PCs

Pano Logic: Virtual desktops offer zero-client solution

Virtual desktop is a facet of mainstream virtualization that is fast catching on in popularity. Blogger Paul Mah takes a look at Pano Logic's true zero client solution.

According to Pano Logic, its VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solution is anchored by a true zero client. The Pano Device hardware has "no processors, no operating system, no memory, no drivers, no software and no moving parts." In essence, it is simply a stateless end-point device that draws a meager 3.5 watts of power.

On the other hand, thin client solutions run on operating systems of their own, which typically range from Linux, Windows CE, or Windows XP Embedded. This represents an additional layer that has to be booted up first before connecting to the virtual desktop that runs on the server.

Hardware

In Figure A, I placed the Pano Device beside my Microsoft wireless mouse for comparison. While I did not have the opportunity to use it with the Pano Device, its optimized USB subsystem means it should be possible to make use of Logitech's new Unifying USB Transceiver to power both keyboard and mouse from a single USB port.

Figure A

Figure B shows the back of the Pano Device. Note the Ethernet port, stereo mini plug jacks for microphone and earphone, VGA, and USB ports. The concentric series of holes seen on the underside is actually for an on-board speaker.

Figure B

Architecture

There are three key components that enable the Pano Logic system on the network, the Pano Device hardware itself, the Pano Manager virtual machine, and the Pano Direct Service, which is a Windows service installed on the desktop virtual machine.

The Pano Device is the hardware used at the end-point and gives users access to their virtual desktop via keyboard, video and mouse, as well as any audio input/output and USB devices that might be present. Power consumption with a keyboard and mouse connected barely registers at just 3.5watts of power.

The Pano Device communicates using the Pano Direct Protocol, which is encrypted with AES-128 with public/private key exchange. The Pano Direct Protocol includes separate traffic flows for USB, audio, keyboard, mouse and video within a single network connection. Video of up to a resolution of WUXGA, or 1920x1200, is supported.

Finally, because the Pano Device is incapable of storing data locally, security is correspondingly heightened as well.

Pano Manager is run on the server and forms the heart of the Pano Logic architecture. Beyond providing a centralized Web-based management interface, the Pano Manager also discovers and controls the Pano Devices on the network, serving the role of a connection broker.

Pano Manager is preinstalled as a virtual machine, and runs on top of either VMware ESX or ESXi hypervisors. In terms of management capabilities, it is capable of directory integration with Microsoft Active Directory and optionally integrates with vCenter Server and View Manager for virtual machine provisioning and management.

Pano Direct Service runs as a Windows service within each desktop virtual machine accessed by the Pano Device. The driver enables peripherals (including USB) connected to the Pano Device to be detected and accessed by unmodified Windows drivers installed on the virtual machines. The ability to support native Windows drivers means that if a device will run on a normal PC workstation, it will run on a Pano Device.  Among others, supported USB devices includes DVD readers/burners, USB hubs, and smartphones like the BlackBerry or consumer devices like the iPod.

Performance

The Pano System requires VMware ESX and ESXi on the back end, butI did not have the necessary hardware set up. To give the system a spin, I made an arrangement to loan the review hardware to final-year students who are working on a project involving VMware ESX, and they were able to get things running with relative ease.

I also had the opportunity to separately test out a WYSE thin client, and what surprised me was the fluidity of the experience on Pano Logic. I accessed the Pano Device and used it to perform basic system tasks and use its browser. As far as I can observe, its usability for general productivity tasks is not discernable from that of a dedicated workstation.

The advantage of zero

A zero-client solution brings out the full advantage of using virtual desktops. In terms of management, the deployment of a simple appliance for end-users effectively takes away the need for endpoint management; as well as eliminating the costs associated with management and maintenance.

With no login scripts that can fail, or any crucial pre-configured settings being inadvertently modified -- there is absolutely no need to teach users how to handle the system, which essentially peg the training costs at zero. In addition, a zero client effectively circumvents the need to pay for the cost of an operating system such as Windows XP Embedded or Windows CE that a non-Linux thin client would require.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the decision on whether to go with a standard desktop (or laptop) deployment or to take the VDI route depends very much on how the cost economics works out for your company, as well as the work roles expected of them. On the VDI front though, I am very much impressed by Pano Logic's solution in terms of its simplicity and architecture.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

16 comments
AG4IT
AG4IT

If you are using Zero Clients connecting to PCoIP hardware hosts, you should consider managing them with a connection broker such as PowerTerm WebConnect DeskView. DeskView will allow you to efficiently manage all your PCoIP users, streamlining deployments and administration. Read more about DeskView and download a free evaluation at: http://www.ericom.com/pcoip.asp?URL_ID=708 In addition, if you are also responsible for Terminal Server or VDI users, you can manage all of them, along with your PCoIP users, with one product, one administration tool with PowerTerm WebConnect RemoteView. Read more about RemoteView and download a free evaluation at: http://www.ericom.com/wcrdp.asp?URL_ID=708 Adam

