Thin Clients

Mark Haney mhaney at
Tue Oct 7 17:14:34 UTC 2008

Wade Smart wrote:
> 20081007 1112 GMT-6
> A school system local to me asked about the possibility of moving to 
> linux. Of course I talked that up right away. But then this older bloke 
> asked about setting up Thin Clients at each school and linking the 
> server from each school to the main server. I thought about it (on the 
> spot of course) and while it sounds good in theory, I personally dont 
> know if that would work OR if the overall benefits pan out.
> Im all for moving the schools to Ubuntu. The cost per seat alone is 
> almost worth it. But the thin client issue is a little hill I need some 
> help with.
> Someone with experience with this want to drop some input?
> Wade

This is a LARGE kettle of fish.  Thin Clients mean a lot of different 
things to a lot of different people.  I've done this for a health care 
company and I'll share what I know, I hope it helps.

The biggest problem you will see is bandwidth.  Unless you've got fiber 
run between the schools back to the CO (or high speed transport anyway) 
this will get hairy in a hurry.  (Nothing like alliteration, huh?)

If this is even going to be somewhat viable, you're better off having 
primary servers at each school for the clients to pull from.  Or you'll 
choke your internet bandwidth too much.  Even a remote X session, as 
thin as that might be can get heavy fast when running Firefox, 
Thunderbird, OpenOffice, etc.

Not to mention no single server will support that many clients.  It'll 
have to be a blade server cluster or server farm to pull that off.  The 
last setup I did I managed to get 12 thin clients to run off a 
fractional T1 (256K) but it wasn't always pretty.

This infrastructure will have to be rock solid.  If not, then no work 
can get done like it could with a full client desktop.  With a terminal 
server at each location, you can get away with upstream failures and 
still keep clients up and you won't push your internet bandwidth too far 
to support them, they will be all LAN traffic.

This does make things a little more complicated because each terminal 
server will need to be maintained, but that might be worth the cost of 
keeping life running smoothly while the internet is down.

You will REALLY REALLY need to do a major infrastructure analysis if you 
want everyone to connect to a farm or cluster at the CO.  Even then, I'm 
not sure I would want to take that on.  Too many things can go wrong 
that will tick off a lot of people when it does.

I've really only scratched the surface here, I'll be glad to discuss 
more off list if you want.

Libenter homines id quod volunt credunt -- Caius Julius Caesar

Mark Haney
Sr. Systems Administrator
ERC Broadband
(828) 350-2415

Call (866) ERC-7110 for after hours support

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