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Thin Clients in a Computer Lab Environment?

Cliff posted more than 12 years ago | from the economically-feasible dept.

Technology 377

chachi8 asks: "I work as a lab administrator in a university, and I currently look after about 500 Windows-based PCs spread out over 20 locations. The IT administration at my school has recently (and quite suddenly) decided that thin clients are a direction we should be pursuing, and I've been doing some research over the past few weeks. We've recently been visited by representatives of Citrix who basically showed us some really impressive software that is far from cheap. Because we're a university facing budget cuts, cost is a major issue for us, so what I'm interested in knowing is whether anyone has implemented a thin-client solution in a computer lab environment, and whether it turned out to be cost effective over a 3-5 year timeframe. Clearly, the idea of being able to add an extra few years to the lives of our lab PCs is very attractive, as is the thought of being able to centrally administer the software in all of our labs, but I'm as yet unclear as to whether the costs of servers and licensing (and everything else) will really result in a long-term savings in money."

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377 comments

FP!!!! (-1)

Carp Flounderson (542291) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094537)

I claim this FP for Joanna and all females whose masturbatory practices include the use of a bicycle tire pump.

Re:FP!!!! (-1)

senior_troll (553809) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094662)

Damn you!

I used to fish for carp, there was so many of them at this spot I went to we (me and my buddy) started getting too lazy to take them gently off the hook. We'd start swinging them on the end of our line in big 50 foot circles until the centrifical force would rip the hooks out of their mouths...

Anyways, what do you think of the AGCLP v2.0?

--cya

Re:FP!!!! (-1)

Carp Flounderson (542291) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094690)

HAHAHA... thats fucked up. I used to go fishing for bass. Once in a while you'd get a big hit, get all excited and reel the thing in only to find its a big greasy carp. Oh, and the CLP v2.0 is mucho hot. I think I liked the blue dress better... maybe just because it was my first impression of her though.

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Try Alli McBeal (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094578)

That chick that plays Alli McBeal is
pretty thin.

Just a thought

Re:Try Alli McBeal (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094602)

good one. you are the frost pist for shoore!

Re:Try Alli McBeal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094733)

Yes, but she's a lawyer, not a client!
Sheesh, ruins the whole joke that way.


I would like to just take a moment to say : "HELP! A dingo ate my baby!" thank you

MOD ME DOWN AS FLAMEBAIT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094580)

mod me down as flamebait. linux sucks!

ever hear of X11? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094581)

it's like portable and thin

K12Linux LTSP (5, Informative)

James1006 (544398) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094583)

www.k12linux.org

Absolutely phenomenal. We installed it today and will be deploying it in a lab environment soon.

Not a SINGLE problem in install or setup.

Re:K12Linux LTSP (1)

iie1195 (208357) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094806)

I agree completely. This is probably the BEST option for a school / college on a budget!!!

fp!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094584)

fith post fockers!

VNC is the Right Price.. FREE!!! (1)

maddmike (131437) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094585)

VNC is free and very flexible We use citrix where I work and have nothing but problems.

Re:VNC is the Right Price.. FREE!!! (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094638)

Um, yeah, but how many clients can a NT/2K server running VNC host? A: Exactly ONE!
(Note that the poster referred to Citrix).

Re:VNC is the Right Price.. FREE!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094828)

I don't know if VNC will work in your environment, but so, do it. Citrix is the "official" client, but not loved. VNC has become the dirty little secret of telecommuting where I work. Add a VPN and it rocks!

Silly question (4, Insightful)

Lxy (80823) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094592)

The obvious anser is right here [linuxdoc.org]. That is assuming of course that linux is a viable answer. If you're talking Windows thin client (I hope you're not, since you did post this to /.) Citrix is your only real option.

VNC does NOT provide this (2, Informative)

gruntvald (22203) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094593)

I post this in the hope that it will avert all the uninformed "Can't you do this with VNC?" posts. I believe you can run terminal server on a SAMBA box, BTW, and there are even BSD clients for it.

inetd VNC [Re:VNC does NOT provide this] (2, Informative)

zubernerd (518077) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094794)

VNC will not provide a multiuser envirnoment like citrix (read the FAQ for VNC, they are very clear on that.) However, in a UN*X environment, there is a way to get Xvnc (part of VNC) to act as Citrix, through inetd. It works, and the proformance is fairly reasonable. The website is http://www.dei.isep.ipp.pt/~andre/extern/ixvnc.htm [isep.ipp.pt]
Again, this would not be helpfull in the case of a Windows environment, but if you ever consider linux, this may be helpful to you.

Re:VNC does NOT provide this (2)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094800)

Can you offer any explanation? VNC can provide several remote desktops at the same time.

I'm not saying I advocate this as an ideal solution, but, having used VNC quite a bit I don't see how you can back up your assertion.

Also, what are you talking about in your second sentence? What do you mean by "terminal server?" Surely you don't mean MS Terminal Server . . . ?

-Peter

Get reference sites (5, Insightful)

larien (5608) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094594)

Ask Citrix to give you a list of other sites where they have implemented their software successfully and visit them. Ask the local administrators (and users!) how they find it.

