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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Kebabbert
Member since:
2007-07-27

Ok, we are missunderstanding each other. That is why I suspected you didnt know anything about thin clients.





What I call Ultra-Thin-Client, you call a Dumb-Terminal. Lets call them UTC for short. As far as I know, there is no vendor offering UTCs, other than SUN with SunRay. All vendor's thin clients are essentially a diskless weak PC with 1GHz CPU and 256MB RAM. Making them unusable for heavy work. SunRay is unique in that is a true UTC. It is a graphical variant of the dumb text terminals. But you can run Windows/Linux/Solaris with VMware and RDP on SunRay.





When I talk about one quad core driving 40 clients, I mean one quad core driving 40 UTCs. One user normally requires 1-2GB RAM and 1-2 GHz of CPU. It should be near impossible for one dual core and 4 GB RAM server to drive 30-40 UTCs. Therefore I doubted your claims (misunderstanding).

Of course a dual core and 4GB RAM server would suffice for 30 diskless PCs. That is no doubt, the server would almost act as a file server. Any OS would suffice for that task, even Windows. But I am talking about dumb terminals. There is no way a dual core and 4GB RAM server can drive 40 dumb terminals.

So I point out that a quad core can drive roughly 40 SunRays (i.e. dumb terminals). Of course you need lots of RAM for driving 40 SunRays. Each SunRay user needs 256-512 MB RAM on the server which is really good, considering how much memory the user would require if he used a dedicated PC instead.





Regarding thin client vs diskless PC. I consider them more or less, the same thing. Same, same but different. Both use a rather weak CPU and has little RAM. The diskless PC has slightly better stats, but the thin client has an OS to patch and maintain.As I mentioned, a HP thin client booted in 7 minutes, someone told me yesterday.

After a few years you have to upgrade the thin clients/diskless PCs, because they can not handle the new OS and new software versions. Worst case, you have to upgrade them all (very expensive), or worse, ditch all diskless PCs and buy new ones. With SunRay, you instead upgrade the server and at once all the SunRays have been upgraded. You can always use your SunRays, they never need to upgrade. Use them for 22 years, if you wish. They always handles the latest OS and newest software excellent. It is much cheaper to upgrade one server, than upgrade all diskless PCs. It is much cheaper to administer one quad core server, than to administer 40 diskless PCs. In the future, the servers will be dual octo core and have 128GB RAM, then the SunRays will be extremely fast. SunRay are future proof. Diskless PCs are not.

Diskless PCs also suck as much energy as a normal PC. Compare that to 4Watt SunRay. Say you have 1000 diskless PC each using 100 watt. That is 100,000Watt. With SunRay, that is 4000Watt.

You have no serious performance with diskless PC if you need to do say, a heavy compilation. With SunRay, you have as much power as the server has. A server will always be much much more powerful than a diskless PC or thin client. If you are alone on the server, then all it's powers is yours.

The only thing you can not do with SunRay, is high bandwidth graphics. You can watch movies at 500x500 windows without lagg. But that is graphic intense, compared to ordinary office usage and software development. For all other uses than watching movies, SunRay does it excellent. Many SunRay servers dont have any graphic card. The server generates bitmaps in RAM and sends to each SunRay. Each SunRay requires ~30KByte/sec for normal office usage.





They never break, average life expectancy is 22 years. SunRay is a small plastic box, very similar to a VHS cassette. It is just another keyboard or mouse, an input device. Can not be hacked. You can have dozens of them in a drawer. Should you need another work station, just insert SunRay into the router/hub and you are done. Anyone could do that.

Hot desking is also supported. Insert your security card and you have logged in. Then withdraw the card and insert it into another SunRay and you are back immediately where you left.

You can use SunRay over internet. One at work and one at home. You will login into your work environment.

If we speak about low end gear (as you do about diskless PC), you can find refurbished SunRay at 40 USD on Ebay. That is cheaper than a low end diskless PC. Never need upgrading too. A new one cost 200 USD. But they never break. Use them forever.

Here is an article about U.S Army switching to SunRay for their class rooms and saving lots of work and energy and money.
http://www.sun.com/customers/software/usaic.xml

There are Linux only solutions with SunRay. You dont have to use VMware and Windows XP. You can run everything as normal Linux users, creating normal Linux accounts, etc.

Reply Parent Score: 2

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

What I call Ultra-Thin-Client, you call a Dumb-Terminal. Lets call them UTC for short. As far as I know, there is no vendor offering UTCs, other than SUN with SunRay. All vendor's thin clients are essentially a diskless weak PC with 1GHz CPU and 256MB RAM. Making them unusable for heavy work.


