Dell has announced a server-based system that streams the operating system, applications and data to diskless desktop clients over a Gigabit Ethernet network.

The On-Demand Desktop Streaming is a server-based software, hardware and services offering and is part of Michael Dell’s message of simplifying IT and reducing complexity.

Centralising control of desktops on a single server reduces maintenance and allows reinvestment of resources in the core business, said Jeff Clarke, a senior VP at Dell.

The system will reside on a shared PowerEdge 2950 server, and use the Citrix Provisioning Server software to stream the OS, applications and data to OptiPlex-based 745 and 755 desktop clients over a Gigabit Ethernet network. Users can take full advantage of a client’s CPU (central processing unit) and graphics processor, providing a full desktop experience with application access and complete multimedia capabilities, Clarke said.

As user and system data resides on a central server, IT departments get more control over desktops. That reduces strain related to IT management and security issues, such as viruses and disaster recovery, if hardware fails, Clarke said.

Data in a central resource also makes computing flexible as users can access data from anywhere using a desktop client or mobile device, Clarke said.

"This is not a thin client or blade PC," he said, adding that blade systems are single-purpose and cannot be redeployed.

The ability to control desktops also reduces strains on a company’s IT infrastructure, Clarke said. “Deskside IT visits are almost completely eliminated,” he said.

Each virtual server with the system costs $1,100 per client and supports up to 100 clients. The new offering is available now.

Change in infrastructure requires quite an investment, so the potential audience for such systems is limited, said Toni Duboise, senior analyst at Current Analysis West. Customers looking to change their infrastructure or larger corporations could be willing to give it a try before others take it into consideration, she said.

“There’s some logic to have a central source where the IT resources are concentrated,” Duboise said. “We’re progressing toward something like this, but it still takes a lot of investment.”

Dell also introduced an online IT Simplification Self-Assessment tool, which determines the complexity and efficiency of a company’s IT environment at different levels.