However, make sure that it's a site similar to the one you are on; no point getting a business as a reference site for a uni.

Finally, if things don't go as planned post-implementation, point out to Citrix that you are educating the future decision makers of the world; if they perceive that Citrix is crap, they won't buy it in years to come. That should get them to help fix your problems!

Ejaculate! (-1)

xdfgf (460453) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094599)

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If you look quickly, you'll see the ripples in the water where the more aggressive young trolls have just retreated..waiting..anxious. You only need to step a few meters out into the muck before the larger ones nip at your feet and toes. These are SlashDot Swamp Trolls, and they are waiting for any prey to fall into their domain.

We did, but... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094604)

We basically traded a certain amount of time to the vendor or other business to underwrite it. As a result it was minimal cost, but there are times when the lab is only for their guests. You might look into sponsorships from Intel or Cisco, and even consider hanging ads or other ways to sell out to business to get funding.

How about Linux Terminal Server Project (2, Informative)

gimple (152864) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094609)

I have installed LTSP [ltsp.org] and it works like a charm. No client maintenance issues. Can be booted from the NIC. And best of all it's FREE.

Try LTSP (1)

PoiBoy (525770) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094612)

I'd suggest setting up just one lab using the Linux Terminal Server Project software and seeing how it goes; it's free. If the machines are used for email and web browsing only, then this is certainly a very cost-effective route.

I've always found Linux terminals to work great. Quite honestly, though, I've found that trying to use a remote Windows machine with Citrix Terminal Server is not nearly as smooth, fast, or polished as Linux (or other UNIX) setups.

The form response. (2)

_typo (122952) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094613)

Install Linux/xBSD and XFree86 on all the workstations and configure [k|x|g]dm to connect to a few servers. Instant thin client. As for the servers, Dual Athlon boxes with alot of memory running Linux/xBSD would do fine. If Windows is a must have, ignore this.

Thin Clients - University Lab Style (5, Informative)

CyberKnet (184349) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094614)

I know a few years back at an Australian university we looked at thin clients for our computer labs. FWIW, the cost (Back then) of thin clients was about the clost of a Celeron computer, and did not come with a monitor either. The server (IIRC) had to have a whole bunch of memory (some 64mb per client, plus a very large overhead for windows + citrix), then they added Windows access licenses for NT on to each terminal that needed to access the server, plus NT client access licenses ... in the end it was just WAY more expensive than individual computers, even including total cost of ownership. However, I will re-iterate, this was some three years ago though... the scene has probably changed...

Linux terminal server project (1, Redundant)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094618)

RedHat and the Linux terminal server project might be the way to go.

Try LTSP (1, Redundant)

Second_Derivative (257815) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094620)

LTSP [ltsp.org] seems to work nicely from what I've seen, though I don't run a lab, I just played about with it. Seems good though, even supports Debian, Xf86v4 and Linux 2.4.x. The current thin-client poster child of Linux seems to be the City of Largo [kde.org] ... google around for that a bit, but that story basically details some stuff about their implementation. Hope that helped.

Thin clients (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094624)

I always try to keep the thin clients in my lab. The fat ones just aren't any fun to experiment on, and potential clients are often repulsed by them.

Sun Sunrays (3, Insightful)

Metrollica (552191) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094626)

Sunrays [sun.com] from Sun [sun.com] are the best and most popular choice. They have been deployed in many areas in the US and out including Canada and Europe.

Re:Sun Sunrays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094664)

No thanks - we ain't rich like you. Can't afford Sun Rays - costs more than an average PC!

Re:Sun Sunrays (2, Informative)

DeRobeHer (76234) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094825)

Sun's educational pricing on these is pretty good. Their current top of the line package is 100 SunRay systems without monitors and a configured E450 server for $72,000. Smaller packages are less of course. 100 systems is a pretty big lab.

Re:Sun Sunrays (2)

Derkec (463377) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094746)

Due to the expense of the back-end server, I'm not sure you'll save a whole lot of hardware cost going to Sun Rays. However, you should be able to cut administrative costs / hassle a good bit. That and it's really really cool to be able to put your terminal session in your pocket ( they have smart cards which carry session info).

Thin clients are not good for labs (5, Informative)

Talsan (515546) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094628)

My university has experimented with thin clients, and has chosen to continue to use full PCs for the labs. The client boxes were nice, but they did not work as well and tended to be harder for them to keep running. Now the only thin clients they use are some Compaqs that they've placed around the school as email terminals. --These are actually very popular among students, as they don't have to fight for lab space just to check their email.

Citrix in a school environment (0)

Jugomugo (219955) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094633)

We use CITRIX in our school system for gradekeeping, office applications, science programs, kids programs, etc...

It is a wonderful product.

For thin clients, check out WYSE. We have some of these running Internet Explorer running CITRIX NFuse (citrix through the web browser) in our library. They work great card catalog software we use (Winnebago).

Re:Citrix in a school environment (1, Informative)

Jugomugo (219955) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094675)

Addendum:

We also run Citrix over our wireless lan and DSL connections.

