How to successfully implement thin clients

How to successfully implement thin clients. The platform for successful thin client rollout is solid planning, thorough evaluation under real-world te...
Author: Merryl Robinson
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How to successfully implement thin clients. The platform for successful thin client rollout is solid planning, thorough evaluation under real-world test conditions, and well designed pilot projects.

Generally, planning errors do not become evident until actual operation begins. This applies just as much to the rollout of thin client infrastructures as to any migration project, particularly if implementation extends across departmental and location boundaries. To avoid blunders that can destroy budgets and wreck schedules during product rollout, companies need to follow a few basic rules.

Administrators also need to specify the required security level. For example, special security functions such as support for PKI or Smartcards may be needed.

Infrastructure, software and peripherals Key specifications for thin client selection also depend on the network infrastructure. Some examples of questions relating to infrastructure include — - if a VPN is operated, are DSL connections required? - is a wireless LAN needed? - is there a need to support special technologies such as

Step 1: Define requirements It is essential to clarify exact requirements before implementing a thin client solution. Identification of goals with clear deadlines makes it easy to check whether rollout has been successful. Some key aspects to consider are:

Sessions, administration, security

Token Ring? It is also necessary to determine the available/required bandwidth and how to best use it. For example, the packet sizes of the MTU (Maximum Transmission Unit) must be taken into consideration in VPN networks. If the specified packet size is marginally exceeded, a second packet is generated and, in extreme situations, this can lead to a doubling of the required bandwidth. Customers must consider the number of

First, it is necessary to clarify the type and number of

existing or required servers, their hardware characteristics,

sessions planned run on the thin clients. This determines,

and special user requirements.

among other things, which communications protocols are used. For example, Microsoft® RDP, Citrix ICA or the X11R6

Which standard applications and, more importantly, which

protocol, or the NoMachine NX protocol for UNIX/Linux

vertical or specialized applications are to be made available

environments. It will be helpful to clarify if terminal emulation

subsequently via thin clients? Are these applications already

is required for access to host applications. Terminal emulation

available in a terminal server compatible version, or is costly

solutions permit consolidation of several terminal devices

porting required?

such as workstation PCs and host terminals. Central administration has a major impact on administration costs and on savings that can be made. Here are examples of questions that administrators can use to plan the implementation: How efficient and operator-friendly is the supplied administration software? What‘s the price/ performance ratio? Should an existing, alternative third-party solution be used for reasons of synergy – Altiris, for example?

Clarification of project goals and the thin client operating environment Issues relating to basic requirements:: 1. Sessions: number and type 2. Central management 3. Security level

Customers can leverage some of the IGEL implementation

4. Network infrastructure

tools to help speed up rollout. Functions such as Buddy

5. Available/required servers

Update or Partial Update for thin clients running Windows® XP Embedded reduce administrative overhead. When

6. User requirements

compared to Windows® CE or Linux, the tools help update

7. Required peripherals

more extensive Windows® XP Embedded firmware faster with

8. Special requirements (logos, colors, etc.)

sparing use of network bandwidth.


Table 1: Digital services according to category



Communications protocols and add-ons

Citrix ICA, Microsoft® RDP, X11R6, NoMachine NX, XDMCP, ThinLinc, Sun Secure Global Desktop (Tarantella)


Cisco VPN Client (Virtual Private Network), supported by PPTP (VPN), Smartcard, Aladdin eToken, Kobil myIdentity


VDI Client (e.g. from Leostream for accessing VMware visualization solutions), ICA 10 (access to Citrix Desktop Server)

Host access

Terminal emulations

SAP access


Application delivery

Citrix Program Neighborhood Agent

Print services

Thin Client as print server, ThinPrint Client (bandwidth-optimized printing)

Firmware-internal applications (bandwidth optimization)

Browsers: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, etc.

