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 ?
The partnership between Ericom and Leostream enables IT to deploy VDI, terminal services and thin client computing, with confidence, knowing that their users will have a high-quality experience.
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They will also be hosting a free seminar, giving a plain-English overview of thin client computing and the business benefits of such technology.
Thin client computing does not require special servers, and advances in processing power and network robustness have allowed thin clients to proliferate.
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"Thin client computing brings new meaning to the phrase less is more," quips Christine Williams, director of engineering at Michigan Technical University.
While this column might read like "yesterday's technology, tomorrow," its aim is really to look at thin client computing from a different angle--that is, not only from the standpoint that thinner is healthier, but also that fat is unnecessary, more costly, and more burdensome.
It has the capabilities to build secure rapid development, feature-rich Web applications that embody the values of thin client computing - it is easy to deploy, provides centralized control and achieves a very low TCO.
It provides authorized personnel with personalized access to information and applications as well as the ability to secure thin client computing devices.
With the advent of thin client computing, it is desirable for packets of information sent out via intranet or internet to be as succinct and compact as possible.