Kiwi firm breathes Y2K-safe life into old computers

A Kiwi company has brought a new solution to the thin client smorgasbord with a product that converts year 2000-vulnerable PCs into Y2K-invincible network computers. MultiTalk International's new product, MultiTalk RDP, uses firmware on the network card to convert a PC to a thin client and then connects it to Microsoft Windows NT Terminal Server Edition (WTS) using Microsoft's RDP protocol.

A Kiwi company has brought a new solution to the thin client smorgasbord with a product that converts year 2000-vulnerable PCs into Y2K-invincible network computers.

MultiTalk International's new product, MultiTalk RDP, uses firmware on the network card to convert a PC to a thin client and then connects it to Microsoft Windows NT Terminal Server Edition (WTS) using Microsoft's RDP protocol.

According to Zona Research, an IT person can manage 162 thin clients as opposed to 33 PCs, says Multi-Talk International general manager Neil Dorset.

To convert the PC, it disables the BIOS (thus eliminating Y2K hardware problems) and the hard drive.

David Hickman, managing director of MultiTalk International, says both functions can be reinstated at any time. Although other solutions allow for the use of old PCs as thin clients, disabling the BIOS and hard drive means the PC is totally transformed into a thin client. With users logging on to the server exclusively, network managers gain increased security and virus protection and eliminate Y2K desktop issues.

Hickman describes MultiTalk RDP as the "base entry for WTS". It uses RAM on the workstation rather than on the NT server so it can connect to separate servers for email or databases. Users also have the option of running the PC as a "lean client" with a browser at the client end because "running many browsers off the server will quickly bring a server to its knees", Hickman says. The lean client can also incorporate a Java virtual machine (JVM).

While MultiTalk RDP is the entry-level product, for those wanting to use Citrix's ICA protocol and to connect to Unix servers, MultiTalk has also come out with MultiTalk ICA-X.

MultiTalk ICA-X evolved from a two-year-old product Hickman developed called Onex. Because it uses the ICA protocol it can connect to any Citrix Winframe server or MS WTS with Citrix MetaFrame. Unlike Citrix products, it doesn't require a Unix emulator to connect to a Unix host. It supports multiple Unix platforms as well as Java.

For MultiTalk ICA-X, Hickman recommends 32Mb RAM to enable multimedia and WAN/dial-up support.

"Many Unix users want high graphics performance and that is where the RAM is needed. ICA-X supports graphics of up to 1600 x 1280 at 16.7 million colours (with an appropriate graphics card)."

Unlike Citrix's products, Multi-Talk doesn't support load balancing although Hickman believes having two identically-configured servers for 25 to 30 users will work well.

MultiTalk has also come out with a communications server based on the 64-bit Linux operating system.

MultiTalk products are loaded on the network card, which can either be provided by MultiTalk or flashed across the network on to existing cards.

While the company is setting up a local distribution channel, it also plans to take its thin client products to the US in November, possibly showing them at Comdex. Hickman says the company will give resellers the option of providing their own network cards.

Recommended retail pricing (ex GST):

• MultiTalk RDP — $325 per PC; also requires WTS CAL (client access licence) and NT Workstation licence

• MultiTalk ICA-X — $495 per PC; plus WTS CAL and NT Workstation licence

• MultiTalk Comms — $4995

• Configuration consultancy — $115 per hour

• NIC 3Com 10BaseT $115, NIC 3Com 10/100 $175.

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