thin client

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thin client

Computing a computer on a network where most functions are carried out on a central server

thin client

(networking)
A simple client program or hardware device which relies on most of the function of the system being in the server.

Gopher clients, for example, are very thin; they are stateless and are not required to know how to interpret and display objects much more complex than menus and plain text. Gopher servers, on the other hand, can search databases and provide gateways to other services.

By the mid-1990s, the model of decentralised computing where each user has his own full-featured and independent microcomputer, seemed to have displaced a centralised model in which multiple users use thin clients (e.g. dumb terminals) to work on a shared minicomputer or mainframe server. Networked personal computers typically operate as "fat clients", often providing everything except some file storage and printing locally.

By 1996, reintroduction of thin clients is being proposed, especially for LAN-type environments (see the cycle of reincarnation). The main expected benefit of this is ease of maintenance: with fat clients, especially those suffering from the poor networking support of Microsoft operating systems, installing a new application for everyone is likely to mean having to physically go to every user's workstation to install the application, or having to modify client-side configuration options; whereas with thin clients the maintenance tasks are centralised on the server and so need only be done once.

Also, by virtue of their simplicity, thin clients generally have fewer hardware demands, and are less open to being screwed up by ambitious lusers.

Never one to miss a bandwagon, Microsoft bought up Insignia Solutions, Inc.'s "NTRIGUE" Windows remote-access product and combined it with Windows NT version 4 to allow thin clients (either hardware or software) to communicate with applications running under on a server machine under Windows Terminal Server in the same way as X had done for Unix decades before.

thin client

A client machine that relies on the server to perform the data processing. Either a dedicated thin client terminal or a regular PC with thin client software is used to send keyboard and mouse input to the server and receive screen output in return. The thin client does not process any data; it processes only the user interface (UI). The benefits are improved maintenance and security due to central administration of the hardware and software in the datacenter.

The architecture harks back to the early days of centralized mainframes and minicomputers. In the 1970s and 1980s, a user's machine was a terminal that processed only input and output. All data processing was performed in a centralized server.

There are three ways thin clients are used. The first two are traditional thin clients, processing only the user interface (UI), and the third is a variation that processes the data.

#1 - Shared Services (UI Processing)
Using shared terminal services software such as Windows Terminal Services, Windows Remote Desktop Services or Citrix XenApp, users share the operating system and applications in the server with all other users at thin client stations. Although presented with their own desktop, users do not have the same flexibility as they do with their own PC and are limited to running prescribed applications and simple tasks such as creating folders and shortcuts. See Terminal Services, Remote Desktop Services and Citrix XenApp.

In the following illustrations, the lines show the conceptual flow of data between the clients and servers. In reality, all clients and servers are wired to a local network switch.


A True Thin Client
Without a doubt, this is the only absolutely bona fide thin client on the market!




#2 - Desktop Virtualization (UI Processing)
Using products such as VMware Desktop Manager (VDM), the VDI component in Remote Desktop Services and Citrix XenDesktop, each user's desktop (OS and applications) resides in a separate partition in the server called a "virtual machine" (VM). Users are essentially presented with their own PC, except that it physically resides in a remote server in the datacenter. They can modify the desktop and add applications like they could with their own PC ("fat client"). For details on the virtual machine architecture, see virtual machine. See Remote Desktop Services, Citrix XenDesktop, VMware and desktop virtualization.


A True Thin Client
Without a doubt, this is the only absolutely bona fide thin client on the market!




#3 - Browser Based (Data Processing)
This approach uses ordinary PCs connected to the Internet, and applications are executed in the Web browser. Although the user's machine does the data processing, it is thin client computing, because the software and data are retrieved from the network. Very little, if anything, is stored locally. If users spend most of their time running Web apps, they are doing thin client computing whether they have a fully loaded PC or not.

Web-based email is the most ubiquitous example of browser-based processing, and Web-based productivity applications such as G Suite and Zoho are also extremely popular (see SaaS). In some cases, copies of the data can be stored locally, but the software scripts that download into the user's browser last for only the current session. Years ago, this was the approach of the "network computer," which failed due to ever diminishing prices of PCs (see network computer). Google's Chromebook is also an example of browser-based thin client computing (see Chromebook).


A True Thin Client
Without a doubt, this is the only absolutely bona fide thin client on the market!




A True Thin Client
Without a doubt, this is the only absolutely bona fide thin client on the market!
References in periodicals archive ?
A Presentation Layer that doesn't use a network at all may have to be created, but instead a Presentation Client that is nothing more than an application that inns on the same computer as the ULM Manager could be developed.
A sampling of these includes: support for Oracle databases; Entera and DCE middleware components; HP/UX, Open VMS, and IBM AIX client/server platforms; as well as support for several presentation clients including Visual Basic, PowerBuilder, Visual C++, CGI, and Java, to name a few.