No. Thin-clients, by definition, do not use local processing, memory, OS, or anything. They boot off the network, they load the OS off the network, and configure themselves to act as an I/O hub (send keyboard/mouse data to the server, display graphics from the server). That's it. A thin-client is a dumb-terminal. Period.

Some vendors (like HP, NeoWare, WySE) have "hybrid" thin-clients, which use a local CPU/RAM/OS (usually WinCE) to boot into a local GUI that then runs an rdesktop client. These things are worthless PoS that are over-priced, under-powered, and give thin-client computing (such as it is) a bad name. Once the OS is loaded, and the rdesktop client connects, then it is back to being a dumb terminal. But, yes, the boot times for these things is horrible, as are the graphical capabilities, which is why we stopped looking at them after testing two variations. A standard P2 266 MHz w/256 MB of RAM performed better.

When I talk about one quad core driving 40 clients, I mean one quad core driving 40 UTCs. One user normally requires 1-2GB RAM and 1-2 GHz of CPU. It should be near impossible for one dual core and 4 GB RAM server to drive 30-40 UTCs. Therefore I doubted your claims (misunderstanding).

Of course a dual core and 4GB RAM server would suffice for 30 diskless PCs. That is no doubt, the server would almost act as a file server. Any OS would suffice for that task, even Windows. But I am talking about dumb terminals. There is no way a dual core and 4GB RAM server can drive 40 dumb terminals.


I don't know how many times I can say this: a dual-P3 system with 4 GB of RAM **DOES SUPPORT** 30 thin-clients, where Firefox, Java, OpenOffice.org, and Flash, are all running on the server, with just the display being shot back to the client. WE DO THIS EVERY FRIGGING DAY!! WE HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 7 YEARS ALREADY!!! THIS WORKS!! Get it yet?

So I point out that a quad core can drive roughly 40 SunRays (i.e. dumb terminals). Of course you need lots of RAM for driving 40 SunRays. Each SunRay user needs 256-512 MB RAM on the server which is really good, considering how much memory the user would require if he used a dedicated PC instead.


Which is absolutely horrible! But, you are running Windows, and we're running Linux (for the clients), which is probably where the disconnect is.

Regarding thin client vs diskless PC. I consider them more or less, the same thing. Same, same but different. Both use a rather weak CPU and has little RAM. The diskless PC has slightly better stats, but the thin client has an OS to patch and maintain.As I mentioned, a HP thin client booted in 7 minutes, someone told me yesterday.


No, no, no, no, no, no and NO!!! You do not understand the difference between a thin-client (dumb terminal) and a diskless PC.

In a thin-client setup, 0 CPU, 0 RAM, 0 processing is done on the client. Everything is done on the server. The client is just an I/O hub: mouse and keyboard events are sent to the server, video is sent back to the client. That's it. The local CPU/RAM is only used to boot the client. Nothing else.

In a diskless client setup, you have a standard PC, with a normal CPU, a normal amount of RAM, a normal videocard, a normal NIC, etc. It's a normal PC. The only difference is that there is no HD, CD, DVD, floppy, etc. The client boots off the network, loads the OS off the network, mounts network shares. The OS runs locally, using the local CPU/RAM. Applications are "downloaded" off the network and run locally. Except for the boot process, there's no difference between using a normal PC and a diskless PC.

Do you see the difference yet?

One runs everything on the server, requiring a massive server and an even more massive network, as everything is pushed down the pipes to the display.

The other loads apps off the server, but runs them locally, allowing you to do anything (even play 3-D games) a normal PC can do. But there are no moving parts to worry about, no harddrives to worry about, no OS installs to worry about, etc.

The *ONLY* similarity between a thin-client setup and a diskless setup is that everything is managed from the server. Need to install new software -- do it on the server and all clients get it instantly. Need to upgrade the client OS? Just upgrade the server, and everyone instantly gets the update. Add a user on the server, and they can login from any client station and get their personal desktop.

After a few years you have to upgrade the thin clients/diskless PCs, because they can not handle the new OS and new software versions.


Only for diskless clients. You never *have* to upgrade thin-clients. By definition, nothing is run on a thin-client, it's all run on the server. Hence, the local hardware *DOESN'T MATTER*. Period. The only time you replace a thin-client is when the hardware dies. You don't "upgrade" thin-clients.

Yes, for a diskless setup, where you run apps on the local hardware, you may need to upgrade. However, this is where planning ahead comes in, and you make sure that your initial roll-out can handle the apps you will be using for the next 3-5 years. Or, you find a hardware configuration that is so low that it's basically a disposable appliance (like we did -- at $150 each, we don't bother repairing them).

