Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an excellent inhouse technology conference on thin-client technology. Project leaders presented case studies about implementing thin-client solutions in a production environment. The presenters kept the discussion practical, skipping the "We implemented server-based computing and—get this—it actually worked! Okay, next story" approach that too many case studies from the field employ. Instead, the speakers kept to specifics of how they tackled the various problems unique to server-based computing and were prepared to answer detailed questions from the audience. After the case study presentations, several thin-client technology vendors (including Softblox, GraphOn, NCD, and Citrix) gave technology briefs about their products, keeping the discussion objective and, for the most part, avoiding sales pitches. In all, the conference was one of the finest exhibitions that I’ve attended of how server-based computing works and how people can apply the technology in some real-world environments.

One of my favorite aspects of the day involved watching the vendors interact with each other during product demonstrations, asking questions and really thinking about what they were looking at. NCD’s representative, in particular, asked some good questions about how GraphOn’s WinBridges technology worked, really pushing the point until he understood. The questions were direct, to the point, and detailed, but never aggressive or derogatory. It was plain that the questioner—like the rest of us who were asking questions—really wanted to know how the Bridges products work.

It would be great to see more of this kind of interaction—discussion, not infighting— among vendors of thin-client technology. Server-based computing technology is maturing. As the technology moves from the fringes of the computing environment to take its place in the office, it’s natural that more vendors will be interested in getting a slice of the thin-client pie. And there’s more than one way to add server-based computing to your network. As one of the GraphOn representatives said when I talked to them later, everyone has a different angle on how to do thin-client computing—there’s no one right way. In the interest of keeping the industry as dynamic as possible, it would be nice if those in the thin-client arena listened to each other instead of trying to pretend that the competition didn’t exist—or worse, sniping at it. If it turns out that there is one right way to make server-based computing work (something that’s not going to happen until we all have identical work environments and identical needs to satisfy), then we’re a lot more likely to find it if we all talk to each other.

You might be wondering what happened to the discussion of Linux-based RDP that I promised for this issue. I’ve given myself one more week to find a Linux-based RDP client other than the one I have (which, unfortunately, runs inside a Windows terminal). If anyone knows of a Linux-compatible RDP client available for download, please contact me. Unless I hear from one of you, I’ll discuss the RDP client I have in my next column.