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Old 01-27-2004, 09:52 AM   #1
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Are Linux Thin-Clients useful these days?

Hi, I've been looking at K12LTSP, and wondering if such a setup would be useful/cost effective for a small business. Take for example a small business office with 10 employees. If one were to use a fast application server (twin processors, 2 GB RAM, fast hardrive) and setup 10 super cheap thin clients, how well would performance be? You could probably assume that all 10 would be concurrently logged into a KDE desktop with a web browser and email client always open. There would probably be sporatic periods of higher activity when launching OpenOffice, graphics editing, or searching a database or accounting information. Would the performance for the thin clients be better than just buying very cheap workstations that collectively cost less than a fast app server and diskless thin clients? How isolated are the thin client users from each other in terms of applications crashing or freezing? Thanks for the help!
Old 01-27-2004, 02:36 PM   #2
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I think the "terminal and centralized architecture" time is over, PC are so cheap now, it will be a better deal to big 11 cheap P4 (1 "files server" where client dump files they want to share/work on to and 10 client PCs. 10 client accessing that much ressource will load the server pretty much, remember that application terminals was using were black and white without graphic at all
A good server for that will cost you around $15k instead of a cheap $750 per PC.
Old 01-27-2004, 07:42 PM   #3
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However I believe that the concept is coming back into 'fashion' again. With networking technologies becoming ever faster and more reliable it is becoming easier to deploy medium-end machines as X clients to a server. I am not a network/system admin but to my mind it would be easier to have a stock of identical thin-clients and be able to make changes to their configs from a central point rather than have a bunch of higher-end standalone PCs that may require individual configurations (different hardwares). And at least with thin-clients you can make it harder for the user to install unwanted applications that slow things down for the rest of the network.

Or am I rambling a load of rubbish?
Old 01-28-2004, 12:55 AM   #4
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ok, yes and no. To have that much traffic floating around, your going to need to have a nice network setup, prolly 1000/100/10base-t as well as a router and firewall. To have this, it is going to cost... ever max out a 10base-t network at a peak, it come to a screaching painful crawl, it is a consideration.

Additionally, you can count this server out for actually doing any "server" services, so add in another for your email, web and other necessary services. The Server for the thin clients would likely benefit from being a dual processor with about 2-4gb of ram...etc..a lesser server can handle the "other" services with aplomb.

Also, do realize, if (when)this server goes down, everyone takes a half a day, cause they have nothing to work on... so, a good backup server should also be available with all current data sync'ed- which brings in more cost. So, now your up to 3 servers. one really heavy duty one and two that can be marginal or better.....

So, go to your preferred retailer and price it out. See if it would be more cost effective. 11 computers or 3 servers and a bunch of dumb terminals. I'm guessing that the thin clients will be slightly more expensive.

Also, remember, major configurations changes may have to be done after hours, to ensure that a typo doesnt loose all your staff's data and such, if your not the SA, then it is possibly more cost in one way or another...
Old 02-02-2004, 03:49 PM   #5
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If you have your users all concentrated in a small geographical area and want to centralised your management of the application software and data ; ie a single desktop install ( or maybe 2 if you want a 2nd server for redundancy ) for all your users, the thin client concept works rather well.

LInux is designed as a multi-user system, so stability should not be too much of an issue.

And you don't run video games , sound etc.- ie you want just plain office applications.


for server: a mid level desktop, eg AMD XP2400 with 1 Gig ram ( you don't need a fancy video card , just a 2 or 4 Mb cheap PCI one will do - what you want is cheap 'horsepower' to drive the applications for your thin clients. The most important thing is ram. For 10 thin clients in a small office environment ( web browsing, Open Office applications , email )the above setup will happily satisfy your need. If you want redundancy, you can have a second deskiop PC to serve as backup and also run the 'other' services. and of course a 100 Mbit NIC. Since you only have 10 clients , the second machine can run with 512 Mb ram )

For thin clients: P133/P166 , 32 Mb ram, 10 Mbit NIC ( 100 Mbit for very snappy performance) a 540 Mb hard disk if you don't want to go the LTSP route. ( to install a base linux for the thin clients - 250 Mb disk space used ). A P200 also works fine. These socket 7 machines are available for next to nothing ( $30 AUD ). To build a thin client once you have set one up, just copy the contents of the disk ( all 250 Mb ) to another, configure the video card and network settings and you are done.

For network: 100 NICs for the servers and 100 Mbit ( 5-8 port) switch ( not hub ). You can use 2 * 100 Mbit NIC on the server , so each card servers 5 clients.

TCO ( cost of ownership)
Apart from the obvious hardware costs ...

The beauty of this setup, if suitable; is you only have the 1 place ( like a date subroutine in a computer application that is called from everywhere) where all the software is installed , you upgrade once, in the one place. And if there is a problem, you know the problem exists in the one place only.

For example, you just installed Mdk 9.2 ( on a seperate partition; ie you keep Mdk 9.1 partition intact ), your users report problems and you decide to go back to Mdk 9.1. All you need to do is re-boot back to Mdk 9.1 and all 10 users will revert back to Mdk 9.1.

If you want more users, just clone another thin client to the network and do a 'useradd' on the desktop.

'Powerful' hardware to run thin clients is so affordable these days, and can only get cheaper. If so only updgrade the server ( maybe to a AMD FX51, next year) and not the 10 thin clients.

Already mentioned by others. Basically you have a single point of failure , so you must exercise a great degree of discipline when performing system changes.

Documentation: LTSP has excellent doc.




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