It is much cheaper to upgrade one server, than upgrade all diskless PCs. It is much cheaper to administer one quad core server, than to administer 40 diskless PCs. In the future, the servers will be dual octo core and have 128GB RAM, then the SunRays will be extremely fast. SunRay are future proof. Diskless PCs are not.


No, no, no, no, and NO! Administering thin-clients and diskless clients *IS THE SAME*. There is nothing to the clients. Everything is done on the server!! They are identical in pretty much every way ... except where the application runs (on the server vs on the client).

For some uses, yes, thin-clients are future-proof. But not for all applications, as the network and server disk are the bottlenecks.

Diskless PCs also suck as much energy as a normal PC


No they don't, as there are no HDs or optical drives sucking power and requiring cooling. And you can build diskless clients using low-power CPUs, chipsets, and videocards.

You can use SunRay over internet. One at work and one at home. You will login into your work environment.


We can do this as well, thanks to NX. It's one of our key selling points to the schools, as they always have access to their school destktop and files, even from Windows machines. Including "suspend" where you login from one machine, suspend the connection, and reconnect from another machine.

Thin-client solutions like the SunRay have their place. But they don't compare to diskless solutions when you leave the realm of simple web browsing and office documents.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Kebabbert Member since:
2007-07-27

Ok, there are still some serious misunderstandings going on. Lets try to establish the definitions. As you start with in math.



"In a thin-client setup, 0 CPU, 0 RAM, 0 processing is done on the client. Everything is done on the server. The client is just an I/O hub: mouse and keyboard events are sent to the server, video is sent back to the client. That's it. The local CPU/RAM is only used to boot the client. Nothing else."

As I have understood it, a thin client processes all software on it's weak CPU with little RAM. A typical thin client has 1GHz CPU and 256 MB RAM, and boots from it's server and downloads all applications from the server and runs the all of the applications or parts of the applications, on it's 1GHz CPU.

Whereas an ultra-thin-clients doesnt process any software at all, it just handles I/O. That is SunRay. The server processes all software. On the SunRay no software is processed at all, it just shows the bitmaps that the server transmits.


You are telling me that this is wrong? You are telling me that any thin client act the way as the SunRay does. Every thin client just shows the picture from the server, and no processing is done on its 1GHz CPU and 256MB RAM? Everything is processed on the server? Is this so? Can you show me a link to a thin client that behaves like this? (Other than SunRay). I have never found any ultra-thin-client other than SunRay.

Either you or my understanding of thin-clients is very wrong. Who is correct? You or me? If you can show links on thin clients working as you described, then you are correct and I am wrong. If you can not show links, then you are wrong and I am correct.





"I don't know how many times I can say this: a dual-P3 system with 4 GB of RAM **DOES SUPPORT** 30 thin-clients, where Firefox, Java, OpenOffice.org, and Flash, are all running on the server, with just the display being shot back to the client. WE DO THIS EVERY FRIGGING DAY!! WE HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 7 YEARS ALREADY!!! THIS WORKS!! Get it yet?"

And you also say that a dual P3 system with 4GB does support 30 thin clients. Where the thin clients does not process any software at all. All software processing is done on the dual P3 cpus. You claim.

I find this very very hard to believe. If it is really is true, then I should look into this solution instead.

I mean, for one user, at least a 1GHz P3 cpu and 512 MB RAM computer is necessary. For 30 users, you would logically need a server with 30 x 1 = 30 GHz P3 and 30 x 512 MB = 6GB RAM. But now you are telling me that it is not necessary. Something is very wrong here. How in earth could it be possible to run 30 users on a dual P3 and 4GB RAM? I dont get it. That config is needed for one single user. How can it support 30 users???

There are some grave misunderstandings going on right now. Even the nick "broken_symlink" is confused. He also believes the same thing as me. He states that a thin-client solution should need a ton of RAM.

We can settle this out, if you post some links to thin-clients. Then I can read about them myself. And study the datasheets. And then I can tell if I have misunderstood the thin client concept.

Reply Parent Score: 2

broken_symlink Member since:
2005-07-06


Regarding thin client vs diskless PC. I consider them more or less, the same thing. Same, same but different. Both use a rather weak CPU and has little RAM. The diskless PC has slightly better stats, but the thin client has an OS to patch and maintain.As I mentioned, a HP thin client booted in 7 minutes, someone told me yesterday.


Diskless pc's do not have to use "weak" cpus. I used to have a diskless setup at home for testing purposes, and each system had an athlon 64 running at 2.2ghz ea, with 1gb ram. Is that weak?


