I hate biased reportage like this one. The guy writes that thin clients must die and he starts by discussing 386s in the 1990s used as terminal servers at 10 megabits/s and software not designed to be multi-user, WordPerfect.
“Admittedly, the problem here wasn’t so much the terminals (at least the ones that weren’t dead on arrival) as it was WordPerfect and SCO. We had gotten WordPerfect for SCO immediately after its release (the box was practically still warm when it arrived in our office, and there were two software licenses stuck together in the box). Apparently, at that point the code hadn’t been tested in multi-user mode very much. Whenever someone ran spellcheck and added a new word to the custom dictionary, it changed the ownership of the dictionary file. When the next person ran spellcheck, it would cause SCO Unix 386 to kernel dump.”
Uhhh, let’s see. The messenger arrived on a Monday and you hate Mondays, therefor, you must hate the messenger… Does that make any sense? Not in the least. Modern thin clients are more powerful than those terminal servers about which he had experience. A poor design of a system that used thin client does not mean there’s anything inherently wrong with thin client systems.
Systems that I have designed had superior performance to thick clients (presumable the authour’s favourite). Why? Because I had adequate RAM on the terminal server to cache all user applications. That meant a click on an icon brought immediate response. Files in GNU/Linux are reusable and re-entrant. One file read in by Joe is immediately usable by Bob, Billy, Heather and Jeanne. They only have to seek for their data-files which are usually tiny things in comparison to the applications.
Then there are the storage units. A good server will have multiple read/write heads so that N files can be read at once, meaning no waiting almost all the time. I have seen 30 users on a single PC blown away by the experience. When their familiar thick clients were turned into thin clients, opening the largest application, OpenOffice.org, took less than 2s compared to 10-15s on a thick client.
A good terminal server these days may have multiple gigabit/s NICs while the junk in TFA may well have had a single 10 megabits/s NIC. Talk about comparing apples to oranges.
Thin clients and terminal servers today are a great solution for almost all computing except multi-media editing and the like where the output must be rendered close to the user in order to give immediate feedback. That covers, what, 5% of PC usage? Lots of organizations find they can use GNU/Linux and thin clients for 80-90% of tasks with few hassles. With a bit of work even that limitation can be compensated now that gigabit/s NICs are so cheap. The proof of that is obvious for any thoughtful person. Consider how many use a browser and little else to do all their work. They might as well be using a thin client. Run the browser on the server and get superior performance by sharing cached web-content.
Oh, and another thing. I remember the quality of PCs in those days… It was not great. Components, too, were quite variable in reliability. Comparing any system with similar architecture then with what we have today is invalid. They just were not the same. We had clockspeeds of a few tens of MHz, remember? Now, most thin clients even the cheap ones start at ~1gHz. That basically means nothing on the thin client is a bottleneck. It all comes down to the network and we can buy cheap switches that will run several gigabits/s full-duplex all day long with no problems. For text, cartoons, and still images, the networks are not a bottleneck until one gets ~50 users per NIC. Most terminal servers can even do a reasonable job of full-screen video if a few frames per second is sufficiently useful. YouTube is no problem at all unless everyone is doing it…
My recommendation is that GNU/Linux terminal servers and thin clients should be the default solution unless there is a demonstrated need for more local power. It’s just not economical to have everyone in the organization drive a Cadillac and the performance of Cadillacs may actually be less than a smaller/less expensive vehicle. Some Cadillacs are good cars but they are over-priced if all you need are wheeled vehicles. All most of us need is a good thin client. They start at about $50 these days. The most expensive thin clients are better than the terminal server the guy was dissing.
for a really poor example of journalism (or excellent trolling) see Passport to hell: why thin client desktops must die | Ars Technica.