Thin Clients

Primary Computing Models

– Non-administered Desktop: Here users have their own desktop system. Users/System Administrators manage each system individually including installation and upgradation of software and OS.

– Administered Desktop: Using this model the System Administrators can install and manage applications on users’ desktops remotely from a centralized remote location.

– Thin client/Server-based: In this model, processing takes place on one or more centralized servers. Users can access these applications locally and remotely, using a standard browser, wireless device, desktop device, or thin client device.

Basic Categories of Thin Clients

1. Basic
2. Robust
3. Flexible
4. Mobile
5. Legacy

Basic Thin Clients

– Provides server-based computing
– Can run remote protocols of Microsoft/Citrix/etc on a centrally managed server to remotely display the user’s desktop which is running on the server.

Robust Thin Clients

– Provides all the functionalities of the basic thin client along with a browsing terminal, which give access to the web or web-applications.

Flexible Thin Clients

– Provides all the functionalities of the basic thin client and robust client along with the ability to run applications locally.

Basic Forms of Thin Clients:
1. Standalone
2. Wireless

Out of these two, Standalone machines dominate. There are also new more powerful types of thin clients that offer some onboard memory and faster processing. Wireless allows individual machines to be mobile within the predefined workspace.

Advantages of Thin Clients

1. Total cost of ownership (TCO)
2. Efficient and easy administration
3. Easy application deployments
4. Security
5. Efficient utilization of server resources
6. Thin client Lifecycle is longer (7-10 years)

Disadvantages of Thin Clients

The major disadvantage is that the thin client setup is not for heavy processing applications; only light-weight applications can be run on thin clients. For example, companies that use high-performance applications like CAD, CAM, multimedia applications, etc, will do better with a full PC-based system.

Thin Client Network

The network server that uses thin client devices should be robust, modular, with heavy processing power, and little fault tolerance. In addition to thin client devices that can sit on the desktop, server-based computing requires four elements:

1. An operating system
2. Efficient network protocol
3. Client management software
4. Centralized application

Thin Client Network Protocols

The most commonly used protocols are ICA (Citrix), RDP (Microsoft), and X (Linux/Unix). Microsoft’s protocol RDP allows use of Win Terminals.

Thin Client Booting

There are two-ways through which a thin client can connect to the server. They are:
1. Thin clients may boot either directly from the server and then connect to it or
2. Boot up from locally installed mini-disk and then connect to the server.

After connecting to the server, log in screen of the operating system running on the server is displayed to the user.
Applications Deployable on Thin Client Server

Light-weight application which does not require much processing power can be deployed on thin clients. Heavy processing applications like Maya, 3D Max, etc, can not be deployed on thin clients. You cannot deploy any application at thin client’s end because there is no storage device/ CPU at the client’s end. Whatever you want to deploy, you can do that only on the server.

Thin Clients & Remote Offices

Internet connection, a router, and a hub connected to the main data center enables remote offices to access the same network services, databases, and applications as they do at the corporate headquarters. Because thin clients do not need expensive network equipment, configuration, and support, their remote offices can be setup within hours.

Security

If all documents and files of all users are stored on the same server and on the same storage device, can one user access or read the files of another user — No
– To access others’ folders, the System Administrator should give users special permission; otherwise it is not possible to access them.
– To access each others folders the server should have an NTFS file storage system; with the standard FAT32 it is not possible.

Thin clients vs. Single server

The number of thin clients that a single server can hold depends on
– The server hardware configuration
– The programs/applications that are installed on that particular server.
Using Load balancing technology with additional servers prevents any single server from reaching critical levels.

Benefits of Using Thin Clients
1. Flexibility
2. Functionality
3. Performance
4. Customizability

Thin client technology was patronized and implemented by small-to-mid sized companies during dotcom burst to reduce their IT costs.