Client PC Replaces Desktop/Notebook

“in a typical enterprise environment, the 80/20 rule applies when you look at application use and processing power. 80% of the people are using only 20% of the computing power in their machines. If you have any experience in large enterprises you are snorting because it is unlikely they are even using 20%, but let’s use this for illustration. The majority of worker bees are doing simple tasks. They are writing documents, whether in a word processor or in email, they are preparing or delivering presentations, which really is only specialized word processing. They are surfing the web, administering systems, working or submitting tickets, or reading. None of these tasks is particularly computationally taxing.”

Thus, the thinner clients have come of age. Thanks to Moore’s Law, they are now small enough to fit in the pocket and cheap enough to be owned in multiples and to be everywhere.

Just as important as price and availability, the small cheap computers of today are amazing performers considering much of the work is being done on powerful servers and clusters of servers. No desktop or notebook has the local database and search power to tell you where the nearest Chinese restaurant is but your smartphone which you may have bought for $0 down can. The price/performance of small cheap computers appropriately networked is just too good to ignore any longer.

Besides ARM making such small cheap computers possible is */Linux which costs $0 “per seat” the best incremental cost in IT. The result is that instead of spending $thousands per PC per roll-out every 3 years, the world is moving on to ad hoc computing models that don’t assume Wintel at every node. Only a few need anything like the model of ten years ago, a PC on every desk and a licence from M$ on every hard drive. The world of IT is too large to take dictation from Redmond, Washington, USA.

See The Rapidly Changing Desktop | Linux Journal.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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12 Responses to Client PC Replaces Desktop/Notebook

  1. Poor editorial. Read my post.

  2. oiaohm says:

    Chris Weig I will answer why this has not happened sooner. We need like Nvidia optimus and the way arm does its video card driver.

    Yes GPU renders to a memory buffer. First attempt at this was a hack called virtualgl that is still around.

    X11 falls apart the same way a chromebook does at this stage. 3d was rendered user end in X11 so a simple 3d program would kill the complete link.

    virtualgl sends opengl calls back to the servers video card for processing turn it to a 2d image then sending a 2d image over the network. This requires OS cooperation.

    With Nvidia optimus and the way arm does its video card driver we don’t need OS cooperation. So we expose a Nvidia optimus to like a Windows virtual machine lie that is a full card with true screen output and take 2d image that would have been sent to the intel video card and send that over the network.

    Instant full windows machine on end of network cable without the Windows install being anywhere near the user.

    Is it possible to use a video accelerator to turn the 2d of video card output into a video stream and send to a chrome book yes it is.

    Chris Weig the tech to return to mainframe solution is almost here now. So desktop PC space might become a wasteland. Server and zero clients would even be practical in a house.

    Biggest thing that has slowed thinclients is lack of GPU support.

  3. oiaohm wrote, “harddrives that would have been put in all the client machines stuck in big servers will support more users than when they were in individual machines.”

    Exactly. All the resources idling in a raft of thick clients is just waste. Organizations might as well buy a stack and keep it in the store-room for all the good it does. The right way to do IT puts everything where it will do the most good. My users had their socks knocked off how much performance increase they saw putting their processes on a next-gen server. Even NIB “7” could not beat the performance they saw from 8 year old PCs.

    As a computer teacher I had ample opportunity to watch 24-30 young people intently reading screens while their machines capable of more than mainframes of a few decades ago went idling. There are many situations where 1% of CPU is in use. Why buy a huge CPU just to have it stay warm? Loading applications or booting is about the only time the CPU was exercised and having files cached on the server was several times faster than the thick clients could start things.

  4. oiaohm says:

    Chris Weig chromebook is mostly how not todo it. Reason javascript and other processing things still have to run on the thin-client. A thin-client loses its power effectiveness quickly if it has to process crud. It also loses its cost saving quickly.

    Android book would make more sense.

    “dedicated thin client terminals” Zero clients are less than 100 dollars per seat location.

    Zero clients are a very specialist thin. They route usb ports over network and basically just receive a 2d feed for screen output. They are dumb as you can make items that work. So have the least amount of hardware in them. Yes android tablet can pretend to be a Zero thin so allowing a person with android tablet best of both. Notice something here for a zero thin this makes sense when someone take there portable with them the power usage at desk drops.

