is a desktop virtualization
company that manufactures hardware and software to create virtual desktops
which enable multiple users to simultaneously share one computer. The company’s approach is similar to thin clients
but promises better media streaming and audio performance and lower costs. The company supports both Windows and Linux operating systems.
The name “NComputing” comes from the mathematical term “n
” which stands for an indefinite number (in this case) of additional users sharing a single computer.
NComputing, based in Redwood City, CA is a privately held for-profit company with offices in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Korea, Poland, Russia, and the United Kingdom; and resellers around the world.
The combination of NComputing hardware (access devices) and virtualization software (vSpace) use the excess computing capacity of one PC to create multiple virtual desktops.
The vSpace software allows multiple simultaneous user accounts to run on a single computer. The access devices connect each user’s keyboard, monitor, and mouse to the shared PC. Each NComputing access device has ports for a keyboard, monitor, and mouse, but does not contain a CPU or memory.
The company offers three product lines, the X-series, L-series, and U-series.
X-series access devices connect via CAT 5 cable to a PCI card that is installed in a shared PC. Since there are typically two free PCI ports in a PC, the technology supports up to two PCI cards. The maximum distance between the PC and an access device is 10 m or about 30 ft. The X-series comes in kits which include one PC card and several access terminals, depending on the specific product.
In a test published by Computer Aid International in April 2009 and conducted by three African universities, the X300 turned out to be the preferred solution when setting up computer labs.
X300 — 3 users per kit
X350 — 3 users per kit (updated version of the X300)
X550 — 5 users per kit
Unlike the X-series, the NComputing L-series does not use a PCI card. L-series access devices connect each user’s keyboard, mouse and monitor back to the shared PC over standard Ethernet cables through a router or switch. An entry-level server supports approximately 30 users.The L-series comes in kits that include NComputing’s vSpace software and one access device.
L230 — includes microphone and USB ports
The new U-series are the simplest of all to connect, because they just snap into standard USB ports. There are no network switches to buy and no PCI cards to install. The USB does have a distance limitation.
NComputing’s vSpace virtualization software, included with the hardware, creates the virtual desktops in the shared PC by dividing the computer’s resources into independent sessions that give each user their own PC experience. The vSpace software uses the company’s proprietary display and communications protocol (“UXP”) to communicate between the shared computer and the user stations. UXP serves a similar purpose as Microsoft’s RDP and Citrix’s ICA.
Linux is supported with proprietary software, including a kernel module. Unfortunately, this software has not been updated to work with current Linux distros. As of 2010 June 15, the L series works with only Ubuntu 8.10 (a release no longer supported by Ubuntu), and nComputing does not have publicly announced plans to support other distros. The X300 has no Linux support, and the X350 and X550 works with Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (still supported by Ubuntu but it isn’t clear if the NComputing software has kept up with updates to the OS).
Since the software is proprietary, and the source code is not distributed, only NComputing can upgrade it.