The Jr/Sr HS is the center of everything. We have an 11Mbs wan connection to the middle school, and a 900K dsl line to the elementary. The elementary only uses citrix in the office though.

My advice though is hire someone to come in and implement it. Ofter people do it themselves and royally make it suck!

Citrix is not for students... (0)

Ark42 (522144) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094635)

Its far from truely secure, not cheap by any means, and you need lots of really beafy servers to handle the load, plus extra $thousands for licenses for things like load balancing and more users. My current job is administration of both Citrix farms and Linux servers, and the school I attend uses neither. They have, however sucessfully stretched the IT budget with more then 500 fat-thin clients. Most of the labs on campus are diskless win98 stations booting off the network. Cyrix MediaGX pizza boxes are really nicely suited for this, as they can afford to stick 4-6 of these little things in each freshmen "living center" (which houses probably 100 students each). They almost never break, and have just enough CPU power to run (not incredibly fast) any normal app a student would be running.

Um, might wanna rethink that decision... (4, Informative)

Leven Valera (127099) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094636)

As a database administrator / designer working with imaging databases in a WinFrame Citrix enviroment, you might want to make absolutely sure all of your software will run before you buy. Some of our compilers and custom tools absolutely will not load or execute properly on the Citrix server, yet work perfectly fine on every other NT platform on the planet.

Weeeeeee. Oh yeah, and some apps simply will not run. WordPerfect2000 and some others come to mind.

Cheers,
LV

Re:Um, might wanna rethink that decision... (1)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094728)

Absolutely. Our Medical Center uses Citrix to manage patient data - one server, many thin clients, and though it sounds great initially, there are issues with licensing. I'm not privvy to the details, but the fact that only so many people can be connected at a time means that a lot of doctors and nurses are pretty pissed off most of the time. All it takes is a couple of people forgetting to log out (or not logging out correctly so that the socket frees up, or accidentally shutting the SERVER down instead of their socket to it) ... It's a nightmare.

Of course, we're dealing with something like 1000 people. If you're in a small, controlled environment where you can actually keep an eye on people as they log in and out, you will probably have better luck. Still, I really resent the idea of having to create and disseminate an entire desktop just for the sake of one little database.

GMFTatsujin

PCs are cheap, software isn't (4, Interesting)

joshv (13017) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094639)

Ok, think about this, you can probably keep using the same monitors forever, and replace the PC for something like $500 and run all the apps you'd ever want to run in a computer lab. Now, start adding up the Windows licenses you'll need for each PC, plus the Citrix licensing, plus the monster server(s) you'd need to support 300 Citrix clients...

For ease of administration, use ghost to create disk images for each PC configuration. Something goes wrong? Wipe the PC and restore the image.

The thing is that hardware is getting cheaper by the day, software isn't.

-josh

DOWN WITH TUNA TACO (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094642)

DOWN WITH TUNA TACO!

DON'T SUPPORT THIS SCAM ANY LONGER.

BLOCK ALL THE ADS.

DON'T LET TUNA TACO GET RICH OFF YOU'RE COMMENTS!

P.S. MY SCHOOL USES THIN CLIENTS ALL OVER THE PLACE, THEY ARE NICE, EXCEPT *NIX BROWSERS FUCKING SUCK SO ONLY THE GEEKS USE THEM.

* Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic.
* Try to reply to other people comments instead of starting new threads.
* Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.
* Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about.
* Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page)

Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to

My experiences (5, Informative)

yamla (136560) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094644)

At the university [ualberta.ca] I attended, the computing science department tried something similar to this.

Having a central Windows machine and thin clients for each of the users was a horrendous mistake. Whole labs spent as much time non-functional as they spent functional. Even having users change their passwords was problematic. Now, this was a few years back now and things may have improved. However, the only way I'd consider this is if the company you are buying the hardware from will guarantee uptime. This should be at least 99.9% uptime (and yes, this includes security patches and hardware failures), otherwise you are going to get crucified.

On the other hand, the computing science department also maintains several labs running OpenBSD [openbsd.org] for the client operating system. A student can log in to any computer in any lab because the /home directories are exported (over NFS, I think, but I could be wrong) from central file servers. The default software is installed locally so things can run very quickly but a large amount of additional software is also installed on central file servers and exported out to all the machines.

That setup is not bulletproof but the uptime is measured in weeks or months rather than hours or days. Depending on the year, it probably approaches 99.9% uptime. It also has the nice advantage of almost all of the software being entirely free.

So which should you go with? From my experience (ymmv), the clearly superior technical solution is to run OpenBSD on a large number of semi-thin client Intel machines. This is far more reliable than a competing Windows solution. From a cost perspective, there's really no comparison. That said, this assumes that you can migrate over to a Unix style environment. Not everyone can. Do not forget that you'd be throwing out all your Windows software using this solution. Also, you require sysadmins who are familiar with Unix. I assume this is the case.

I'll go out on a limb here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094688)

Why not use Linux?

Last time I checked, it was free.

Re:I'll go out on a limb here... (2)

yamla (136560) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094788)

My university used OpenBSD because it was generally more secure (a _big_ concern) and also because they had several OpenBSD developers on staff.

