IBM releases new thin clients

The IBM Network Stations 2200 and 2800 feature multimedia capability, expanded memory of up to 2800 MB (RAM) and Java Virtual Machine.

Tim Lalonde, manager of networked systems for Maintoulin Transport, in Gore Bay, says his company will be evaluating the 2200 to see how much of an improvement it is over the 300 series the transport company currently uses.

Manitoulin Transport, based in Northern Ontario, sends trucks all over North America delivering goods and needs a reliable computer system to keep track of its fleet, goods inventory and other administrative functions. Lalonde says the thin client is a vast improvement over the use of PCs.

“It stopped the madness. We don’t update desktops anymore. It’s just the whole maintenance and control, I could go on for days, it’s helped us a lot,” says Lalonde.

Lalonde says the thin client provided standardisation in the workplace, reduced software costs and increased control over what version of software employees were using. “There were less moving parts and we can put them in dirty environments,” he says.

For example, one Network Station had been run over by a forklift and another was bumped off a desk into a container of grease. An employee fished it out, wiped it off, plugged it back in and it still worked.

IBM’s Network Stations are equipped to support server-based applications such as Windows, 3270, 5250, ASCII, UNIX, Linux, browser and Java applications. The 2200 is based on X86 Architecture (with a National semiconductor processor)and includes attachment of devices.

Lalonde says his company’s interest in the 2200 is in what he views as “a better interface, improved browser and the addition of multimedia.”

“Today, in order to give access to our users to get to our secured site the native browser {on the 300 series] is not very good, not very fast so we have to open a Windows terminal server session in order to get there. The 2200 will be able to start a native browser without having to go to a terminal server,” says Lalonde.

The addition of multimedia means that Manitoulin’s service and claims departments can utilise on-line imaging when finding information about a specific shipment. “We have information that the customer sees and so it will allow our claims department to see what they can see,” says Lalonde.

The addition of audio, another multimedia feature which is unavailable on the 300 is also important to Manitoulin. Manitoulin operates a satellite tracking system used to log the exact locations of its line-haul fleet. The system is a Windows NT-based application which runs on an IBM Netfinity 3500, while the client portion runs on the Netfinity 5500 via MetalFrame.

“With our satellite tracking system we want to incorporate sound so when certain things go [wrong] red there is an alarm, right now we just use colours,” Lalonde explains.

The 2800 is optimised for interactive browser-based, audio/video applications and those that require extensive local processing on the client, said IBM. The series 2800 is ideal for task-oriented applications that require a variety of peripheral attachment options, expansion capability, and/or large memory capacity, such as bank teller systems, airline gate agents, retail point-of-sale, and ERP application front-ends, according to the vendor.

IBM is also releasing Version 2 Release 1(V2R1) of its Network Station Manager software. V2R1 features Netscape Communicator 4.5 for browser access, supporting plug-ins from RealNetworks and for PDF file viewing. IBM also says V2R1 provides an improved, easy-to-use graphical interface, and new functions for accessing Windows applications including additional audio support and tighter network security via the Citrix ICA Client. V2R1 also features new tools and enhancements for centralised management, administration, and updating

of flash boot images. For execution of Java-based applications, Network Station Manager provides support for the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) 1.18.

The series 2200 retails for $559 US and comes with a three-year warranty, and the 2800 for $799 US and comes with a three-year warranty.

Information on the IBM Network Station can be accessed at