thin client

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thin client

Computing a computer on a network where most functions are carried out on a central server
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005

thin client

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.
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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.

Shared Services
Using shared terminal services software, all users have their own desktop but share the same OS and apps in the server. Users are limited to running prescribed applications and simple tasks such as creating folders and shortcuts. See Terminal Services, Remote Desktop Services and Citrix XenApp.

Desktop Virtualization
Each user's desktop (OS and apps) resides in a separate partition called a "virtual machine" (VM). Users are presented with their own PC, except that it physically resides in a server in the datacenter. For more on the VM 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 bona fide thin client on the market!
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References in periodicals archive ?
Thin-client shipments in EMEA went up by 8.8%, year on year,
Wyse was once a competitor with Dell, and sported a logo with the moniker "no PC" to describe some of its thin-client products, said Tom Mainelli, research director for mobile connected devices at IDC.
Although the technology behind thin-clients differs from a traditional "fat client" configuration, the user experience is identical.
Companies that use thin-client networks can cut overall costs by 44 to 48 percent compared to the use of PCs with a software distribution system," said Christian Knermann, a Fraunhofer IT expert.
By moving to a thin-client architecture with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop on 2,000 machines, Windsor Unified School District in California is reducing its hardware costs by 75 percent and software costs by nearly 95 percent.
-- Develop and deploy thin-client rich Internet applications using pure Java J2EE standards-compliant technologies and tools;
Thin-client solutions can be particularly useful for association management, since they can be operated from anywhere: office, home, or meeting sites.
"We have worked carefully to build the most advanced and affordable terminals that enable our customers to easily implement a secure thin-client solution," explained Joe Makoid, President, Devon IT.
"By carefully studying our customers' usage patterns and history of attacks, we were able to bring thin-client security to an even higher level by developing a state-of-the-art firewall, MaxDefense, which delivers unmatched security without degrading performance or usability.
The next phase resulted in the expansion of the backbone infrastructure to include terminal servers and implement thin-client technology and LCD displays.
The idea behind thin-client computing is simple: Centralize computing power, storage, applications and data on servers, then provide users with an inexpensive "client"; an easily installed device with all maintenance and updates handled from the server.