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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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

broken_symlink Member since:
2005-07-06

The netbook market is going to do amazing things for diskless systems. Especially with things like this on the way, http://www.mini-itx.com/2009/02/04/nvidias-ion-reference-platform-r... ARM systems will also be a good candidate in the future, and they are only going to be even more power efficient. I can't really see VIA competing though, but who knows what they have cooking, they might surprise us.

Reply Parent Score: 2