Don't forget Terminal Services (1)

MeepMeep (111932) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094645)

If you plan to use only Win32 clients and will have TCP/IP connectivity to all of them you might be able to get away with Terminal Services only, which is a little cheaper.

By the way, remote printing is a serious issue; look into it carefully.

Depends on what you use your labs for... (5, Informative)

zubernerd (518077) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094647)

Products like citrix are targeted to the business environment or low bandwidth use such as spreadsheets, wordprocessing, etc. (Where your screen updates are minimal) If you are going to do graphics, Citrix is not for you. Sound is okay, though Terminal Services (RDP 5) seems to have better sound. So what do you use those lab machines for? Simple office like apps, or programming, or graphics. That will dictate if Citrix, or anyother product liek it, is worth the money.

Citrix... (3, Informative)

evilpaul13 (181626) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094649)

I've seen their technology in use, and it is quite impressive. It is also very expensive though as you mention.

What I'd suggest is either since you are already using Windows get a Windows Terminal Server and use RDP. Just this week I used a RDP client for Linux, and it worked flawlessly (www.rdpdesktop.org), so client OS won't really matter all that much with a Terminal Server.

Alternately, you could get a nice Linux/UNIX server and run remote X sessions.

Either solution requires a competent Administrator, and a beefy server, but both are probably cheaper than Citrix's Metaframe (or whatever it was called) software.

LTSB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094652)

I think LTSB is the way to go. At least that's what some of the other posters say. I don't know.

Citrix works great for us (2, Informative)

MH (25322) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094656)

My company uses Citrix as a remote access solution, effectively the same thing as you're talking about, albeit over a greater distance (continental US). I've used it quite a bit from my home PC on the east coast connecting to the Citrix server on the west coast with no problems.

I don't administer the actual server, but from my understanding, certain groups are setup to see different applications: developers might see whatever development tools they use, remote sales folks see whatever tools they use, etc. Other things (access to Windows Explorer, the "Run" dialog box, etc. can also be locked down).

My experience thus far has been a very positive one. It's been a relatively quick connection as well, especially considering the distance. Unfortunately, as I didn't set the system up, I can't really provide anymore information than what I've said so far.

In terms of having longer lives for the current lab PCs, I figure as long as they can still run the Citrix client, there shouldn't be any problems.

Quick numbers (1)

zoombat (513570) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094657)

Doing some quick numbers:

500 x $1500 = $750,000

500 x $800 = $400,000
plus say $100,000 for a small clustered server farm.

You still come out $250,000 in the black based just on hardware. But the real savings come because after 3 years you've got to upgrade/replace your workstations.. but your terminals will last much longer.

Factor in support costs for servicing 20 locations... even more savings. Of course you've got to make sure all your software runs on TS/Citrix; if your lab requires hardcore CS compiling, or bizarre custom applications as universities are natorious for, you might run into some trouble.

X-Window System? (2)

x mani x (21412) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094661)

This may or may not be an option for your lab setting, but using X terminals as a thin client solution is a very cost effective solution.

You don't even need to modify your current machines, if you want to demo/test this solution. Make a bootdisk with a Linux kernel and a barebones X server (I know these will fit on a floppy because I've seen it done). Put one of these floppies in each workstation. Setup a fast machine with lots of RAM with a UNIX of your choice which will be the server that hosts all of your X clients (in other words, applications).

This solution is used in a lot of places, and X is one of the most mature, well documented, stable, inexpensive, [insert warm-fuzzies inducing adjective] thin client solutions out there.

Re:X-Window System? (2)

EnderWiggnz (39214) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094837)

*cough*

a bare-bones linux distribution, with XServer, on a floppy?

*cough* *cough*

Bullshit. no way. uh-uh. not gonna happen.

not when the XFree86 4.2 server is 1.3 megs, and thats just the XFree86 file. no drivers, no libraries.

sorry charlie...

excellent product, but watch the price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094668)

Citrix MetaFrame is an amazing product, but you'll be stuck with Windows. That may be good or bad, I haven't decided yet... I'm not sure about educational licensing, but corporate licenses aren't cheap .. and you'll need some good central horsepower, with about 32MB for each client.
The good news is that your clients can be 386 and up with no perceptable performance gap, if set up correctly.

Thin Client (1)

Lynzzu (563220) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094671)

There was a story on slashdot where someone setup a network with a linux server and 486 desktops being used as thin clients. The apps came from the server and if a desktop went down, he could find replacements for real cheap..I will see if I can find the story..

FUCK YOU (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094673)

WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?

A STORY PROMOTING CITRIX ON SLASHDOT?

WOW YOU REALLY HAVE NO SHAME HUH?

YOU'LL SELL OUT AND DO ANYTHING FOR CASH WON'T YOU?

YOU ARE SUCH A WHORE TUNA TACO.

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Use a real solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094681)

http://www.sun.com/products/sunray/sunray1/

http://www.sun.com/products/sunray/sunray100/

http://www.sun.com/products/sunray/sunray150/

http://www.sun.com/products/sunray/software/

Management and security become a snap and you cut your electric bills to a fraction.

