The Best Ways to Get Thin
March 11, 2002
by Marcin Polchit
Practically every company these days is forced to reassess the cost-efficiency of its operations. More then ever, lowering Total Cost of Ownership becomes primary factor in surviving harsh economic reality. One of the ways of accomplishing this goal is switching from the traditional distributed approach that emerged years ago with the advent of PC-based networks to a thin client environment.
In spite of improvements in Windows Terminal services included in Windows 2000 and upcoming .NET servers, for enterprise-level deployment of thin client technology you should consider an investment in third-party tools. Currently, there are several different products that enhance functionality of Terminal Services from Microsoft. New Moon systems (www.newmoon.com) greatly simplifies application deployment. Tarantella from Tarantella Inc. (formerly Santa Cruz Operations), based on three-tier architecture, extends the reach of thin client to UNIX, Linux, mainframe, and midrange servers. The majority of customers, however, choose Citrix with its flagship product Metaframe XP. This company, which was the pioneer in thin client technology on the Windows platform, has a well-established reputation and wide-spread presence.
Whichever solution you choose, keep in mind that their complexity goes far beyond that of Microsoft Terminal Server. The design, deployment, and management require a significant degree of knowledge, especially when dealing with multiple servers organized into server farms (Citrix) or arrays (Tarantella). The additional features, however, are well worth extra effort and cost. For example, with full implementation of Citrix Metaframe XP, you will be able to take advantage of the following benefits:
If you are considering using MetaframeXP in your environment, you will be able to find answers to the majority of your engineering and administrative challenges by referring to the experiences of others. There are two excellent sources of information that I recommend. The first one is obviously the Web. You can find plenty of impartial information at Thin Planet and www.thethin.net (and you can always refer to the Citrix Web site). The second one is the most recent publication on Metaframe XP - Citrix Metaframe XP - Advanced Technical Design Guide by Brian S. Madden.
The book takes you through all stages of creating a Citrix-based thin client environment. It presents a thorough analysis of different design options with their pros and cons. The implementation section covers server and client deployment methods (including tips on configuring user's profiles, home drives, logon and logoff scripts). There are separate chapters dedicated to setting up NFuse portals and printing, which is probably the most troublesome area of thin client technology.
Administrators that have in place version 1.8 of Metaframe and plan on migrating to XP will also find a wealth of information on migration and integration strategies. An entire chapter is intended for those who need help in managing mixed Netware\Windows environments. The book also offers clear and detailed description of complex licensing schemes from both Microsoft and Citrix and up-to-date tips on resolving licensing problems. Last, but not least, the book covers different aspects of security (server, application, connection, network, and client) especially important in today's perilous computing environment.