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Thin Clients

Discussion in 'Virtual Computing' started by AJ, Jan 24, 2008.

  1. AJ

    AJ Administrator Administrator

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    I think.

    My boss is thinking, and this isn't even on the "back of a fag packet" planning yet, thinking of using thin clients for the school. He goes on about Citrix and how that would benefit the school, hardware support yada yada. I seem to remember that VMware did a similar thing to citrix.

    Now I have next to no knowledge of this technology. I've surfed around the citrix web site, and think I have picked up the jist of it.

    My main question is to put a virtual desktop onto the PC's in the school, what would be best and the best way to go about it. Let's think that there will be a suitable budget as well and I think we would be looking at somewhere in the region of 800 desktops.

    queue Phoenix
     
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  2. Phoenix
    Honorary Member

    Phoenix 53656e696f7220 4d6f64

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    Ok there might be a few crossed wires here, ignoring Citrix recent acquisition of XenSource, Citrix version of VDI is very different to VMwares version of VDI

    Citrix provides a multi user server computing environment, ala Terminal Services, it provides multiple unique desktop presentations via a connection to the same server, a server reboot kicks everyone out, an application crash often crashes the app for all users, theres a license required for each user logged in, and you still need fairly decent hardware, although its CPU bound more so than memory bound

    VMwares flavor of VDI creates a seperate virtual machine for each user, providing an entire virtual system from the ground up, for everyone logged on, everyone has direct console access to thier own system, a reboot by one, does not affect the many, a crash by one app, does not affect the any, however you need an OS license for each instance, and some decent hardware, memory bound more than CPU bound

    Thin clients are really just devices capable of running a remote connection protocol, they could connect to EITHER of these back ends, it doesn't matter to them

    So you might need to go into a little more detail if you want specifics as they are both VERY different technologies
     
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  3. AJ

    AJ Administrator Administrator

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    Bugger and here was I thinking it was a straight forward question. :ohmy

    I'll give it a bit more thought and try to frame the question better
     
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  4. zebulebu

    zebulebu Terabyte Poster

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    If you are seriously considering Citrix then, providing it has been well-thought out, and timed to coincide with what would otherwise be a costly desktop refresh, then it could potentially be very rewarding. However, there are a number of serious concerns that need to be addresses in any move to a thin environment.

    Firstly, you are likely going to need to make a significant investment in your server infrastructure to support it. Provided you need to run it in a single site location you won't have to deal with things like application acceleration across WAN links, but you will certainly need to size everything properly and plan your farm out so that it is adequate for supporting the maximum number of concurrent users with room to play with overhead.

    Secondly, the main reason most companies/organisations go thin with Citrix is for application virtualisation. Since MS is introducing this in SP1 for Server 2008, it might be worth letting your boss know that its possible you could save more money by eliminating Citrix completely and just running your environment on pure Term Services. Since this is some way off, you are unlikely to be looking at seriously doing this for over a year - more if you want to do it when the technology is mature - but it sounds like your boss has only just started thinking about this anyway, and the planning for a thin environment is a very long process.

    Thirdly, supporting Citrix is entirely different to anything you will have been used to with M$ - whilst its not rocket science it does require you to learn new skill sets. That said, the newer versions of Citrix are infinitely easier to understand and support than the earlier ones, so with as bit of practice in a test environment, some books and maybe a classroom course or two you should be fine

    Fourth - You have to be prepared (especially in an education/not for profit environment) for there to be applications lurking around that simply will not work in a thin environment. Make sure that, before you take ANY move towards this area you examine all your applications thoroughly - it may be that there is a mission critical piece of software which doesn't work in a TS environment that puts the kybosh on things before they get started.

    There are lots of other considerations to take into account, but there are definite cost benefits too - like probably being able to reuse all your desktops instead of buying new ones or thin clients in, cutting down your TCO demonstrably within a year and making a significant ROI in a very short space of time.

    Its an excellent large-scale project to get into, but make sure you plan plan plan!
     
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  5. JohnBradbury

    JohnBradbury Kilobyte Poster

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    You also have to consider whether the end users actually need a published desktop. Citrix can publish both desktops and individual applications.

    Citrix can provide a stable platform for applications but it won't be cheap.

