Here's a prediction for the coming year: remote desktopping -- in other words, moving desktop CPUs off (or out from under) desks and into racks, data centers and closets -- will hit the Street in force some time in 2008, or maybe 2009. Wachovia has already said they're kitting out the new trading floor in their under-construction Charlotte headquarters with remote desktops (or "back-racked PCs" as they call them), which will open in 2009, and the inventors of the latest generation of remote desktop technology, Teradici, say that 20 Wall Street firms have expressed interest in it.Remote desktops are an idea whose time has come. One specific application for Wall Street is that CPUs could be moved to data centers that are closer to exchanges, a way to potentially reduce market data latency. More generally, remote desktops allow for easier PC tech support -- if a PC is troubled, simply swap it out for a different one. Remote desktops let the IT department give less-important users lower-quality computers without their realizing it. (As the recipient of a dented laptop with sticky keys, I can see the benefit of such camouflage.) Conversely, IT can upgrade a user without his colleagues and higher-ups expecting the same (and thus neatly sidestep some pecking order issues). "No one will know if they're getting the high-end stuff or not," notes Stuart Robinson, director of strategic marketing at Teradici. Remote PCs simplify the rolling out of new software and patches. And of course, they allow for a cleaner work surface, which can be helpful in crowded trading areas.
In the past, the notion of the remote desktop has been floated but not broadly adopted because of distance limitations -- the monitor/keyboard/mouse had to be within about 30 feet of the CPU or else data latency would result. Newer technology, such as Teradici's chipsets (which transmit images between monitor and CPU at high speeds), can accommodate distances of up to 2,000 kilometers before latency becomes an issue. For instance, Teradici says it has run tests between Houston, Texas and London, England and found no discernable time lag (below 35 milliseconds, a lapse can't be detected by the human eye, Robinson says). However, a fast network is essential for remote desktops to perform well -- a 10 megabit network, for instance, would be too slow.
Teradici just showed us the latest devices that use their chips. You don't have to buy new machines to switch to remote desktops -- you can retrofit existing CPUs with new chips and move the CPUs to a data center to create more space on the desktop. However, this could result in a wasteland of computer towers in the data center -- not an efficient use of space. IBM, ClearCube and DevonIT have manufactured blades that fit neatly into racks and communicate with small desktop units (about six to nine inches high by three to four inches wide, six-seven inches long) that work with the Teradici chips. Specifically, the IBM BladeCenter HC10 and CP20 Workstation Connection Device is one blade/desktop device pair on the market -- the desktop device is fanless and consumes only 25 watts of power. Devon IT's TC10 Desktop Access Device also works with IBM's HC10 Workstation Blade. It looks like a miniature computer tower and simply contains the Teradici chip, a video card and network and power ports; it also consumes less than 30 watts of power. ClearCube's A1410 PC Blade can be stacked into its A3100 Chassis and communicates with the ClearCube I9400 User Port. This desktop device is designed a bit differently from the others -- it's short and flat at 2.5 inches high by 9.5 inches wide and 5.2 inches deep. Verari Systems is also developing products that use Teradici's technology.