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
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)
Citrix Program Neighborhood Agent
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
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
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
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
that ensure trouble-free migration are near real-world testing and professional support.
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