AG4IT
AG4IT

If you are using hardware PCoIP devices, such as Teradici or Zero Clients, connecting to PCoIP hardware hosts, you should consider managing them with a connection broker such as PowerTerm WebConnect DeskView. DeskView will allow you to efficiently manage all your PCoIP users, streamlining deployments and administration. Read more about DeskView and download a free evaluation at: http://www.ericom.com/pcoip.asp?URL_ID=708 In addition, if you are also responsible for Terminal Server or VDI users, you can manage all of them, along with your PCoIP users, with one product, one administration tool with PowerTerm WebConnect RemoteView. Read more about RemoteView and download a free evaluation at: http://www.ericom.com/wcrdp.asp?URL_ID=708 Adam

tony.d.wood
tony.d.wood

Isn't this just a reincarnation of a dumb terminal?

uhuser
uhuser

Does this device support multiple monitors?

mikeoconecs
mikeoconecs

Hi, It appears that the images are in the wrong sequence! Mike

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

If I ran AutoCAD on a workstation: I would want the WS to not be cluttered with anything else, i.e. at the most, a lean e-mail & IM client for intra/inter-office comms. This would require the expense of another maquina for the other stuff. If the price is right, the PANO could fill the bill.

mrmhead
mrmhead

Any claims/comments about using the client on the far side of a WAN connection? Any means to jump on a VPN?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

if you never tried the actual system out. Can I assume you will be doiing so soon? How do we know it works?

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

I am beginning to think that some reincarnation of 'old' tech is desirable. The computer industry is getting to be like the drug/medical industry: Change as a new source of revenue. Ethernet is (IMO) waay better than USB, tho' Intel pushes it (USB) as a way to load down their CPUs so that people will be encouraged to buy a new 'puter with Intel's 'latest 'n' greatest'. Edit: (USB) and posessive apostrophe.

paulmah
paulmah

That was my impression initially. An XP-based WYSE thin client that I worked with though, booted up into the OS, and require an additional click to show the desktop (Think of it like a hardware dedicated to VNC/RDP etc). The zero client, on the other hand, boots up showing the login of the desktop VM.

paulmah
paulmah

Thanks Mike for the feedback; we're get it the images swapped in the correct order..

paulmah
paulmah

Hi, Pano had some problem accessing this forum; am pasting this response verbatim on their behalf. --- As for WAN support, Pano doesn't support WAN, however for their existing customers, they do offer Pano Remote, which allows customers access to their VM from outside their company firewall without the need for VPN software or hardware. It uses RDP via a HTTPS/Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to securely pass a connection from the Pano Remote user on the web through to the desktop virtual machines running on an internal network inside one or more firewalls.

paulmah
paulmah

Hi there. Yes, I did try out the system, though I wasn't involved in the full setup process. However, I did use an actual system that was setup - it worked just as would a normal VDI. Of course, one could point out that I didn't use it in a 'live' implementation consisting of multiple systems on a fully loaded network. Unfortunately, I just don't have the kind of equipment for it - though I promise I'll work on this once I get a home lab like Brad Bird's. :) And yes, I would love to hear from folks who have actually used Pano in a production environment. Ultimately, I hope that the article forms a good round-up (and save some time) for folks who want to know what Pano Logic is all about though.

Lamini
Lamini

nt. resurrection of dumb terminals

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

I would like to point out that, though PanoLogic states multi-monitor support is there, it is not exactly best in class. We recently have been working through a VDI pilot in a company with just shy of 2000 users, with about 10% working remotely. We chose to compare VMware and Citrix as the vendors, and chose HP, Wyse, and PanoLogic for hardware. The VM template used is an XP SP3 with IE7 build, with Office 2003, and a few web applications thrown on. We also tested ThinApp from VMware for virtualization of other applications. While all three manufacturers claim solid support for multiple monitors, PanoLogic did not perform nearly as well as HP and Wyse. With the second monitor (19" at a range of resolutions) in play, simply moving app windows from one monitor to another became very clunky. Simple flash video on our website nearly refused to play, and users encountered a lot of "screen painting" when opening certain files. All of these issues seemed to disappear when we went back to the single monitor, and never did appear on the HP or Wyse boxes. The external video adapter just did not seem to do the trick, for our needs anyway. We are still in the midst of our pilot, and testing out new hardware. One of the ones I am most excited about is the Samsung 930ND monitor. It is a 19" monitor with PCOIP built in to support VMware View 4. The monitor contains USB for keyboard and mouse, and a Gigabit Ethernet port for connectivity to the network. First time you turn it on you point it to your VDI server(s) and you're done. That is true "zero client" to me.

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