HP launches ZCentral, a new single source remote workstation solution

Published 03 December 2019

Posted by greg corke

Article tagged with: cad, hp, workstation, remote graphics software, z workstation

HP ZCentral currently relies on rack mounted desktop workstations but there are rumours of a forthcoming dedicated 1U rack workstation

HP is making a big play for remote workstations with the introduction of HP ZCentral, a new software suite that allows individuals to connect remotely to a dedicated HP Z workstation, or IT managers to create pools of HP Z workstations for groups to share.

HP ZCentral is not an entirely new technology. The remoting software, HP ZCentral Remote Boost Software, is really just an evolution and rebranding of HP RGS (Remote Graphics Software). But there are some important new features, including integrated collaboration tools whereby users can easily share screens, and better image quality at high resolutions through image scaling.

The new part is HP ZCentral Connect, a software broker that, according to HP, allows IT departments to easily assign workstations, monitor connections and logins all through one simple interface. Users can access the next available workstation within an assigned pool of centralised workstations. Previously, users of RGS relied on the third-party Leostream broker. With ZCentral Connect, HP emphasises that the entire remote workstation solution is now available from a single source.

HP ZCentral will work with standalone desktop or mobile workstations, but HP is really pushing this as an enterprise solution using rack mounted workstations in a datacentre.

HP doesn’t yet have dedicated 1U or 2U rack workstation like Dell, Fuijtsu or Lenovo. Instead it relies on rack mounting its desktop workstations, including the Z2, Z4, Z6 and Z8. HP ZCentral doesn’t get involved in virtualisation - all workstations have a 1:1 connection with the end user.

For design and engineering firms, the emphasis is on the HP Z2 Mini, as the specs are well suited to 3D CAD and the compact chassis means excellent density. Seven HP Z2 Minis can be squeezed into a 5U space, more than you would get from a 1:1 dedicated 1U rack workstation. But for workflows that need more performance, the density is not as good. The HP Z8, for example, is 5U and the HP Z4 is 4U.

We’ve heard rumours that HP is developing a dedicated 1U rack workstation, but HP would not confirm or deny this when asked.

Compared to virtualised workstations, HP reckons HP ZCentral offers up to 16-33% more performance. We haven’t seen the numbers to back up this claim, but it does makes sense. Virtualised workstations tend to feature CPUs with lots of cores but lower clock speeds. With HP ZCentral, the 1:1 connection means CPUs can have an emphasis on GHz, which is important for performance in CAD and other applications.

From an end point perspective, users can access HP Z Central from a number of devices, including standard laptops and thin clients. Windows, MacOS and Linux is supported but iOS and Android is not.

HP ZCentral Remote Boost software and HP ZCentral Connect software will be available in early 2020. Pricing to be announced at a later date.

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