Not great for a lab (2, Insightful)

neurojab (15737) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094682)

I don't think putting these machines in a lab is a good idea. Here's why: The cost savings is supposed to come from cheaper administration and the idea that thin clients aren't outdated as fast as thick clients. The sad truth is that thin clients are outdated FASTER than thick clients. If you take your 486 PC, you can run linux and a WinFrames client, you've got a system for the ages ;) But what if you've got a SUN NC? Good luck trying to find a good use for that. What are you going to do three years from now when the speed is no longer acceptable? What's your upgrade path?

With your "thin client" solution, you're paying a lot of money for low-speed hardware, so why not by cheap standard hardware instead and go with thin-client software?

Re:Not great for a lab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094745)

Thin is in.
This is the best option. Pick up some IBM/Acer/Compaq thin clients useing RDP and put a few win2k server in the mix and away you go. This a unviveristy computer lab. They do not *nix, they want cheap, *easy* to use access to word and excel and to the web.

Not every solution involves a beowulf cluster of linux boxes.

Thin Clients (1)

Tadrith (557354) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094686)

I've worked at several places that deploy thin client solutions. There are a lot of very cool and neat things that can be done with thin client, and most of my experiences have been quite good. I've found that using thin client makes it very easy to administrate, and fairly easy to maintain, but there's certainly a few drawbacks. Depending on what you use, sometimes printer configuration can be a real pain, especially if you're going to have a local printer on a thin client device. The best route to go with printing is to use network print servers, it's much simpler and will be less of a hassle in the end.

The main thing I would worry about with thin clients is security. Security is always very important, but now you're going to have multiple people all sharing one machine. The network at our local college was completely open - we had students browsing other student's directories and stealing their work.

Also, as already suggested, there are alternatives. Citrix does put out very nice software, I've had first hand experience with it, but there are other nice packages. Windows 2000 Terminal Services is really not bad, we've got it deployed here at work for remote access. I'll probably get a beating for mentioning it, but I believe Citrix runs on top of it anyway. If you have newer clients, Win2K TS supports printer redirection, too. The only advantage we've had with Citrix is local file redirection; if you're running thin client devices, this isn't even a consideration. I haven't had much experience with VNC or other free alternatives, but I'm sure someone here can point you in the right direction for that, as well. :)

Suggestion: #@ +1 ; Radical @# (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094689)

You have 500 Windoze-based PCs and you are
interested in thin-clients:

Suggestion #1:

Delete Windoze from all of your PCs.

Good luck on your mission to escape one of the
most evil empires in the world.

CIS at Ohio State (4, Interesting)

clark625 (308380) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094701)

I still am in awe of what our CIS department [ohio-state.edu] has done at Ohio State. They handle something like 200 thin clients, plus all the remote sessions.

Basically, you sit down at an old, stripped down HP-UX machine or a thin client that allows you to log into one of their servers. NT and Solaris are the typical flavors--I can't remember what the other option was. Plus, if you log into the Solaris box, you can open a Citrix client and use that to be logged into an NT server. This is really nice for writing code in UNIX land, but using MS Office for the documentation.

I would just love it if the EE department could get a clue and do something similar. It really would give us the best of all worlds. Oh, and you can read more about the CIS setup here. [ohio-state.edu]

I've been working on a Thin Client TCO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094717)

I've been working on a Thin Client TCO for a few weeks that's just about finished. It's showing consistently greater than 50% TCO savings after two years. Of course, your TCO will depend mainly on the cost of the software you run the lab with. I'd say use Linux, but that's just my opinion. Also, the clients I examined have hard drives, which means they aren't quite so thin, but ones with no hard drives would have an even lower TCO, as maintenance wouldn't be much of an issue. Whatever you decide, if you go with thin clients, you have to get the software issues right from the start, or it'll all go to hell later on.

Hidden Costs (5, Informative)

danheskett (178529) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094723)

Something you may not have considered, but is a very real problem is concerned with "shrink".

A school that I used to attend replaced a good 50% of the campus machines with nice-ish PIII machines (this was a few years back). They had plenty of RAM, fast chips, nice video cards, etc.

At the end of the project the administration cut out the tiny piece of the budget for video camera system. Opps.

By the time I left that place 18 months later things had really gone to hell. Most of the labs had been cut in half or less due to student theft of equipment. Numerous machines had been "cross-graded" - ie, swapping out that PIII-800 Mhz chip with that oldish PII-450. It was a major problem. Plus, of course, there were people who'd just snatch and run. Not good, not good.

Bottom line is that thin-terminals are virtually useless for most people, and therefore, the incentive for theft is largely removed.

Had my school gone with TC in stead of desktops, they probably would have saved $25k-50k just in preventing theft. A good chunk of change, I'd say.

Citrix Metaframe is great but.... (1)

CitznFish (222446) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094724)

Microsoft also licensed the technology and called it Windows Terminal Server. If I remember right it is already a part of their Enterprise offerings. It's been a long while since I looked into this. A few years ago we used to demonstrate Citrix Metaframe and it really is impressive. If you go the MS route maybe they'll set you up for free or at a steep discount since you are an edu?

