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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Ultra thin clients vs thin clients
by Kebabbert on Tue 3rd Mar 2009 09:27 UTC
Kebabbert
Member since:
2007-07-27

I dont like thin clients. Yesterday I spoke with someone about his HP thin client. It takes 7 minutes to boot his HP thin client. I my opinion, thin clients suck big time. They have like 1GHz CPU and 256 MB RAM, and you have to upgrade the hardware to get more performance. And you have to patch their OS. It is just like a diskless PC, but very weak. They suck.




Ultra thin clients, I really like. You plug it into the router/hub and in 5 secs, you get a login screen. No CPU, no RAM that runs applications - impossible to upgrade the hardware. No operating system to patch. Everything is processed on the server. Input is sent to the server, the server sends back bitmaps to the client. Impossible to hack. They weigh 0.38kg and uses 4Watt, size of a VHS casette. Very cheap. MTBF is 22 years, no moving parts. You upgrade the server and you have upgraded the performance of all clients at once. Physically impossible to upgrade the clients. One quad core PC can drive 40 clients. Login via VMware and RDP and run Windows/Linux/Solaris. Imagine 5 clients in a drawer and when you need more computers, you just plug the client in to the router and in 5 secs you get a login screen. Create an account, and off you go.

Drawback; movies. Windows Media player handles MP4, etc in full screen. But not divx and xvid formats. Max resolution is 500x500 windows lagg free at 25fps. If you only show static pictures then everything is fine. The bandwidth required for full use is 300kbit/sec.

These ultra thin clients are provided by SUN and they are called SunRay2. No other vendor has ultra thin clients, all have thin clients. You can buy old SunRay for 40 USD on Ebay. The server software is downloadable for free, and Linux versions exist. And Solaris versions.

I have a quad core and ZFS raid and Solaris. In my household I have SunRay and they are dead silent. Uses 4watt. Everyone can access the MP3 collection on the ZFS raid. And run Virtualbox with Windows. And watch movies in 500x500 windows. And Solaris is dead safe, no viruses. And ZFS with snapshots

Reply Score: 2

broken_symlink Member since:
2005-07-06

I'm pretty sure LTSP works the same way. I haven't tried a new version lately, but the way I remember it you use ssh and X11 forwarding to run apps on the server. So, if you upgrade the server you have theoretically just upgraded the performance of all the clients. But, I'm not sure if you can do everything that you could with the sun ray, like watching a movie. I wouldn't have any idea how sound would work remotely this way.

Diskless clients however, start x locally and can take forever to boot.

Reply Parent Score: 2

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

Diskless clients however, start x locally and can take forever to boot.


Poorly configured diskless client can take forever to boot, with the network setup being most important. Our diskless Debian stations boot in under 2 minutes to a login screen, and than maybe another minute to get to a working/usable KDE 3.5.9 desktop.

However, this is where Wake-On-LAN comes in handy, along with a cronjob that wakes the clients before people get to the school/office/wherever. That way, the stations are already booted and ready to go before people need to use them. It's not like people need to reboot constantly throughout the day. ;)

Reply Parent Score: 2

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

I dont like thin clients. Yesterday I spoke with someone about his HP thin client. It takes 7 minutes to boot his HP thin client. I my opinion, thin clients suck big time. They have like 1GHz CPU and 256 MB RAM, and you have to upgrade the hardware to get more performance. And you have to patch their OS. It is just like a diskless PC, but very weak. They suck.


I don't know what this is, but it's not a "thin-client". A thin-client has very little local processing power, and no local OS. It's basically just a terminal. Everything is run on the server, and just the keyboard/mouse input and display output is handled by the unit.

This "HP thin-client" sounds more like an "rdesktop appliance" that runs Windows CE or something, and then loads an rdesktop client. Which isn't what a thin-client is at all.

Ultra thin clients, I really like. You plug it into the router/hub and in 5 secs, you get a login screen. No CPU, no RAM that runs applications - impossible to upgrade the hardware. No operating system to patch. Everything is processed on the server. Input is sent to the server, the server sends back bitmaps to the client. Impossible to hack. They weigh 0.38kg and uses 4Watt, size of a VHS casette. Very cheap. MTBF is 22 years, no moving parts. You upgrade the server and you have upgraded the performance of all clients at once. Physically impossible to upgrade the clients.


This is a normal thin-client.

One quad core PC can drive 40 clients.


For Linux setups, 1 dual-core PC with 4 GB of RAM can handle 30 clients, so you should be able to handle a lot more than 40 on a quad-core. Although you're mainly limited by network bandwidth than server CPU power.

Drawback; movies. Windows Media player handles MP4, etc in full screen. But not divx and xvid formats. Max resolution is 500x500 windows lagg free at 25fps. If you only show static pictures then everything is fine. The bandwidth required for full use is 300kbit/sec.


