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Review: Dell WYSE delivers Android-on-a-stick

Joel Snyder | May 20, 2014
Thin clients aren't very exciting, and for a reason: they're designed to allow remote access to servers, usually with a Citrix, Microsoft, or VMware client. The folks at Dell WYSE have spiced up the category by building a thin client on top of Android, and getting it down to a form factor only slightly larger than a USB memory stick.

A random tour of home-oriented applications, such as YouTube, revealed no real failures. If you want to buy a single WYSE Cloud Connect for a browser-only experience at home, well, it's pretty slick and certainly doesn't waste a lot of power. But obviously that's not what Dell is aiming for here and not the core design goal for the WYSE Cloud Connect.

Management with Cloud Client Manager

WYSE Cloud Connect requires Dell's Internet-based Cloud Client Manager, a web management tool that serves as the policy configuration and control tool. Cloud Client Manager comes in two flavors: the free "Starter" edition for up to 25 devices which has minimal policy management, and the subscription-based pay-per-device "Professional" edition with all the bells and whistles. For our testing, Dell offered use of the Professional edition.

Cloud Client Manager let us create a policy covering device passwords, a short list of blocked applications (Camera, YouTube, Android Browser, Google Play, and Facebook can be blocked), establish Wi-Fi credentials and SSIDs, define a VPN connection, configure RDP servers for the PocketCloud Connect application, and set a few other device parameters. 

With the Cloud Client Agent installed (by default), policies are pulled from Cloud Client Manager and enforced on the device.  Cloud Client Manager is Dell's Mobile Device Management (MDM) tool. The version we used includes support for more than just the WYSE Cloud Connect devices and the Android operating system, including IOS, ThinOS/Xenith (another thin client operating system), and Dell Mobile Workspace (a mobile device container tool that allows for separation of work and home mail, calendar, contacts and browser environments on mobile devices). Because we were only testing WYSE Cloud Connect, we only used the Android part of the on-line Cloud Client Manager.

Cloud Client Manager only takes a few moments to learn. Policies are defined for groups of devices, and managing policy settings takes only a few moments, except for the complicated Wi-Fi configuration. 

We had no real problems with the functionality of Cloud Client Manager, and policies, such as Wi-Fi definition and application restrictions, showed up quickly and were enforced by the WYSE Cloud Connect device. 

Cloud Client Manager can also be used to restrict the device by putting it into Kiosk mode (only one application can run) or LaunchPad mode (creating a short list of all allowed applications and blocking all others, including native Android applications such as "Settings"). Network managers deploying WYSE Cloud Connect for thin client applications will likely use one of these two modes, rather than allowing unlimited Android functionality for end users. This important feature worked very well.

Some parts of Cloud Client Manager, though, need better integration. For example, although Cloud Client Manager talks to the Google Play store for Android applications, it let us create "required" applications for the WYSE Cloud Connect that weren't supported. The same issue occurred with VPN definitions: Cloud Client Manager knows about Dell and Cisco VPN clients, but defining a Cisco VPN connection doesn't do any good if the Cisco VPN client isn't included or supported.

 

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