Cranberry SC20 Smart Client review
A lean, green client machine that's easy to secure and manage, making it a good alternative to overpowered and underused desktop PCs.
Review Date: 25 Mar 2008
Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell
Price when reviewed: exc VAT
You have to wonder why so many businesses insist of putting a PC on every desktop when the majority of their workforce simply doesn't need a 'fat' client. Thin clients are a natural solution but over the years we've watched even these putting on more weight as the demands of their embedded OS increase - and their limitations when it comes to adding external devices are becoming all too apparent.
The Cranberry SC20 Smart Client is designed to offer an alternative to thin and fat clients as this sandwich-sized package offers a centrally managed desktop solution that has enough power to run common business applications locally.
Even businesses with thin clients aren't maximising their potential as, according to research by Cranberry, only 3% of their staff are actually using them with the rest being equipped with desktop PCs. The SC20 is also designed to slot into these environments where it replaces the desktop and can work alongside existing thin client services. It supports thin and desktop applications plus virtual applications such as Microsoft's SoftGrid Application Virtualization solution and VMware's Thinstall.
The SC20 is preinstalled with Windows XP Embedded and despite its modest specification, we found it was quite capable of running applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint without any noticeable delays while activities such as web browsing or reading PDF documents were smooth enough. To get the size down, Cranberry has been quite cunning in the design department as it has created a motherboard with components on both sides.
For memory, you can purchase models with either 512MB or 1GB but decide before buying as they cannot be upgraded. The standard models are endowed with a 40GB 2.5in. hard disk but you can go up to 250GB or opt for solid-state memory instead.
With no internal fans, the aluminium casing doubles up as a heatsink and we found after a few days in the lab that the unit was only slightly warm to the touch. The SC20 is very green as every component is recyclable and power consumption is quoted at a mere 9w. We tested this with our in-line power meter and never saw consumption rise beyond 11w even with the unit under load.
For centralised management, Cranberry opted for the third-party RES Wisdom software. The SC20 units come with the Wisdom agent service preinstalled and the price for each one includes a licence for this. Wisdom offers a range of useful features including task scheduling for automated software, patch and update deployments to multiple systems. It requires a SQL Server, DB/2 or Oracle database or it can use the bundled SQL Express 2005.
Central to Wisdom operations are the dispatchers which are installed at every physical location making a strong case for distributed operations. These handle update requests from the client agents and if multiple clients ask for an application, the dispatcher will make one request over the WAN link to the central database, retrieve the necessary software and distribute it locally to all nodes.
The dispatcher is an ideal solution where Wake-on-LAN requests are to be sent out and it works well for home users because it can be placed in a DMZ and any remote requests can be passed by a firewall rule to the DMZ where it is serviced.
Once booted, the clients appear automatically in the console where you can place them in teams that represent offices, departments or physical locations. You'll need to deploy your own applications to them and Cranberry provides a range of basic tasks and applications gathered together in packages called building blocks. These comprise options such as deploying the free OpenOffice application plus the Citrix ICA and Microsoft RDP clients and tasks such as changing the computer and domain names.
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