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Citrix, Compaq join on NC servers

The two companies join forces to promote "thin client" computing with software and server hardware.

Compaq (CPQ) and Citrix (CTXS) are joining forces to promote "thin client" computing with software and server hardware.

Compaq will bundle Citrix's WinFrame server software with its ProLiant servers. The companies are promoting the initiative as a way for corporate IS departments to deploy and manage software applications more efficiently and more cheaply than traditional setups using PC clients and servers.

Using Citrix's WinFrame thin-client software, a desktop computer can act much like a network computer since it relies on a powerful server computer for processing power and can access typical PC Windows applications on the server.

The announcement indicates that Compaq is in need of an NC offering for its customers since this kind of technology is not currently provided by Microsoft.

"Citrix has gotten a shot in the arm from the interest in network computers, and even though Compaq is the sworn enemy of the network computer, some part of the company has to get on the bandwagon," said Brian Murphy, an analyst with the Yankee Group, a market research firm.

"Since the NetPC bandwagon hasn't pulled out of town yet, they have to put something on the street that can at least partially convince somebody that they are concerned with total cost of ownership," adds Murphy.

Typically, client PCs have their own drives for data storage and high-performance processors for local data processing. Thin-client NCs, on the other hand, store data on remote server computers, and in some cases, use servers for data processing as well. The downside is that there is increased data traffic on the network since PCs must get more data from the server computer.

Compaq said its evaluation of the WinFrame software verified that network traffic is minimal. "WinFrame can support from 8 to 20 concurrent users per single ProSignia 200 server, while 100 to 200 concurrent users could be supported from a single ProLiant 5000 server," according to the companies. A copy of a white paper explaining this can be found at Citrix's Web site.

NCs have been promoted by companies such as Oracle subsidiary NCI and Sun Microsystems as less expensive to maintain than traditional PCs. Appeals have also been made on the basis that it offers users an alternative to Windows operating systems.