Firmware-internal applications / plug-ins (bandwidth optimization)

Java Runtime Environment, Acrobat Reader, .NET Runtime Environment


Microsoft® Media Player, MPlayer, Real Player, Flash Player, Macromedia Shockwave

IP telephony

VoIP (SIP Client)

It is also necessary to check which digital services, need to

Step 2: Realistic model evaluation

be integrated into the firmware of the thin clients (see Table

Once all requirements have been determined, they must be

1). The term „digital services“ covers, for example, additional

matched to the features of the thin clients. An initial test setup

functions such as media streaming, IP telephony via VoIP and

with several selected models generally identifies one, two or

headset, print server functionality, SAP GUI or terminal

three favorites. A decision matrix helps evaluate the devices.

emulations for direct host access, as well as frequently

A realistic test environment will ensure a smooth rollout.

involved programs such as browsers or plug-ins. Customers

Business-critical applications should be subjected to the

are also relying on digital services for access to desktop

most stringent tests. „Laboratory testing“ can be followed by

virtualization solutions (e.g. VDI Client for VMware or ICA 10

a further test phase. By involving end-users, companies can

and higher for Citrix Desktop Server). All peripherals (and their

cater to all requirements and expectations and ensure that

interfaces) to be addressed by the thin clients must also be

the system is tuned. If possible, users should work with the

taken into account. Examples of these are keyboards and

new devices for several days. This should reveal potential

mice with a PS/2 or USB port, printers with a USB or parallel

faults and problems. The entire test phase benefits greatly

port, monitors with a VGA or DVI interface, etc.

from all-round assistance by the vendor upon request, the vendor should also carry out customer-specific modifications

Customers can also consider additional requirements such as

to firmware, such as integrating certain device drivers or

multi-display or multi-user scenarios. Examples from the

software clients.

realm of CI are logos or corporate colors for cabinets, boot process, screen saver, or desktop background.


Thorough testing and pilot operation pay off by generating savings!

Provision of a feedback loop If the pilot phase gives rise to new requirements, it is advisable to include them in a repeat evaluation instead of

Step 3: Pilot phase and rollout

delaying the rollout schedule. Any new requirements must

Larger rollouts should be preceded by „pilot operation“

first be evaluated. In a further evaluation phase, it is then

following on from the test phase. A pilot operation is justified

necessary to decide on the best form of implementation and

for a customer with more than 50 devices, or those with

to select appropriate devices. As a rule, vendors offer a

distributed locations. Qualified employees are crucial to the

variety of performance classes with different equipment

success of the pilot phase and rollout. Internal and external

levels. If the change to the requirements profile affects only

members of the project team must have appropriate training

some workplaces, these can be equipped with devices of a

and be able to resolve standard problems quickly. It is also

higher performance class.

advisable to keep a few devices in reserve. A guide figure is five to ten percent of the number of devices to be installed.

Faster is better

This ensures that faulty devices (damaged in transport, for

If rollout speed is a key criterion in thin client selection, a pre-

example) can be replaced. If fewer replacement devices than

configuration option should be available. In other words,

expected are needed during rollout, they can be installed at

device configuration is planned and defined before the

the end of rollout. Servers and the network infrastructure

devices are installed. This can be done using profile-based

should be functioning perfectly before final move is made to

management tools. Workplaces are then immediately

production operation. Otherwise, there is a risk in terms of

available for use once the pre-configured devices have been

employee acceptance.

set up and connected. This substantially reduces the costs and time needed for rollout--a benefit to companies who want to expand quickly or for those who need to be flexible in terms of location.

Figure: Recommended project workflow


Good planning is half the roll out Example: IGEL Remote Management

The cleaner the roll out plan and the better the support from the vendor, the less problematic the roll out will be. Whoever has done his homework, has practical know-how in the

IGEL Technology thin clients can be configured in

background, and has tested as realistically as possible, will

advance using the free IGEL Remote Management

enjoy a problem-free thin client implementation.

Suite administration software, and then put into service within a matter of minutes. Customers can also save time by importing the device parameters

Good planning is half the implementation battle

into the Remote Management software by means of CSV lists containing the MAC addresses of the

Smooth rollout calls for detailed planning and all-round assistance by the vendor or systems house. Further aspects

thin clients.

that ensure trouble-free migration are near real-world testing and professional support.

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