The X550 is a genuine old-fashioned terminal server with a twist. One or two PCIe ports are needed in a server box to host NComputing's Ethernet boards. A small, smartphone-sized box called the XD2 has speaker, Ethernet, PS/2-style mouse and keyboard jacks and a VGA jack. Two PCIe cards yields 10 machines, and the 11th is the host computer itself. The host machine can run Windows XP, 2003 Server or 2008 Server editions.
Each Ethernet port connects in turn an XD2 box, where keyboard, mouse, monitor (in high resolutions) and even a speaker can be connected. The supported operating systems, controlled by NComputing's VSpace virtualisation software, are Windows XP, Windows 2003 and 2008 Server editions. Each user of the X550 system gets their own session, as though they were a simple logged-in user of the operating system.
Users share the machine's Internet connection, and peripherals such as printers. Policy controls of the host operating system control user accessibility to installed applications, file shares and the security of the host operating system's configuration.
The benefit of the X550 (smaller versions are available with fewer ports) is low cost, and low number of instances of an operating system in use. If applications can handle multiple users in this configuration, application costs may be lower as well. The beauty is that VSpace allocates resources readily and simply, and virtualisation and VM instances are spectacularly simple to control by comparison to VMware, MS Hyper-V, and even XenServer costs — even though XenServer is free!
We like the idea of a single box to run applications, although it represents a single point of failure, where the other virtualised platforms are often able to be made redundant through various schemes.
It's a small office/retail/branch scheme that we found worked simply and was difficult to load down with work in a multi-core desktop server box (we used a dual-core HP media server). The X550 is an old-school idea with a virtualisation-controlled twist that may please some organisation's budget needs.