SAN JOSE, Calif. Startup Teradici Corp. (Burnaby, B.C.) comes out of stealth mode today with two chips that aim to replace today's thin-client desktop computers with devices that cost the same but provide greater functionality and are easier to manage. The company believes clever use of its proprietary signal processing algorithms could help expand the still nascent market for desktop replacement devices.
Today's thin clients typically lag full desktop performance in several respects. Users experience short delays even with simple moves of the cursor, let alone video which is typically jerky. The devices often do not support Macromedia Flash animation or all the USB functions of a desktop.
"Its hard to find anyone using thin clients for more than about five percent of their systems," said Dan Cordingley, chief executive of Teradici, and a former general manager of telecom specialists Level One.
"The key difference with our approach is that a user would not be able to tell they don't have a full PC under their desk. Our goal is to have the same experience as the desktop," he said.
Teradici delivers that experience using two 130nm chips, one at the server and one in a simple host device. The server chip links to any graphics chip with two DVI ports, taking in display information and encrypting and compressing it into Ethernet packets. It also links to a south bridge chip via PCI Express to mimic a USB controller.
The host chip sends packets over a 10/100/1000 Ethernet link to a client device that decrypts and decompresses the packets into raw display information sent to a monitor. The client device supports four USB 2.0 links and well as two monitors and Intel's high-definition 5.1-channelo audio.
The two chips use a proprietary algorithm to hide the effects of dropped Ethernet packets. They also use 128-bit AES encryption. The host chip rides on a card with an off-the-shelf x86 processor, graphics controller and PC chip set.
"We don't run any code on the CPU, there are no special drivers," said Cordingley.
IBM has agreed to use the Teradici chip on a server blade card for its high-end users in financial applications. Three small companies—two thin client makers and one blade server startup—will also use the Teradici chips.
Besides offering better client performance, the approach is easier to manage than today's thin clients. That's because the current machines use versions of the operating system at the server and client sides, requiring both systems be managed by corporate IT departments. The Teradici client contains no operating system code, so does not need to be managed.
One drawback of the initial Teradici chips is that they require one PC card in the server for each thin client. Future versions may support virtualization so that one server card can host multiple thin-client sessions.
Teradici has raised $34 million in two venture rounds, enough it believes to take them to profitability next year. The 55-person company has been in operation more than two years and has filed 28 patents. It expects to ship its chips in August, following a second spin of the silicon underway now at TSMC.
About 2.7 million thin clients shipped in 2006, a figure expected to grow to about 3.3 million this year, according to Teradici. About 90 million business desktops are expected to be sold world wide in 2008, the company said.