    They are Zero in more ways than one. Least power usage possible. “cheap, small computers” Even allowing for powering the switch and server you are ahead by the third user for power usage with a Zero client setup.

    Zero you do get more seats for less money and better power usage.

    This is why the return to mainframe is happening.

    Linux and Windows both support Copy on Write memory. Linux supports KSM to compress memory. So more users don’t equal a major lift in memory required. So all the ram and harddrives that would have been put in all the client machines stuck in big servers will support more users than when they were in individual machines.

    Chris Weig diskless remote boot Linux has also be popular from a harddrive point of view. Yes booting from network connected storage. Why only 1 copy of OS required.

    100 harddrive MS say 16 g we will use this just for point of argument I know its high. So full clients 100 x 16g 1,600g Of harddrive space in OS used.

    Now if windows would boot from network. How much would be different per machine. I would say less than half. Again just for argument I will use 8g.

    So you raid OS image for all machines. 16g x2 then 100×8 for the diffences 832gb of space required. Gained 768gb of harddrive space. Remember this is high. The real numbers from back up is network machines running windows on average are 90 percent identical to each other. So real world the harddrive space saving alone is huge.

    Same thing happens in ram usage.

    If you have many non mobile machines from a hardware usage point of view it makes no sense at all having a PC at a desk. Also think of this when only a few staff are logged in the complete processing power in a mainframe setup is available for those users to use. Where with the PC on desk setup each cpu at the desk power is only accessed if the user is there.

    Small cheap computers at desk idea fails when you have a few users needing to run something slightly larger than the small cheap computer can handle.

    Finally what is simpler to back up. A mainframe room of a stack of PC’s.

  5. Chris Weig wrote, “Who needs thin clients, if you have “cheap, small computers”?”

    Small cheap computers come in many forms. Thin clients are just one. While you can buy a thin client for ~$1K, you can also buy one for ;lt $50. The difference may be computing power, NIC (gigabit/s or 100 mbits/s), wireless or not, and RAM. Many modern thin clients are just fat clients without a hard drive.

    People who love thin clients include schools, governments, banks, and anyone who cares about capital cost per seat and maintenance. At least for schools one can get increased performance with thin clients because of file-caching, faster CPU, faster/more RAM, more/faster storage and gigabits/s NICs on servers. In some organizations the lowest cost per seat is what is needed and paying for hard drives, big PSUs and software licences per seat is excessive. Then there’s power-consumption…

    The US Air Force is planning to migrate 1.2 million seats to thin clients in the next few years.

    I built a whole school on thin clients a few years ago. Their IT was the envy of visitors from other schools who could not afford as many seats nor as many printers, scanners and cameras thanks to licensing that other OS and higher per-seat hardware costs.

  6. Chris Weig says:

    Mr. Pogson is good at contradicting himself. The concept of a thin client — I’m talking about dedicated thin client terminals, for example by the German company IGEL — directly opposes the concept of “cheap, small computers”, as the latter are still what’s called personal computers. Who needs thin clients, if you have “cheap, small computers”?

    Essentially, a Chromebook is also a thin client, with its “terminal server” being Google’s cloud. And it doesn’t offer the convenience of a personal computer. Besides, you can turn a regular PC into a thin client, but not the other way around.

    Both Chromebooks and dedicated thin client terminals are relatively expensive. You get real computers for the same money, if you pay a bit more you get very power-efficient machines.

    Mr. Pogson is trumpeting this concept as if it were something radical. But he seems to forget that every goddamn computer connected to the internet is already a thin client and always has been. If I access Google, my computer is turning into a thin client.

  7. oiaohm says:

    oldman XenApp and XenDesktop at core is hiding Linux.

    Xwindows is not used in Zero Clients. Ok it is but it does not leave the server. Wayland is more suited to the Zero Client system.

    Zero clients are a different beast oldman. They don’t run Citrix, X11, rdp, NX or any of those protocols.

    Result even if it is not pure Linux. Its reduce license spend oldman what equals less income from Microsoft and other closed source software makers.

    Linux support for zero clients is being built it at OS core.

    The reality is the business hardware layout will change.

