Java Thin Client Links to Windows Servers

A German company has introduced a Java thin-client program that works with applications running on Windows NT and Windows 2000 servers.

The HOBLink Java Windows Terminal is a downloadable Java program that connects to the servers using an existing Microsoft protocol. As a result, no other software is needed for either the client or server devices, says Fred Pack, a vice president with HOB Inc., the New Jersey headquarters set up by HOB Electronics earlier this year.

The parent company is a software development firm, founded in the 1960s, and has specialised in terminal emulation and connectivity software, according to Pack.

HOBLink uses Microsoft's Remote Data Protocol (RDP) to connect with either NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition or Win 2000 Terminal Services. HOB's approach is dramatically different from Citrix Systems.

Citrix offers its own protocol, called ICA, that has been optimised for low-bandwidth connections, and Citrix provides server software, called MetaFrame, that runs on the NT or Win 2000 servers and, more recently, Sun's Solaris Unix servers. MetaFrame also offers a variety of user and session management and load-balancing features that are missing for now from NT.

The HOBLink client, which requires about 150K bytes of memory, can be any device with a browser that can run Java programs.

HOBLink offers a simple form of load balancing, says Pack. The program can query a group of servers to determine the computer with the least load and then connect to it.

While HOBLink's simplicity is attractive, net managers will want to closely watch its performance, especially as more users access the servers. Another issue is whether an application or set of applications requires the additional management features offered by Citrix MetaFrame.

Pricing for HOBLink starts at US$150 and decreases with the number of copies licensed. The software is available (in the US) now.

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