job of that. The model I received for testing, the UD3-730 LX, runs IGEL Linux and has clients for every major desktop virtualization solution, including:

  • Microsoft RDP
  • Microsoft RemoteFX
  • VMware View (PC-over-IP or RDP)
  • Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop (HDX/ICA)
  • Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Desktops (SPICE)
  • Virtual Bridges VERDE (SPICE or RDP)
  • Ericom PowerTerm WebConnect (RDP)
  • Quest vWorkspace (EOP or RDP)
  • NoMachine NX

I can't think of anyone that's not covered by this list, because even the fringe solutions like Jetro COCKPIT use standard protocols. HOBlink is also one of those fringe offerings, but that company makes its money on a java-based RDP client.

The breadth of protocols supported is one thing, but I like the massive amount of configurations that IGEL exposes to the administrators. Either directly on the device or via the Universal Management Suite, you can configure everything from desktop virtualization protocols, terminal emulation packages and printers to network interface settings, mapped drives and custom firmware. The list of configurable items can actually be a bit daunting, but I've never met an admin who wished he or she had fewer options to choose from.

From a user perspective, the clients have a Linux feel to them, which some users and admins won't like. Like other Linux-based thin clients, though, it can be configured to auto-connect to a session and skip the Linux-looking launcher. The overall experience feels pretty good if you have to use it. The users aren't aware that so many options lie under the hood.

Like others in the space, IGEL has a desktop conversion tool called Universal Desktop Converter. As you'd expect, it converts a PC into a thin client that is managed via the same management utility that manages the actual thin clients. This is useful if you have old hardware that hasn't reached the end of its lifecycle, and it allows you to save on hardware, while still getting some of the management gains and flexibility of a thin client environment.

IGEL thin clients aren't limited to IGEL Linux, but you can tell the company is proud of the open source OS. Naturally, it also offers embedded Windows products. The terminal I have, for instance, can also run WES 2009 (the XP-based software) or WES 7 (the Windows 7software).

In order to compete with HP and Wyse, companies like IGEL, 10zig, ChipPC have to put out something unique. While it may not be for everyone, I think IGEL is doing its part again to keep its name in the discussion.

Read more from Gabe Knuth

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabe Knuth is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as "the other guy" at BrianMadden.com. He has been in the application delivery space for over 12 years and has seen the industry evolve from the one-trick pony of terminal services to the application and desktop virtualization of today. Gabe's focus tends to lean more toward practical, real-world technology in the industry, essentially boiling off the hype and reducing solutions to their usefulness in today's corporate environments.

This was last published in January 2012

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Great point about the PC-thin-client conversion tool. At Virtual Computer, we've also seen demand for this kind of capability with customers taking our NxTop Engine product and using it as a thin client to access VDI sessions or cloud applications. One of the interesting things about using a client hypervisor to do this is that you can also push local VMs to the PC if you decide to take advantage of compute power on the PC. It's a great way to lay down a base layer of infrastructure on the PC that is centrally managed and can be used seamlessly for either VDI access to a remotely hosted virtual desktop or IDV (intelligent desktop virtualization) to run a virtual desktop locally.
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