After a few years you have to upgrade the thin clients/diskless PCs, because they can not handle the new OS and new software versions. Worst case, you have to upgrade them all (very expensive), or worse, ditch all diskless PCs and buy new ones. With SunRay, you instead upgrade the server and at once all the SunRays have been upgraded. You can always use your SunRays, they never need to upgrade. Use them for 22 years, if you wish. They always handles the latest OS and newest software excellent. It is much cheaper to upgrade one server, than upgrade all diskless PCs. It is much cheaper to administer one quad core server, than to administer 40 diskless PCs. In the future, the servers will be dual octo core and have 128GB RAM, then the SunRays will be extremely fast. SunRay are future proof. Diskless PCs are not.


And why exactly aren't they? If performance starts to become an issue in a few years there is absolutely nothing preventing you from turning them into thin-clients with something like ltsp. So, you get the best of both worlds.


Diskless PCs also suck as much energy as a normal PC. Compare that to 4Watt SunRay. Say you have 1000 diskless PC each using 100 watt. That is 100,000Watt. With SunRay, that is 4000Watt.


I agree with you here, but if you use an atom based system for your diskless client there is no reason why you can't save power, probably not as much as a sun ray, but still anything is better than nothing.


You have no serious performance with diskless PC if you need to do say, a heavy compilation. With SunRay, you have as much power as the server has. A server will always be much much more powerful than a diskless PC or thin client. If you are alone on the server, then all it's powers is yours.


This is the one thing that is absolutely not true at all. Diskless pcs could wipe the floor with thin clients in this area. I used my athlon 64 diskless setup for nothing but compiling stuff. Tell me which setup you think would perform better, 50 sun rays, with a quad core server, or 50 diskless systems with pentium 3s all compiling stuff at once. The thing about using the diskless sysetms is that you can use a distributed compiler like distcc and compile on all 50 systems at once. You can also use stuff like openmosix to migrate processes between the diskless systems, and theoretically end up with unlimited resources for the task at hand.


The only thing you can not do with SunRay, is high bandwidth graphics. You can watch movies at 500x500 windows without lagg. But that is graphic intense, compared to ordinary office usage and software development. For all other uses than watching movies, SunRay does it excellent. Many SunRay servers dont have any graphic card. The server generates bitmaps in RAM and sends to each SunRay. Each SunRay requires ~30KByte/sec for normal office usage.


That is constant network traffic that diskless pc's don't require, because once you start a program from the server on a diskless pc, it stays in the diskless pc's ram and there is no more communication required with the server unless something needs to be written to disk. So, you save bandwidth.


They never break, average life expectancy is 22 years. SunRay is a small plastic box, very similar to a VHS cassette. It is just another keyboard or mouse, an input device. Can not be hacked. You can have dozens of them in a drawer. Should you need another work station, just insert SunRay into the router/hub and you are done. Anyone could do that.


I see no reason why the same can't be done with a diskless pc. One breaks, just plug a new one. Sure, not anyone can do it because you need to edit a file or two. They also may take up more space than a sun ray, but honestly I would rather deal with those issues than trade the flexibility a diskless pc gives you.


Hot desking is also supported. Insert your security card and you have logged in. Then withdraw the card and insert it into another SunRay and you are back immediately where you left.


I'm sure something similar could be done with linux and a diskless pc, maybe even using a fingerprint reader, which is something we wouldn't have to wait for sun to implement in the diskless world.


You can use SunRay over internet. One at work and one at home. You will login into your work environment.


As far as I know you can't do this with a diskless system, but there are other options available, like ssh.


If we speak about low end gear (as you do about diskless PC), you can find refurbished SunRay at 40 USD on Ebay. That is cheaper than a low end diskless PC. Never need upgrading too. A new one cost 200 USD. But they never break. Use them forever.


I got all my diskless pc's for free. People where throwing them away. You still need to buy a keyboard, monitor, and mouse for both solutions though. If I were going to buy new diskless clients today, I would probably get something like this, http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813121359

That is $79 for a 1.6ghz dual-core cpu that uses 8w of power. I found a case with powersupply and 2gb of ram on newegg for another $70. That brings the total price for a brandnew mini-itx diskless system to $150. Another thing that should be noted is that that atom motherboard comes with gigabit ethernet, and according to this http://tinyurl.com/3vv9vv the sun ray2 is $349 brandnew from sun with only 10/100 nic, which is weak.


There are Linux only solutions with SunRay. You dont have to use VMware and Windows XP. You can run everything as normal Linux users, creating normal Linux accounts, etc.