    You might also consider whether or not the new incarnation of TS in Server 2008 meets your needs. If it does this would prove a much cheaper option compared to VMWare or Citrix.

    I can certainly answer any questions you have regarding Citrix if needed..
     
  6. AJ

    AJ Administrator Administrator

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    Thanks for your input guys.

    My boss has used Citrix before and is awre of the server load/implications. He was already muttering along the lines of 15 odd Blade servers, just to run Citrix. If he goes for it and a business case can prove lower TCO and POI then the funds will become available.

    Server 2008 sounds like it may be worth a look. Oh yes very early thinking of at the moment and we will have a lot of cabling to do before as well.

    I'm sure the training will be done, but I will be sure to get a book or 2 before it goes live.

    Deffo on that mate. In fact places that will use design and image rendering software will still remain Fat clients, as will the IT Dept.

    thenks for your comments Zeb and John.
     
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  7. simongrahamuk
    Honorary Member

    simongrahamuk Hmmmmmmm?

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    AJ,

    NEC produce something called the virtual pc centre. This is basically pushing VM's to your desktops and runs on an ESX system as far as I am aware. I looked into it a while back but changed jobs before taking it any further.

    It 'seems' like a good system, but I'm not sure why no one else has yet picked up on the idea and developed it. Here is the link: http://www.nec-computers.com/page.asp?id=157

    8)
     
  8. AJ

    AJ Administrator Administrator

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    Just thought I would follow up on this as we are now playing with a test environment. We have borrowed a HP blade server with 3 blades. on there is server 2008, server 2003 and ESX with a virtual server 2008 installed.

    I have been loading all sorts of different applications on to them to see what will/won't install and work. the 2003 server has Citrix installed on it and 2008 is just terminal services. Looking very hard at 2008 terminal services esp as Citrix adds an extra £120K onto the bill.

    I am also testing different thin client devices as well

    HP

    Wyse

    Chip PC

    Will keep you all informed
     
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  9. zebulebu

    zebulebu Terabyte Poster

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    Yep - Citrix is NOT cheap. I have been fooling around with app virtualisation in 2008 RTM and it works perfectly for me. Of course, in a larger scale environment it might be completely different - but from what I've seen so far, you should be able to do pretty much everything Citrix can do with app presentation... without paying a penny extra for it. If I were Citrix I would be very, very worried right now.
     
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  10. kevicho

    kevicho Gigabyte Poster

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    Also, and i didnt see this mentioned, one of the benefits of centralisation, should mean less time needed for support.

    We here run a 5 citrix server farm (and a cag device), for around 100 users, it doesnt have many performance issues, apart from the huge spreadsheets these users use, but thats pretty rare.

    Benefits also include easier software management, savings on licences (ie set up concurrent users instead of a licence for each machine) and hardware.

    Another benefit is that you can centralise your security, anti spyware and anti virus policies, just run AV protection on servers, as opposed to a hundred clients (again savings in both cost and administration)

    Also the savings in electricity are another bonus.

    I think you should probably look at a couple of citrix courses obviously before moving, or maybe go to one of their expo's, should give you some good info.
     
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  11. AJ

    AJ Administrator Administrator

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    Ahh yea application virtualisation as well using softgrid. We will be looking into that as well.

    Don't you just love the M$ schools agreement :D
     
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  12. AJ

    AJ Administrator Administrator

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    Ok small update time. Our testing is nearly over and today we went to IBM to see what they had to offer. They were the only company who thought that a VDI solution using VMware was the answer.

    Now I've used VMWorkstation before, but only to play with. This was the full ESX, blades and SAN thing. We took the Chip PC and a Wyse terminal with us which was supposed to be good with streaming media. In our existing test environment the streaming media was always the show stopper.

    Anyway after having a hands on chat about how the technology worked we got around to using the thin clients with VDI. After a bit of messing around and phone calls to Chip PC and Wyse we got them working. I gotta say I was well impressed. Streaming media is not so much an issue with VDI it seems. BBC flash clips work fine and the MPEG files I took with me worked fine as well.

    Now it is just making sure that they have sized the blade centre correctly as well as the SAN.
     
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  13. ffreeloader

    ffreeloader Terabyte Poster

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