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A thin client is a "personal computer (PC) or a workstation that has no operating system, no disk (non-volatile storage) meaning no hard drive, CD-ROM drive or floppy drive hence consuming less power and making little noise". It has network cards, video cards and may also have expansion cards. It is booted from the network because it runs its operating system through its own RAM. All thin clients contain the following features "built-in RDP, ICA or other protocol for server-based computing, an Ethernet connection and optional support for wireless LANs, I/O for keyboard and mouse, optional I/O for printers, USB and other peripherals, a video processor for strong graphics and colors - a major upgrade from the dumb terminal, solid-state construction - no moving parts such as fans or disk drives results in longer life and higher reliability, centralized software management and deployment - means easier IT administration and greater security, firmware-based software and no disk drives making thin clients less vulnerable to viruses or malware". Thin clients have both hardware and software. An example of each are: hardware - wyse and software - microsoft windows terminal services.
Benefits and Drawbacks
The benefits of thin clients are: security, availability, reliability, total cost of ownership and scalability.
Security - as thin clients have no local storage devices they are not vulnerable to viruses as long as the servers are protected.
Manageability - backing-up of data is easier since all the data resides on the server therefore all updates can be done at the server level.
Availability - if a thin client crashes there is always another system available with data therefore it is more available to its users.
Reliability - thin clients are more reliable because they don't have mechanical parts such as fans or disk drives to break down.
Total cost of ownership - cost of owning a thin client is cheap because they don't have a lot of hardware parts as to what a PC would normally contain.
Scalability - the only setup required for thin clients are plugging in three or four cables the rest is done in the data centre.
Drawbacks of thin clients are they do not support multimedia-rich applications, like video gaming. Multimedia-rich applications require a significant amount of bandwidth to function to their maximum potential. Thin clients' use of relatively little bandwidth mean that animation; video, and other graphic features are not well supported in this environment. For example, thin clients are often overwhelmed and stop working when they are required to stream media or use Flash players. Operating systems like Windows are designed to run on local resources. This actually makes them less flexible, in direct contradiction to it proposed goals. Since thin clients run on remote resources it may be difficult to run these systems on thin client-server networks. High latency networks, where the lag time in transferring data over a network is long, can make thin clients unusable. If a network is down, there is no way for a thin client to access the server and processing power it needs to respond to requests. In contrast, thick clients can continue to work offline if a network is down. This single point of failure means that thin clients are prevented from using and desktop applications and may result in lost work. Thin clients also make it difficult to track individual user behavior, which is often analyzed to provide more customized responses to frequently asked requests and predict future user behavior for more efficient use of resources. Thin clients only place more demands on the server and the network as they increase in number. Once the workload threshold has been crossed, server architecture must change and potentially increase. These changes are costly and often occur after serious crashes.
Solutions to different commercial vendors
Two different commercial vendor solutions can be classified as client-based and server-based.
Wyse Enhanced SUSE Linux Enterprise is a client based solution which makes deploying Linux easier than any other thin-linux distribution by allowing devices to auto-upgrade and be centrally configured without the need for management software-all that is needed is a simple FTP server and a single text-based configuration file. Should administrators desire asset tracking or more hands-on management, they can use Wyse Device Manager at no additional charge (Workgroup edition). Additionally, with Wyse Enhanced SUSE Linux Enterprise, administrators can lock down applications, disable unnecessary configuration options, and provide read-only access capabilities to minimize data loss in case of theft, corruption, or virus attacks. Server-based computing solutions, like Citrix, are enormously popular among enterprises, as they promise to greatly simplify the application infrastructure. This simplification reduces costs of purchasing and supporting business critical applications. Additionally, these solutions often meet strict government regulations and even promote business continuity. While simplification is the direct benefit of server-based computing, several other key benefits, such as cost-savings, continuity, and even regulatory compliance,Â also contribute to a significant competitive edge for the business.
Server-based computing requires remote users to access applications over the WAN. Although this application communication paradigm is optimizedÂ for low bandwidthÂ usage, it does represent new andÂ additional bandwidth consumption on the WAN.Â Further, this paradigm nowÂ subjects all of theÂ communication between the user and the applicationÂ to formidableÂ WAN challenges, such as limited bandwidth, latency, and congestion.Â These applications must now compete with other network traffic as congestion chokes their vital communication channel. This situation is exacerbated as server-based computing applications tend to be more timid than the aggressive and bursty web, file transfers, and even printing traffic. When they lose their needed bandwidth, performance suffers greatly, and the end user cannot use their applications effectively,Â causing productivity issues. Most server-based computing solutions come optimized for high performing client and server communication. However, since these applications are sensitive to congestion, and other network traffic tends to be aggressive, protection is needed for this optimization. Without protection, one user downloading a large file could crush the server-based computing session of another user trying to use a CRM/ERP application. Expand's QoS is easy to configure, allows different priorities for different applications running on the same session (i.e., published Citrix applications), and will protect server-based computing traffic from congestion. And with Expand's compression to reduce the likelihood of congestion for other applications,Â a network-friendly environment is created forÂ all business critical applications.
Wyse has its own proprietary extensions to accelerate and enhance multimedia and multiple-display support across the wire. Microsoft Windows Terminal Services major function is proprietary protocol for remote desktops and applications plus it can be used to publish a specific windowed application to another system meaning from a virtual machine to a physical one.