This is where diskless PCs shine over thin-client setups. You get all the power of a local PC, but none of the hassles (no harddrive, no optical drive, no floppy drive, no local OS installs to manage, just a CPU, RAM, motherboard, PSU, and case). Systems boot via the network, mount all the drives via the network, but run everything locally. You can even run VMWare/VirtualBox/KVM/etc locally to have access to Windows. Full audio support, full video support, full 3-D accelleration. If hardware dies, you just swap in a replacement, update the dhcp config, and boot. PCs become appliances ... and everything is managed centrally via the server.

These ultra thin clients are provided by SUN and they are called SunRay2. No other vendor has ultra thin clients, all have thin clients. You can buy old SunRay for 40 USD on Ebay. The server software is downloadable for free, and Linux versions exist. And Solaris versions.


We looked at these, and units from IBM, NeoWare, HP, and others. They just aren't worth it. For roughly the same price (new, < $150 CDN), you can get a slimtop case, PSU, motherboard that supports 2-4 GB of RAM, a 2 GHz AMD Sempron CPU, onboard nVidia graphics, gigabit NIC, 7-channel sound. Virtually silent (2 small fans). But few limitations on what you can do with it. Want full-screen video? No problem. Want 3-D games? No problem. Want surround sound? No problem. And it won't saturate a 100 Mbps network to run an entire school (~100 PCs in the elems). The only time the network is hit is when loading programs ... once they are loaded, they run on the local CPU using local RAM.

I have a quad core and ZFS raid and Solaris.


Overkill. We use dual-core setups for our diskless setups, and the servers can handle ~100 clients in the elems. In the secondaries, we use quad-cores, but they handle over 500 clients.

And watch movies in 500x500 windows.


You consider that useable? That's tiny. Especially on any monitor over 15". Watching movies at full-screen, with surround sound, without clogging the network, is where it's at. And that's something that thin-clients can't do on anything short of a "1 client + 1 server + 10 Gbps network" setup.

Except for some limited uses in office environments, thin-clients and dumb terminals are pretty much dead.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Kebabbert Member since:
2007-07-27

PHOENIX

"A thin-client has very little local processing power, and no local OS. It's basically just a terminal. Everything is run on the server, and just the keyboard/mouse input and display output is handled by the unit."

As I have understood it, all thin clients have a weak CPU and small RAM. I only know of SunRay that is ultra thin and just handles I/O. No other vendor does this, they all handle a small Operating System in the background. They are just essentially a weak diskless PC.

If you know of other ultra thin clients I would be glad if you posted some links. We are about to deploy ultra thin clients where I work (Fortune 500 company). I am the project leader and I have only found SunRay as ultra thin, all others are thin. But if you claim there are others, then please show some links.







"For Linux setups, 1 dual-core PC with 4 GB of RAM can handle 30 clients, so you should be able to handle a lot more than 40 on a quad-core. Although you're mainly limited by network bandwidth than server CPU power."

Wow! That sounds good! But I wonder, have you experienced this performance by yourself or have you only read marketing about this?

You see, one client runs Windows XP + MS Office + Powerpoint + etc at my company. This uses at minimum 1GB RAM and a CPU at 2GHz on a single computer, right? I have problems seeing how you could run 30 of these work loads simultaneously on one server with 4GB RAM and one dual core CPU. Even if you skip Windows I fail to see how one server can run 30 clients on 4GB RAM and a dual core CPU. Because, that is what is needed for one user. And you can not stuff in 30 clients into that.

Actually, I have looked somewhat into thin clients, and I strongly suspect you have no idea what you are talking about.







"We looked at these, and units from IBM, NeoWare, HP, and others. They just aren't worth it. For roughly the same price (new, < $150 CDN), you can get a slimtop case, PSU, motherboard that supports 2-4 GB of RAM, a 2 GHz AMD Sempron CPU, onboard nVidia graphics, gigabit NIC, 7-channel sound. Virtually silent (2 small fans). But few limitations on what you can do with it. Want full-screen video? No problem. Want 3-D games? No problem. Want surround sound? No problem. And it won't saturate a 100 Mbps network to run an entire school (~100 PCs in the elems). The only time the network is hit is when loading programs ... once they are loaded, they run on the local CPU using local RAM."

Maybe you didnt read my first post? Where I gave arguments to why I think ultra thin clients are superior to thin clients (because they are just like a diskless PC). You are describing a diskless PC.

The reason I dont like diskless PCs are because they are just like a PC, but without a hard disk. How many sys admins are required for PCs? One sysadmin for each 30 Windows PC? They need maintenance all the time. You need to patch them all the time. Viruses. etc. For 19.000 SunRay, you only need 38 sysadmins worldwide. This is only possible if you can decrease the work labour very very much. This is not possible with a diskless PC or thin clients. Also there are huge energy savings with 4 watt SunRay. One bank saved 94% of their energy bill.

The only thing you can not do with ultra thin clients SunRay is playing full screen video (unless you install some software). For work and programming, they are perfect. SunRay has as much performance as the server, they dont run software themselves. If you need more performance, upgrade the server. And SunRay never break, the MTBF is 22 years. If they break, you just plug in a new one. That takes 1 minute and you are back where you were.

Edited 2009-03-04 10:09 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2