Thin Clients Still Make Sense

“Organisations which continue to operate older PCs and notebooks as software thin clients can make a valuable contribution to protecting the climate and also make savings over the full life cycle of their devices

the production of the devices was responsible for a high proportion of the CO2e emissions. Conversely this means that simply continuing to use older devices as logical thin clients makes a significant contribution to protecting the climate since it prevents and/or defers the production of new devices.”
See: software thin clients are both climate and wallet-friendly
Yes, besides offering the performance of new server hardware to users of older PCs, thin clients save a ton of money as well as CO2 emissions. There’s no downside for thin clients except full-screen video. Extending the life of older PCs by years using them as thin clients does throw away the benefits of Moore’s Law in using less energy with lower CPU and RAM energy consumption in use but trades that for the immense energy cost of producing a new PC. The old days of replacing PCs every ~3 years was obscenely expensive. Decent PCs can be used for a decade or more as thin clients. That’s the right thing to do for most of us hunting and pecking away.

I recommend using Debian GNU/Linux on both the server and the thin clients. Thus you get away from That Other OS and it’s licensing burden, malware, slowing down, complexity, etc.

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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2 Responses to Thin Clients Still Make Sense

  1. ram wrote, ” when we have some heavy rendering to do, the whole thing gets fired up (around 3000 cores now!) for absolutely no lack of computing power”.

    I realized that around 2004 when I first became a computer-teacher. I was standing at the front of a lab full of 30 PCs with tons of RAM, storage and computing power hopelessly divided by That Other OS yet able to leap to any task under GNU/Linux. One of the pillars of Wintel was to keep the individual user/customer dependent and isolated, unable to choose better IT and unable to get the best value from the hardware in house. That lab used to take one student’s work and throw it away every class. That lab used to share data at 10 mbits/s speed on 100mbits/s hardware. GNU/Linux changed all that. I had students assemble PCs from parts they obtained competitively. I had students write software. I had students set up servers in minutes. All that was thanks to GNU/Linux which made everything possible within the budget and in short times of acquisition. I gave that lab a server because with GNU/Linux the school did not have to pay M$ for permission to use hardware, cutting the price in half. That was when I realized that thin clients were the future. Investing less in PCs and more in servers allowed all that hardware to be able to do more without network-lag, less power-consumption and higher speeds. A decade later everyone and their dog knows this, except M$’s fanbois.

  2. ram says:

    Linux boxen can also be easily clustered. If you need more compute power, just add (or turn on) more boxes. In my company we seldom operate the entire Linux cluster at once. Sometimes a single client device is enough (say for a simple office task), more often for media creation work we fire up a “mini-cluster” (a branch or set of nodes of the main cluster). Now and then, when we have some heavy rendering to do, the whole thing gets fired up (around 3000 cores now!) for absolutely no lack of computing power 🙂

    It uses some older, less energy efficient, hardware, but we still keep total energy use down by only turning on what we think we are going to need that day. The process is a bit “manual”, but it works!

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