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Networking IT Hardware

Thin Clients Still Face Uphill Battle 19

PenguinCandidate writes "Even after Australian open source vendor Cybersource put on some weight with its Linux 'not-so-thin' thin client product, analysts and users of current thin client deployments still see an uphill battle ahead for the technology. Maybe thin isn't in as long as that plain old PC keeps humming along on your desk?"
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Thin Clients Still Face Uphill Battle

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  • At work (I work for a major European mobile telco), we use moderately sized PCs but all real work is done by other computers - we have a connection to a remote virtual desktop and some functions are accessed through (ugh) Internet Explorer on our intranet.
    I think the only program, apart from IE run locally is Outlook.

    Of course, we only have Dell computers. (ugh)
  • Doomed (Score:1, Insightful)

    by wot.narg ( 829093 )
    Just XTerms, thin clients are doomed as long as thinclient hardware is close in $ to a desktop workstation, it will always be doomed.

    Doomed it is, and Doomed it shall (probably) stay.
    • On top of that I still think thin clients generally have miserable graphics performance. After all, you are always sending the display across the network.

  • With computer prices as low as 250€ for a Sempron 2800, is hard to go the thin client way.
  • Thin clients have been "the next big thing" since the late 1980s, when they were called "diskless workstations".

    The problem is, computer systems are fragile enough as it is without making your entire business slow down or grind to a halt, unable to even write a simple memo, whenever the network is slow or flaky. The cost savings of a thin client isn't nearly big enough to justify that kind of risk.

    Thin clients were a dumb idea in the 80s, and they're still a dumb idea now. A full 20+ years of hype for the
    • by llefler ( 184847 ) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @05:14PM (#13057544)
      Except that companies are feeding the Microsoft money machine and migrating to terminal services. PC management has become a nightmare. But with TS you can keep everyone on the same version of Office and the rest of your standard app suite. And if it starts to get slow you just upgrade/add a server. Network? 100mbit at the desktop and gigabit in the server room works fine. RDP and X are really not that bad compared to HTTP.

      MS started by giving free TS client licenses with W2K and XP, now that they've started to hook enterprise size companies, they roll out 2003 and force new licenses. But they will nicely bundle it in your software assurance package for you.

      Personally, I've recently invested in a thin client for home. $150 plus a monitor. In the future I'll probably upgrade my server (debian), and start replacing PCs with more thin clients. At $300 a pop (terminal and LCD), it's not a problem to put one in the living room, kitchen, etc. Even in a home environment it saves a lot of time on administration. Network isn't a big deal, my cheap server (Dell 400sc) has a gigabit network card. My 8 port PowerConnect gigabit switch was less than $100.
    • Thin clients were a dumb idea in the 80s, and they're still a dumb idea now. A full 20+ years of hype for them hasn't made them catch on, so give it up already.

      Actually, they are catching on. Not always as a desktop replacement, but as a supplement. Especially for UNIX systems. Why go with Exceed when you could go with MetaFrame for UNIX? If you have casual UNIX users you will save a bundle on licenses (one copy of Exceed per user vs. Users/4 Citrix licenses).

      And would you rather maintain e.g. 50 Solar

  • Well... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Saiyine ( 689367 )
    For the DIY crowd, some links on linux thin clients:

    * PXES [sourceforge.net]
    * Linux Terminal Server Project [ltsp.org]
    • Where Linux could really do some good is turning every workstation, thin or fat, into a node of a the cluster it is logging into. Every person who logs on to the lan adds to the power of it. If they ain't using all their power, some can be used by other users who need it.

      Linux is far more open to this low level inventive chicanery than Windows which is something that could make it be a much better choice than it currently is. The more machines on the net, the more powerful the overall virtual machine.

  • I don't know what being a thin client or fat client makes any difference. Our company has both, and we certainly don't show preference to one over the other. After all, their weight has little to do with them buying our software products.
  • by Photar ( 5491 )
    Maybe when thin means $99 and not $699. Then yeah.

    Everything in the office is moving to webservices. Everyone already saves their documents on some Active Directory server somewhere, in a revision of windows or two Your office icons and everything will be on the server too.
  • by wsanders ( 114993 ) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @05:43PM (#13057764) Homepage
    Maybe I am just getting old and cynical - but it seems the reason thin clients aren't catching on is that in most large organizations big enough for thin clients to provide big operating efficiencies, say, at the just-sub-CIO level, these people are rewarded rather than penalized for padding headcount and budgets.