    Oldman even if you stay Microsoft how much do you need when you can zero client. 80/20 that that is a Linux migration in most cases. Then that 20 cut again due to zero client effects.

    Once MS fully supports zero clients pay to Microsoft will drop. Since that Microsoft software is no longer a reason to have a OS at fixed machines. In fact all fixed machines OS’s will be in server rooms so making them simpler to manage.

    We are returning to mainframe setups.

  8. oldman says:

    “Graphical interfaces will be just as simple to kick around a network as text terminals use to be.”

    The problem is sir is that very few of them will be
    using the ersatz Linux solutions to run FOSS only. They will be using one of the commercial desktop virtualization solutions. We use citrix based solutions to either virtualize the applications (XenApp) or virtualize the desktops (XenDesktop). There is also VMWare View and even microsofts own solutions (not as good but getting there, just like Linux).

    Xwindows falls apart in high latency environments. NX is far better though not perfect, but Citrix is the best of all – we use it to allow staff in the far east to access information systems in NYC.

  9. oiaohm says:

    Robert Pogson my biggest reason for thin clients is power usage.

    Next followed by reduced license requirements.

    Person does not need to be issues like a copy of MS Office for there desktop, laptop ….. A person office can remain private yet there software licenses being used by a different person in a different office when they are not there.

    “Therefore, they try to invent a new paradigm”

    The paradigm is not new. Linux is returning to the Unix roots of many terminals around one mainframe. This is coming in the form of what is called zero clients. A new form of thin client that does not require any network configuration done to the client. Its just plug in and go and what ever zero client servers in the network appear as run options.

    Even better Nvidia is updating there closed source drivers on Linux to support this kind of running so yes full opengl on thin clients from Linux with closed or open source drivers.

    There are some other advantages noise fan on gpu and case fans in the server will not ruin gaming experience any more.

    Graphical interfaces will be just as simple to kick around a network as text terminals use to be.

    Current test ratios is 25 to 1. Yes 25 users to 1 server. This also allows physical access to hard-drives to be more restricted so reducing surface area attacker can steal data from.

    Interesting thing about zero client protocol is automatic server load balancing and fall over is designed in. So you have 50 users bring 2 servers on-line you can even have a third server running as N+1 that only gets used if one of the first 2 is missing. The protocol is so nice its not funny.

    MS supports zero client set-ups for education only and does not support applications needing 3d acceleration.

    Zero clients don’t need a bootstrapper. systemd currently supports usb connected Zero clients in multi seat configuration. So one machine 11 users. Network zero clients is when things get really good with fall over and everything else.

    So yes higher uptime than a desktop machine. Simpler maintenance for IT staff. Why all the client processing machines can be in one room. Higher secuirty same reason. Zero clients configuration is simply plug in and go. Network access authorisation determined by what port in network switch the Zero client is plugged into.

    Even more interesting is there are a few Zero clients that don’t require power points for the client device. They use POE for the Zero client so you only need a power point for the screen so you can fit more people into a building without needing more power points also the Zero clients can be sitting on one mother UPS in the server room. Yes Data loss reduction in case of power outage simpler.

    Really there are stacks of things against thick clients spread everywhere.

  10. Phenom wrote, “All these claims that thin clients will replace desktops always come from pro-Linux sources.”

    Everyone I know loves thin clients. They are simpler to maintain and just as effective for most tasks. In fact the user sees higher performance on a good server than a run-of-the-mill thick client.

    Even M$ sees the value of thin clients. They have the possibility of selling a server licence in addition to the client licence.

    In growth markets thin clients are almost the standard user interface to IT because they offer the most bang for the dollar. My largest roll-out of thin clients allowed my employer to buy a lot more hardware for the same budget. The growth markets are places where there aren’t enough PCs so thin clients are natural.

  11. Phenom says:

    It’s funny. All these claims that thin clients will replace desktops always come from pro-Linux sources.

    Obviously everyone in Loonland is aware that Linux on desktop lost against Windows and Mac. Therefore, they try to invent a new paradigm, where their wretched excuse for a desktop OS might stand a chance.

    What’s up, Pog? Debian reduced to a bootstrapper for a puny terminal. Sad, sad.

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