Thin Client often saves time/pain, but save $ (1)

Erv Walter (474) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094727)

We've never used thin client in a computer lab environment, but many of our customers use thin client. It's my understanding that it makes management of 1000s of computers a *lot* easier, but commonly does not save any $ on hardware investment. The cost of the Citrix licenses and hardware can make up for the savings in client hardware. The TCO can be lower if you do things right, though.

Most of the customers who have switched to thin client don't regret their choice.

Keep those PCs! No thin clients! (1)

Luke (7869) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094730)

Your main reason for the thin-client push seems to be the software administration ease. Do it this way:

Create an image for each different hardware combination. Hopefully you don't have that many different combinations. Free imaging software exists for this task - see here [datenwelt.net].

When creating these images, lock down the machine as much as you can before image creation. For windows, this means file permissions and registry permissions. Look at Microsoft's Zero-Administration Kit. Also look at customization kits for Office and IE - these will also allow you to lock the machine down at a fine-grained level. This will keep people from screwing things up! The more time you spend fine-tuning your lockdowns the less time you'll have to spend re-imaging machines.

Good luck!

Take a look at Tarantella (3, Informative)

bytewize (324814) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094732)

Recently I deployed a thin client solution using Tarantella from www.tarantella.com.

It works great using a webbrowser or the native client.
By using RSA securid I have been able to securely deploy both windows and unix applications to users on the internet. There are native clients available for windows, linux and Solaris

The big advantage is that you only need a windows terminal server for your windows applications. By moving as many applications as possible to Linux you can save a lot of money.

Regards Kenneth

Diskless thin clients (2)

Jacco de Leeuw (4646) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094740)

Everybody is already refering to the Linux TS project, but here is a related project: a HOWTO [ltsp.org] for diskless Windows Terminal Server thin clients, based on Linux. It may be a lot of work, but it seems to me that once you have gone through the trouble, rolling out new terminals will be a breeze.

Depends on the platform (1)

bytor4232 (304582) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094742)

There is two options that are cost effective

1. Linux Terminal Server Project. This will serve linux desktops over a thin client solution. LTSP.org [ltsp.org]

2. Linux Terminal Server pushing to Windows ?? Terminal Services. The program that does the magic is RDesktop [rdesktop.org]. It is a UNIX implimentation of the RDP protocol used by Windows. There is a guy doing this in a project located at Wilisystem [wilisystem.com]. It basically uses LTSP [ltsp.org] to boot the clients and passes the rest off to Window$. You still need client access licenses for Windows in this scenario.

As far as cost effective, nothing could be more cost effective. Think about it, do you want to admin 500 PC's or a few servers and 500 terminals. When a terminal has a hardware failure you throw it away since the box itself only costs about 300 bucks as opposed to 800 to 1000 for a useable PC workstation with disks. We do this terminal stuff all the time at my work.

Citrix -- Pros and Cons (1)

Eristone (146133) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094753)

Hi folks,

In my current and previous jobs, I've been in charge of small Citrix server farms. The pros are:

* You can continue to use 'cheap/old' hardware to connect and the backend servers just need to be fairly beefy.

* There's a Citrix client for almost every platform out there - if it can run java, it can run the Citrix client.

* It works okay over a 28.8k connection and can be really zippy over a 128k connection or better.

Cons:

* Graphics-intensive apps -- do *NOT* do this over Citrix. Bad. Very bad. Performance will more than suck.

* One or two users can max out the Citrix server's processors depending on what they're doing.

* You absolutely positively have to know what your applications will be doing server-side otherwise you'll hate your setup completely.

That's my advice from the field...

www.thinknic.com (1)

sniper49er (534935) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094755)

Check out the NICs. At $199 a pop, is probably the cheapest thin client there is. Runs linux from a cdrom.... very easy maintenance. The bundled software includes vnc and citrix. http://www.thinknic.com/

Cheap Terminals / Expensive Servers (0)

Lefty2446 (232351) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094759)

Take your pick.

Our University, Griffith UNI, AU [gu.edu.au] Uses 2yo PC's for student common use computer labs. Our UNI has trouble keeping a SQUID server up and running so i hope they don't make any drastic changes like this. Our enrollment software server falls over all the time, The server that serves our timetabling info is rarely up when you need it.


You guessed it, The computer policy is Windoze, Although the system programmers are starting to implement their own policy based on RedHat.


Where I work (I know not a UNI environment) uses thin clients - everyone hates them because they are so slow. The same company uses pIII computers to run windows software to control Gas Chromatographs. Talk about major overkill.

Don't Forget The Network... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094762)

How good is your current network infrastructure? How many of those drops are 10 Megabit? 100 Megabit?

What it the current backbone, what kind of interfaces can you put in the Servers to feed the clients?

There can be a lot of hidden network problems and costs when setting this up beyond a local switched lab environment.

You need the Macintosh Apple. (0, Troll)

elenchos (237104) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094773)

It is well known that the Apple is the #1 educational computer. This is because it is far and away the most successful computer in schools, and in a school environment, the Macintosh Apple can't be beat.

