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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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 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.

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broken_symlink Member since:

The netbook market is going to do amazing things for diskless systems. Especially with things like this on the way, 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.

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phoenix Member since:

Heh, the add-on market for bolt-down straps/holders for these things will boom. ;) If they get small enough, maybe they'll become part of the desk.

Reply Parent Score: 2