Linked by Nik Tripp on Mon 2nd Mar 2009 21:40 UTC
SuSE, openSUSE IT solutions companies have been generating lots of buzz regarding thin clients basically since the early 1990s, but have yet to really penetrate into many suitable environments. These relatively cheap computer appliances carry broad promises like energy efficiency, space efficiency, and centralized maintenance and data storage. These claims could sound like the computer industry equivalent of snake oil. Kiwi-LTSP, a combination of KIWI imaging technology and Linux Terminal Server Project, is one open source solution for thin client servers.
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Well, the hardware I deployed my setup on is a little underpowered. Pentium 2s, and a few 3s. The server is a pentium 4 with 256mb ram and a single ide hd. If all the clients reboot at the same time it can be brought to its knees, but other than that everything works fine.

Ouch! Yeah, that server is *very* underpowered. ;) Adding RAM will do wonders for it, as it will be mostly used for disk cache, and will greatly speed up booting for the clients.

Our biggest diskless server is a dual-processor, quad-core Opteron system with 8 GB RAM, 4x500 GB SATA in RAID10 using a 3Ware 9650SE controller, with an Intel quad-port Gbps NIC configured as a single port via bonding. ;) Handles 685 diskless clients spread across two buildings, with NX support for remote connections, Samba, Squid+DansGuardian, Webmin, and CUPS. Almost 6 GB of the RAM is used for disk cache.

Booting the entire school (both buildings) takes under 10 minutes and saturates the gigabit backbone between switches. ;)

The standard server configuration for the elementaries, which support ~100 stations, are dual-processor, dual-core Opterons, 4 GB of RAM, 4x 500 GB SATA in RAID10, with 2x gigabit NICs (1 for Internet, 1 for LAN, as the server also acts as router/firewall).

We saved a good deal of money by reusing all this old hardware that was just laying around, and were then able to buy nice screens, keyboard, and mice for each box.

When we started our Linux project for the school district, we started with LTSP and recycled computers. Servers were dual-processor P3 @ 1 GHz with 4 GB of RAM, and clients were P2 266 MHz with 256 MB RAM and 15-17" CRT monitors. Clients were $50 CDN through Computers for Schools. Worked nicely, and allowed us to install a full lab of 30 working computers into all 50 elementaries for less than it would have cost us to replace 3-4 labs with Windows XP stations.

Once everyone became used to the Linux system, though, getting the budget to implement a diskless setup was a fairly easy sell ... it's still a *lot* less expensive than installing Windows XP or Vista stations, and several times more powerful/useful. ;)

LTSP is a good starting point ... but once people start to use the system for more than just web browsing and office documents, the limitations start to become very noticeable, and the cries of "Why can't we do X?" get very loud. ;) And it just doesn't work in a secondary school setting where they do CAD, animation, video editing, graphics, yearbook, and so forth.

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