Cluster for Term Server (2, Interesting)

harryk (17509) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094774)

I am working in a similar situation, where I want to allow a large amount of users access to the thin clients, using web browsing apps, and office applications, but my question is, at what point does load managing become an issue of which machine the user is working from. IE, at 100 users should you get two servers, or what have you.. at what point does a single server not become efficient/suffecient?

Count ALL your costs (5, Informative)

plopez (54068) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094775)

Figure out your annual costs to support the network as is for 3 to 5 years. Software + labor + security (virus software) + hardware. Root out ALL the costs, don't ignore anything ("Oh, we only pay work/study students $8 an hour, it's not important") and any impact down time may have. Call up some locations which have already implemented the solutions you are looking at, approx. the same size and also academic institutions, and see what their costs are (it's not like you are in direct competition).

Get a spreadsheet of the current cost of doing business vs. the solutions you are looking at so you can show it to mgt.

I think, however, that getting away from a PC/Windows based system is the correct solution. Gartner Group once published a study stating that the cost of supporting a PC based network was up to $10k/yr in some situations. Sure the software *looks* expensive up front, but over 3-5 years moving to thin clents would probably be a great idea.

But run the numbers first, get competing companies and their products in the door and let them make their best presentation. Make sure they know you are looking at 3 to 5 year costs, not just initial purchases, because PC/Windows always *looks* cheap when you do not factor in the add-ons and support.

Then decide.

Tip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094786)

If you decide to go for the MS route, basically you have 2 options: Citrix or Terminal Services. TS is built into Windows 2000 server, so make sure that you would really benefit from the additional features of Citrix before you spend extra on it. Note that there are also additional client license costs for TS. Note also that TS client is not available for as many platforms as Citrix.

SunRays! (5, Insightful)

boopus (100890) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094795)

I got to Cal(UC berkeley) and we have a couple labs full of SunRays, which I have found great from a user perspective. Now, the thing you're not going to beleive is why. The sunrays are silent. You never notice how loud the fans from forty computers in a lab are untill you walk into one that's quiet. It's much easier to think for long periods of time. The labs are about 50/50 divided between unix pc's and sunrays, and I'll only work on the PC's if I have to, though the (computer desktop) environment is identical.

There are some disadvantages with sharing a Big Computer with a lot of people, but overall the plusses seem to outweigh the minuses. Last year about halfway through the semester the workload increased on the servers and everything slowed down... This was the bad part. The good part was that a month later, they added another server, switched a number of the clients over to it, and everything jumped back up to speed. If these had been PC's that weren't cutting it any more they would have had to be replaced.

I have no idea what they've gone through on the administrative level, or if Sun gives us a good deal or not. They deployed a new lab last year, so they must not hate them...

Re:SunRays! (2, Informative)

Kenja (541830) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094831)

SunRay systems kick mucho ass.
They are brain dead easy to administrate (at least the latest version of the server software is), whats more if you stick a NT Terminal Server onto the network you can run the Citrix Solaris client very well from a SunRay terminal. This gives you the best of both worlds in most cases. You can even setup acounts to automaticly connect to the NT box when they log in.
Another great thing about the SunRay solution is the smart cards. Being able to stick my card into any terminal on the network and get my desktop as I last left it (with apps still running) is great.

Implemented as corp Time Clocks (1)

kc0dxh (115594) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094802)

I'm the IT department here at this company. I researched this through and through. I went with Wyse 3360se's and *cough* Terminal Server on Win2k. It's cheaper than PC's. There is only one computer to maintain. The work without crashes, slowdowns, or sysadmin involvment.

We will be implementing Citrix here in a week. I've gotten to know it too, and for a lab, I'd use TermServ. Get to know the RDP protocol because ICA runs on top of it. This follows the first rule of software use... Know thy code foundation. Citrix has it's benefits, but they are most felt when running applications remotely from a PC.

Citrix has few features over terminal services (1)

mrbubba (66630) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094812)

Since you already have to buy a terminal services license to use citrix the question should be if citrix offers any advantage. We use both for our remote locations and they both work about as well. The real advantage is not having to build multiple machines. Oh, citrix does have a web interface I think.

citrix (3, Informative)

chinakow (83588) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094816)

If you are on a budget of less then a couple million dollars then you can forget about citrix, unless meta frame has made some serious improvements in the past 6 months, let me tell you why.

first of all the recomended amount of memory per user is something like 16- 32 MB of ram per user ON THE SERVER, that means that if you want to support 500 users and if you only used to 16mb of memory per user then just to support the users you would need 8 GIGs of ram not to mention the 128 to GIG or ram for just running the OS, not to mention the price of the server that supports that much ram and the price of having between 4 and 8 Zeon procs and then the arrays you would need to store all of the information on that system, something like VNC or some other solution would be more evective, its hard to say what though, thats just my 2 cents

Jon

Value is relative to the distance from servers... (1)

MopOfJustice (300784) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094823)

I've worked for/with three companies that implemented Citrix, and although I wasn't involved with the actual figures, I did notice some significant issues.

First, we notice performance problems with Citrix. Granted each time it was a graphic intensive program that was being hosted, but then that could also be an issue in your lab.

Second, Security maintenance was actually much more complicated than with standard PCs.