    In smaller organizations, it's easier to convince people to deploy innovative solutions like thin clients, but the advantages are minimal since the organization is rarely so large that there are big savings ocer conventional systems.

    The people who benefit the most - sysadmins who woudl spend less of their time doind dumb stuff like ghosting systems and installing patches, and users who would not hve to wait days for software upgrades to take effect - don't really have much say in the matter.

    And then there's the issue that the whole world seems to be a whore to Outlook, but that's another topic completely.
    • In smaller organizations, it's easier to convince people to deploy innovative solutions like thin clients, but the advantages are minimal since the organization is rarely so large that there are big savings ocer conventional systems.

      Ever spent 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon running Ad Aware on their PCs? I worked on a machine a few months ago that thrashed the drive constantly and the CPU was pegged at 100%. It was a 128m XP machine and the mem usage was over 300m. And yet nothing but XP and IE were ru
      • >>>Ever spent 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon running Ad Aware on their PCs?

        Actually our people always managed to screw their machines up tp the extent that running Ad-Aware was pointless. We just re-imaged.

        Now that your remind me my heroically patient co-sysadmin did spend hours and hours and hours talking hapless remote users through configuring their DSL and VPNs. The problem was usually remedied by a fed-exed laptop exchange.

        I guess I am old and cyncical, because I'm next tempted to say "nob
  • According to Larry we can trust Oracle with all of our apps and personal information....as well as powering the national ID database.
  • Pick the battle (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rocket rancher ( 447670 ) <themovingfinger@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @07:49PM (#13058702)

    ...analysts and users of current thin client deployments still see an uphill battle ahead for the technology.

    Deploying an enterprise thin-client solution is certainly a very difficult thing to do -- expensive and time-consuming even when the deployment is well-planned and goes off smoothly. But if I was a sysadmin who wanted to deploy a thin client solution in my company, I would not try to do it everywhere at the same time. I would find an area where thin clients address well-known issues that are easily identifiable to management, and start there.

    For example, here at the rocket ranch, security is an issue (and I mean the kind of security that includes steely-eyed types with assault weapons roaming the cube farms.) Declassification procedures on thin clients like NCDs and Neoware boxes basically amount to frobbing the power switch. Declassing workstations with non-volatile memory, otoh, is a bureaucratic nightmare. Thin clients give us the ability to instantly redeploy hardware as various contracts ramp up and close down.

    Here's another example, one that I'm currently working on in real life. While we definitely have lots of rocket scientists on the payroll (roughly 6000 of our 10,000 employees at this site), not everybody on the payroll needs to have a rocket-scientist-level workstation on their desk. We have engineers, and we have non-engineers, and their needs for CPU cycles in their cubes are significantly different. Yet we put the same or similar kinds of boxes on each of our ten thousand employees' desks. While an engineer running monte carlos on her flight control algorithms needs lots of cpu cycles, a manager who just checks his email and does his expense account spreadsheet doesn't. A thin client solution will allow us to leverage these differences. With thin clients for the non-engineers, we may have to hire some more IT staff and retask others, but the savings of just one month of support costs on 4000 workstations will fund the yearly salaries of 4 new sysadmins plus fund all the thin client hardware (including servers) and still save the company $3M the first year.

    I think thin clients have a very viable future. To motivate the need for change to thin clients, though, you have to use language that managers understand: ROI, TCO, cost-reduction, etc. And that means thin clients will have to be deployed where you can demonstrate good ROI, low TCO, and significant cost-reduction, so you really must pick your battles when it comes to deploying thin clients.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:54PM (#13059146) Homepage Journal
    12 buttons and a mic for input, a speaker for output, and you get limited control of a multi-million-dollar telephone switch. Even better, you have access to "the telephone network" and can have limited control the computers of your bank and more.

    Even better, Grandma can use it.

    "Look ma, no screen."
  • The problem with Thin clients is that the software licensing for applications is so paranoid about wringing every drop of blood from a company it can, and then some. If we didn't have to buy extra licenses just to run multiple instances of the one installation of software on the one PC then thin clients would be far more popular. I've worked out some great hardware setups that are either prohibitavely expensive, or just plain illegal, due to crap software licenses.

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.