You can do the same with diskless pcs, but they are not linux only. There is nothing keeping you from using netbsd, freebsd, or anything else that can netboot. Heck, it might even be possible to netboot osx, if you had a little know how. You can also run windows directly on the system using xen or something if the diskless system has a cpu that supports virtualization extensions.

I still don't see whats so great about thin clients when diskless systems offer so much more. Especially when you consider that they are proprietary and closed source. Tell me how a sun ray can last 20 years if sun decides to stop supporting it in 5 years. What do you do with all those thin clients then? How do you replace one if it breaks and sun doesn't sell them? They can't be turned into full blown pcs either if the need arises.

Edited 2009-03-04 21:40 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

And why exactly aren't they? If performance starts to become an issue in a few years there is absolutely nothing preventing you from turning them into thin-clients with something like ltsp. So, you get the best of both worlds.


The other nice thing about diskless setups is that, at least with Unix OSes, you always have the option of running specific apps on the server, with just the display shot back to the client. In effect, for the purposes of that app, turning it into a thin-client.

We do this in the older elementary schools labs, where are the clients are still 600 MHz Cyrix CPUs. We run as much as possible locally, but if something bogs down the machine, we configure it to run that app off the server. A hybrid, best-of-both-worlds setup.

It really throws people for a loop when we can "upgrade" their machine by just editing a config file and asking them to restart the app. ;)

"
You have no serious performance with diskless PC if you need to do say, a heavy compilation. With SunRay, you have as much power as the server has. A server will always be much much more powerful than a diskless PC or thin client. If you are alone on the server, then all it's powers is yours.


This is the one thing that is absolutely not true at all. Diskless pcs could wipe the floor with thin clients in this area. I used my athlon 64 diskless setup for nothing but compiling stuff. Tell me which setup you think would perform better, 50 sun rays, with a quad core server, or 50 diskless systems with pentium 3s all compiling stuff at once. The thing about using the diskless sysetms is that you can use a distributed compiler like distcc and compile on all 50 systems at once. You can also use stuff like openmosix to migrate processes between the diskless systems, and theoretically end up with unlimited resources for the task at hand.
"

I don't have the numbers handy, but one of our techs was playing around with OpenMPI?? (some cluster software thingy) in one of the secondary schools. He was able to crack DES encrypted shadow password files (680+ accounts) in stupidly-quick times. It was quite neat to watch. Add a couple scripts to the startup for the diskless clients, they john the cluster on boot, and you have a 680-node super-computer. ;)

We're trying to figure out how to harness all that computing power in a usable fashion. We're thinking some of the science teachers might like it for modelling, or the math teachers maybe.

I see no reason why the same can't be done with a diskless pc. One breaks, just plug a new one. Sure, not anyone can do it because you need to edit a file or two. They also may take up more space than a sun ray, but honestly I would rather deal with those issues than trade the flexibility a diskless pc gives you.


This is what we do. We have 4 spare PCs in each school. When one of the PCs in the schools has issues, a teacher unplugs it, plugs in the spare, reads off a couple numbers on the screen to the helpdesk, and reboots. They're back up and running in under 5 minutes.

"
You can use SunRay over internet. One at work and one at home. You will login into your work environment.


As far as I know you can't do this with a diskless system, but there are other options available, like ssh.
"

It's called NX from NoMachine. Works quite nicely, and you can access your Unix account from any Unix, Windows, or Mac system. Works best on a LAN, but is definitely usable across cable or ADSL connections. works a heck of a lot better than VNC and RDP. Even gives you access to your local printer. I believe it even supports file transfers from the local computer to the server, although I've never personally tried that.

You can't login to one diskless client, suspend the login, and login to your still-running desktop from another diskless client. But you can access the same KDE desktop from any diskless client or from an NX client. And you can suspend an NX session, and login from another NX client, and pick up right where you left off. Even across OSes. Which is something a SunRay definitely can't do. ;)

and according to this http://tinyurl.com/3vv9vv the sun ray2 is $349 brandnew from sun with only 10/100 nic, which is weak.


Ouch. We could get two of our diskless clients and lunch for that. Actually, maybe three diskless clients after the US-CDN exchange.

I still don't see whats so great about thin clients when diskless systems offer so much more. Especially when you consider that they are proprietary and closed source. Tell me how a sun ray can last 20 years if sun decides to stop supporting it in 5 years. What do you do with all those thin clients then? How do you replace one if it breaks and sun doesn't sell them? They can't be turned into full blown pcs either if the need arises.


This is probably the best argument against thin-clients. Sometimes, simple, off-the-shelf, standard hardware is just easier, simpler, safer.

Reply Parent Score: 2