Thin Client Computing Without “The Bill”
Trends in Corporate Computing
For many years corporate America has been looking for ways to reduce the cost of ownership associated with Microsoft Windows®-based computing. The popularity of Windows-based Thin Clients coupled with deployment of Terminal Server and Citrix has been growing at a rapid rate. Over the years a new trend has been developing; enterprises are now trying to reduce costs further by moving to “intelligent” Thin Clients.
“Dumb” vs “Intelligent” Thin Clients
In contrast to the previous generation of “dumb” thin clients, which simply acted as terminals allowing access from desktops to server-based applications, “intelligent” Thin Clients come with built-in emulation software; e-mail; a full-function browser—such as Mozilla Firefox or full Internet Explorer—supporting JVM, Flash and XML; and pop-up window support. These intelligent Thin Clients are served up with Linux or Windows XPe operating systems, and allow access to a file server as well as Web-delivered applications such as Lotus Notes, WebSphere, etc.
Currently Available Computing Options
Several options now exist for companies wishing to deploy Microsoft Office-type products for their employees:
1. Traditional: Serve up these applications using Microsoft Terminal Server, Citrix, etc., delivered using a remote desktop protocol. Approximate costs associated with this method are:
a. Terminal Server Client Access License $120
b. Client Access License $30
c. Microsoft Office Professional $395
d. Citrix (if applicable) $250
Total Software Cost per User $545 to $795
2. Hybrid: Keep Microsoft Office and serve it up using a Linux server. This involves using a product from CodeWeavers called CrossOver Office www.codeweavers.com. This product allows some Microsoft products to be installed and served up via X-Windows to a Linux desktop or Linux Thin Client. The costs for this method are:
a. CrossOver Office $50
b. Microsoft Office Professional $395
Total Software Cost per User $445
3. Local Linux: Install OpenOffice* (www.openoffice.org) on a Linux Server and use X-Windows on a Linux desktop or Linux Thin Client. Both of these software components are open source and distribution is unrestricted. Cost of this method:
a. X-Windows $0
b. OpenOffice $0
Total Software Cost per User $0
Figure 2: Total Cost of Ownership Table. Software and hardware component costs are calculated per user for both LAN and WAN environments.
OpenOffice is a full-featured product suite providing word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software. It can open Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, which can be edited and saved with standard Microsoft extensions. StarOffice (www.sun.com/software/star/staroffice), offered by SUN Microsystems, is based on this code with a few enhancements.
CrossOver Office is based on the WINE development. It allows Microsoft Windows applications to run in a Linux environment. Many Windows programs are supported, however many others will work but have not been thoroughly tested. Applications supported include Microsoft Office XP, Lotus Notes, and many more.
The PC revolution brought about tremendous freedom for users in the corporate world: a wide variety of supported applications, customization of user preferences, unrestricted Web access and file transfer capabilities, etc. Corporate management has come to realize that this type of freedom has its drawbacks: unstable and inconsistent operating environments; poor backup control; vulnerability to virus attacks; and lack of supervision in daily tasks. All these drawbacks lead to higher maintenance costs, lower employee performance, and system vulnerability. Not only does the hardware become obsolete – as new applications are introduced, higher performance CPUs are required – but operating systems typically need updating every three years. Remember Windows 95, 98, 4.0, NT, 2000, etc. When you figure in the licensing fees; the time spent by system administrators updating each workstation, not to mention installing and maintaining anti-virus software; the downtime this causes other employees while their workstations are out of commission; and the additional time required by employees to learn each new revision; the resulting price tag is quite sizeable!
Martin Pladgeman is President of 10ZiG Technology, a leading developer of security solutions, enterprise-class thin clients and iSeries connectivity solutions. 10ZiG thin clients provides a choice between CE.Net, LINUX, and XP Embedded and offers a host of unique features.