Third, unless the clients where at a great distance (across the US in some cases), there was no actual gain in version maintenance. When we had 40 PCs in the same building as the server, we quickly discovered it was easier to install updates from a network share rather than get all of the DLLs on the Citrix server configured, and it took a lot less experience to accomplish the workstation updates.

In all three cases I worked with, they are still trying to realize a cost savings and its been greater then five years for each!

rdesktop (1)

Hoonis (20223) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094826)

rdesktop is a nifty linux terminal server client. That would save you client costs on each terminal (replacing them with windows terminal server licensing costs probably).

rdesktop page [rdesktop.org]

It's very easy, of course, to set up linux as a thin client. X -query someserverhere works well.

info sources (2, Informative)

osworks (561010) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094827)

K12linux.org [k12linux.org] is a great site for info and their Red Hat Distro. I have meet Eric and Paul a few times, really great people. They have developed quite a following because they are making implimenting a thin client setup really easy.

K12ltsp is based on www.ltsp.org [ltsp.org] which is in version 3.0 right now. I use this software to set up computer labs in non-profits in and around Portland. We are a NP ourselves [freegeek.org]) It is gaining maturity, system administration is barely more work than working on a box running programs locally. You need to have DHCP running on the server, TFTP setup, and allow it to serve applications to remote X-Clients, and that is about it.

Here are some links for further reading on what others have done.
umn [umn.edu]
olinux [olinux.com.br]
solucorp [solucorp.qc.ca]
askslashdot [slashdot.org]
gbdirect [gbdirect.co.uk]
tucows [tucows.com]
XDM [linuxdoc.org]

best of all worlds... (1)

SqyD (256970) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094829)

Concider this:
- LTSP can indeed cover most email, www staroffice and other comon tasks very well.
- Some win32 stuff can be supported with Wine.
- Citrix clients running on LTSP can provide you with most other win32based stuff.
- Citrix can be used to publish complete desktops but a more cost efficient way is to use it for some applications only. The citrix client will provide a seamless window of the published application running on another server than the one generating you desktop.

So why invest in a 100% citrix solutions if you can use it only when free software doesn't provide a proper solution. This will probably be a very minor part of your current set of supported applications so you won't spend lost of /$ on things free software can provide without terminating support for all win32 stuff people realy (seem to) need.

i'd say: go for a hybrid solutions!

Get some use out of older hardware (1)

joshjs (533522) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094832)

The machines in some of the labs at my school are thin clients, and they're useful to about the degree needed for what you'd expect students to do. Email, word processing, and menial programming.

Just my two cents.

My School Did This (2)

cgreuter (82182) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094833)

My old school (the University of Waterloo) did this as a matter of course. The Math faculty (which housed the CS department) was mostly Unix-based (with some Macs for the first-year students) and when the old VT-200 clones got too moldy, they replaced them with X-terminals--er, I mean, "thin clients". They started out as NCDs but other vendors also provided their batches of them.

IIRC, they had about ten admin people for the whole thing, which was considered really impressive, given that there were three different computer architectures in use running mostly transparently as "CPU servers". When you logged on, you got XTerms on one or more of them. It was typically the same one but they could change without notice on you. This usually worked because all the GNU tools were compiled on all of the machines. If you really needed to use a particular machine, you could still rlogin to it--all machines NFS-mounted the users' home directories.

Anyway, it worked pretty well most of the time. The only major problem was that on occasion, the NFS server would get confused and render some or all of the network unusable. This got really, really annoying at 3 AM when you were trying to do an assignment and the admins had gone home. They eventually got a Network Appliance dedicated NFS server for the student accounts, which helped things a lot.

The X-terminals were pretty long-lived, too. I bought one of them recently from the University some 6 years or so after I'd last used one of those.

tis evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094844)

They have thin client at the college I go to based on NT terminal server. It's horrible to use but yeah it's cheap cos any old 486 will work with it as the server does all the work and just sends the screen image across the network. Did I mention it's slower than winXP on a P100 yet?

My expriences w/ Thin Clients (1)

daytrip00 (473461) | more than 12 years ago | (#3094861)

My CS dept. used Sun Rays linked to an E5000 machine with sixteen processors. And while, most of the time, this machine supported 30 or 40 concurrent users, when people were doing some assignments, it was downright aweful.

For example, when the CS Theory class was implementing their Kruskal sort in C++, lots of them kept hitting these infinite loops that would keep creating new objects, and with 20 or 30 people doing this, every few minutes, everybody's machine would grind to a halt while the renegade process swallowed up 4 or 5 gigs of memory. It was immensly annoying and made it impossible to get my work done. I don't know if Solaris would have allowed them to implement CPU quotas, but I know that i always ended up moving to the Intel machines.

Solaris solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3094867)

I'm a Cali College admin and am currently installing a solaris solution.It's a E450 and 70 SunRay thin clients.The E450 has a web app to control the SunRay sessions with.We are using CDE for the desktop,but you could grab some SunPci Cards and run M$ (yuck) terminal services.HighSoft [highsoft.com] has a buy one get one deal on all compenents of a education lab,so for about 110K we got 2 E450's and 70 SunRays.

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