Thin is In

We are in the throes of a revival. What once was not, is now hot. It looks as if thin-client computing is making a comeback. We have come full circle.

What’s interesting, is we first had the terminalmainframe model, and that progressed to the very popular PC and now we are going back to the thin client model. Can you see a pattern here?

If you have never heard of thin client computing (I know you probably have but just in case … ), it is defined as a networked computer without a hard drive that is connected to a server or a group of servers. Each end-user has their own thin client terminal that consists of a monitor, mouse, and keyboard.

The thin client terminal receives the applications and data from the servers they reside on. All data and processing remain on the server. The thin client is just a vessel for the end-user to retrieve and work with the data. In contrast, a PC is considered a fat client and it includes a hard drive.

From an IT perspective, thin client computing is much easier to administer and maintain and the security risks can be more controlled. We now live with 4 GB USB flash keys and MP3 devices capable of taking large amounts of sensitive data out of your company without your awareness or approval.

A thin client architecture can prevent this type of problem by helping to lock down sensitive data.

There are also financial and staffing benefits to thin-client architectures. Supporting a PC based infrastructure requires more support professionals and additional staffing. This staffing requirement costs more money. A thin-client environment allows you to support the same amount of people with less staff.

Thin-client computing reduces a company’s total cost of ownership (TCO) by allowing a company to not have to purchase very expensive PC’s that finish their course of life within two years. With thin clients, the cost of hardware, installation, and support over time will significantly decrease because it requires less people to manage the infrastructure and less money to keep the infrastructure running at top capacity.

Today, many of you are also facing increasing power demands within your data centers and server rooms. The prices to keep all of these servers cool and running is astronomical. It is one of the biggest problems facing upper management these days. Thin clients will allow you to consolidate servers and reduce the electrical demands placed on your infrastructure which equals additional savings.

Space is also an issue within data centers and server rooms. Many of your servers are just running old legacy applications that have stuck around. Your servers are underutilized and costing you money.

By taking advantage of virtualization on your thin client infrastructure, you can not only consolidate servers but also get the right balance of utilization possible from the servers you are using.

The sudden popularity of thin client computing happened for several reasons: We now live in a world of cutting-edge technology that includes faster processors (64 bit computing), virtualization, much better technologies capable of making thin clients more appealing, secure, and efficient than having a PC on every desk. All of these factors make the thin clients attractive.

As a senior consultant out in the trenches, I see the trends as they happen. More and more desktops are being phased out for thin clients as the technology grows to favor this revitalized architecture.

But don’t take my word for it, do your own research and you will begin to see the value and cost savings associated with implementing thin-client architecture. If you can provide your company with a safe and secure environment and save money in the process, isn’t it worth considering?

Steven Warren is an IT consultant for the Ultimate Software Group and a freelance technical writer who has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic, TechProGuild, CNET, ZDNET, and, now, CIO Update. He is the author of “The VMware Workstation 5.0 Handbook” and holds the following certifications: MCDBA, MCSE, MCSA, CCA, CIW-SA, CIW-MA, Network+, and i-Net+.