back to article Thin Client Devices Revisited

With conversations around end user computing dominated by highly desirable mobile technology, it’s easy to overlook the potential of thin client hardware. Deployed in the right way to the right types of user, however, far from being the compromise option, thin client devices can enhance the user’s overall experience. While the …

  1. dave 93

    The browser IS the modern thin client

    IMHO this article misses the point that many modern applications and services have a web based front end, including a lot of the remote desktop solutions. As more customer data migrates to the cloud, storage is heading the same way. The low cost, simple to support Chromebook is making a browser based thin client into a useful and productive tool suitable for many types of user. Many app based solutions on iOS and Android are also browser based at heart.

    1. Synonymous Howard

      Re: The browser IS the modern thin client

      And the 'cloud' is the new mainframe. Tablets and phones are the new PCs. The wheel turns yet stays the same.

      PCs, whilst lowering hardware and software prices did a lot of harm to businesses with increased complexity and ongoing support nightmares. Centralized control helps with costs, security and, as perversely it may seem, user flexibility.

      1. SVV

        Re: The browser IS the modern thin client

        Sort of. Whilst the browser is now the dominant client for in-house and client facing business applications (and has been for nearly 15 years now in the more forward thinking companies), let's face it : "cloud" is just another way of selling "server" for companies and departments within them that may not yet have gone down this particular route. Seeing as it actually, you know, runs on "servers" either locally or remotely hosted.

        The best companies then lock down PCs for most users, using Active Directory so that they can just access the most basic utilities, Office and browser. Result : no more support costs for users who accidentally delete system files, install crapware, etc. Plus patches, upgrades and any new software needed can be rolled out centrally. I've found this a much more flexible solution than dedicated hardware thin clients that have always been more difficult to support when problems arose, due to the sigle-vendor nature of them.

  2. naive Silver badge

    SunRay installation dismantled after 7 years with 100% uptime and zero Sysadmin work

    One of our customers, a department in the city council of a large city, used since 2008 a large SunRay installation of 120 work places for educational purposes and to allow citizens browse the web at the city offices.

    This ran with 100% uptime on 4 Suse Linux servers. Since they refused to upgrade to the latest version or buy maintenance contracts for SunRay, two years ago we added 2 modern Linux servers, integrated them into the existing SunRay environment, so users had access to modern versions of firefox and OpenOffice.

    Due to a reorganization, they scaled out the IT to the central IT office, and guess what, they replaced it with MS thin clients :).....

  3. John Robson Silver badge

    I use a thin client...

    an iPad - add mouse support and they are great little devices.

    I access a full fat Linux desktop running in a virtual frame buffer usinf X11VNC over a VPN tunnel.

    The fact that it happens to be on a VPS in some far off datacentre doesn't ever seem to cause an issue. Of course I'm not doing anything too challenging on it...

    When I contracted for the NHS they had CAROL (Computer Access Regardless Of Location) and it was nice to disconnect in one office, drive home, then 6 hours in the other direction and sit down at a random desk to the same desktop, with the applications still running....

    I did manage to kill it once (I went to IT and suggested that I might, and could I have a test server - It'll be fine they said. When 20% of the office got simultaneously disconnected they gave me a test server)

  4. Ken 16

    "Dedicated hardware-based thin clients clearly have a lot to offer" ???

    Did the author read the survey results? No-one thinks they've a lot to offer, just that there are some niche cases where they may be considered as alternatives?

    Who sponsored this work, the Terminal Manufacturers Guild of Albania?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Dedicated hardware-based thin clients clearly have a lot to offer" ???

      No kidding. As someone with an office full of Teradici-based zero clients running VMware View, I can tell you that's a dead end if you want any support for problem-solving technologies like RTAV that are only available via software-based clients. I won't make that mistake again.

  5. toughluck

    Thin client hardware?

    Cheap low-end commodity hardware today is usually faster than a mainstream desktop ten years ago. Add instruction extensions and HSA and for some tasks it's faster than 10 year old high-end machines (e.g.: full HD playback, not to mention 4K).

    And all that at significantly lower power consumption. You can't get thinner than that. Load it up with custom software and you can call it whatever you want, it will be a thin client, but also one that allows doing much more than old hardware did.

  6. Erewhon

    The main benefit is data security

    If you use a thin client with access to centralised, fire-walled virtual machine desktops, then you have all the benefits this brings.

    These include simplified support, lower end-user hardware cost, centralised management, consistency of build, security control of the data, perimeter security regardless of user location.

    In addition there are benefits to the user in terms of being able to work anywhere whilst accessing the same apps and data, without the overhead of a laptop to get stolen.

    Citrix Xen Desktop on high performance ESX hardware is a great combination.

    And no - I don't work for either of these vendors. I work as a grown up where these security challenges around data are real problems that VDI solves.

  7. FreeBrad

    Just built a load of xterm clients out of old laptops

    I have just been working on a project where it is an absolute must that the end user cannot go wandering around the system, browsing the internet or anthing else so have just put togeter a load of xterm only clients that will be running a curses application. It sounded arcane when I started, but taking into account the speed of the interface (mostly thanks to function keys) and the lack of distractions the saving in man hours has been phenomenal; not to mention the control over security being second to none.

  8. Fazal Majid


    Thin clients manage to be more expensive than full-featured computers, and have been that way since the days of the x3270, vt100, X Terminals (cheaper than workstations, much more expensive than PCs). That's because they are typically sold to large corporations where IT suffers from "it's not my money" syndrome and because as a niche product R&D costs are amortized over much smaller volumes.

    There is something to be said for specialized Linux distros that turn obsolete PCs into workable thin clients, but otherwise iPad or Chromebooks locked into running the browser are the real thin client.

    1. jabuzz

      Re: Overpriced

      Chromeboxes are really rather cheap these days, and if your "thinclient" is an office desk, make much more sense than a Chromebook or iPad.

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