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Thin clients or blade pcs?

Posted on 2007-12-02
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Last Modified: 2013-11-21
I'm a one man IT shop looking to initially replace 25 out of our 65 desktops. The users are mainly order entry using our ERP system and Microsoft Office with Outlook. I am thinking about using Windows 2003 terminal server with WYSE thin clients or moving to something like ClearCube blade pcs.  Citrix might also be an option. I am trying to increase security, make manging users easier, and increase desktop workspace. I have read quite a lot but I'm trying to get some actual feedback.
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Question by:quahitis
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by:cgordon81
ID: 20392286
I would steer you away from thin clients or blade pc's from a cost perspective.  From a management perspective they're awesome, and they move the managmenet away from the desktop computer itself.  If your a one man IT shop this could save you a boatload of time.  Clearcube has some great options with being able to reallocate machines upon some types of failure i understand.  I was told by a clearcube rep the TCO is about 1.25 of a traiditional desktop pc.  This of course also depends on what type of machines you've been buying or will buy.  Licensing still will cost you remember, so if you go to something like cloearcube, each blade itself needs a host OS, and i think the max they reccomend is 4 users to a blade.  So your licensing cost will go up there, you'll need 5 os's for four users and the host OS should be Windows Server not XP.  Citrix is good and i've used it, although the latency irritates some users in slow network enviornments.  Make sure you have great wiring (cat 5e Prefferably Cat 6 though), switches (definitley want managed switches), take the time to setup some QOS, and really test line quality before you go into any thin client, or clearcube, or citrix solutions.  What kind of environment are you working in, is this an office, shop, retail store, warehouse?  Just curious as clearcube's solution is very well suited to dirty and dusty enviornments.
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by:quahitis
ID: 20392357
Thanks for the quick response. This is an office environment but a few systems will be deployed in our warehouse at a later date. I'm currently runing HP ProCurve manage switches with Cat 5e cabling. We are looking purchasing Dell Optiplex 330s if we do not go with another solution. I can see the beneift of Clearcube in some situations but from the sound of it we might be better off with something else.  My main task is to make manging clients easier. What are your thoughts on using a terminal server and thin client devices?
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by:greymirror
ID: 20392638
The only thing with thin clients is to make sure you have a backup server. Otherwise, as soon as the server goes down, your users can't do anything... And your lost user productivity will cost the company quite a bit.
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by:greymirror
ID: 20392642
ok. not the *only* thing. But something to think about from experience.
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by:quahitis
ID: 20393400
I'm thinking about going with dual Dell 2950s with quad cores and 8GB of ram each and the users will be using a WYSE thin client device. The users will need to access the following:

Sage Pro ERP
Office 2k3 - Word,Excel, and Outlook
Internet Explorer 7
iSynergy - web based document imaging and workflow
Fax Client

Do you think this would be an ok setup? What is the best method to load balance the servers?
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Cláudio Rodrigues earned 500 total points
ID: 20393594
Using 8GB on TS is a waste, unless you go 64-bit, what is not still mainstream mainly because of driver issues and non-64 bits applications. The typical, best bang for the buck scenario for Terminal Services is still a dual-CPU box (could be two dual cores) with 4GB of RAM running Windows Server 2003 Standard, 32-bits. Given its price, you simply keep adding such boxes for redundancy purposes. And when you compare to machines with 8GB or 16GB RAM you cannot beat their price.
You must start with 2 TSs at least for redundancy and have them load balanced. The solution you will use really depends on what you want, budget and so on. Please read these two articles I wrote on load balancing:
http://www.msterminalservices.org/articles/Load-Balancing-Terminal-Services-Part1.html
http://www.msterminalservices.org/articles/Load-Balancing-Terminal-Services-Part2.html

Someone mentioned Citrix. Although it is a very nice add-on for TS, it has a very high price and nowadays there are many other alternatives that not only offer pretty much all Citrix features but at a much lower price. Read these other articles:
http://www.msterminalservices.org/articles/Citrix-Not-Citrix.html
http://www.msterminalservices.org/articles/Third-Party-add-ons-need-them.html

In terms of cost, blade PCs and VDIs are still in their infancy and cannot beat TS. TS wins hands down in costs and total cost per user. For thin client terminals there are many options out there and prices do vary a lot. I would recommend you steering away from any model with Linux. Make sure you get at least Windows CE or XP Embedded. The reason for that is the Linux ones have an open source, reverse engineered RDP client (RDesktop) and today, almost 5 years since RDP5.2 was out, they still do not support all RDP features. With RDP6 now out of the door (ready for Windows Server 2008) if you want to avoid headaches, do not use the Linux based ones.

Hope this helps.

Claudio Rodrigues
Microsoft MVP
Windows Server - Terminal Services
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Author Comment

by:quahitis
ID: 20393629
Thanks for all the valuable input! What is your view on using blade servers for terminal services?
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by:Cláudio Rodrigues
ID: 20393674
Blade servers are for sure a good alternative. The main thing is still cost. You cannot beat the 1U pizza boxes. Depending on your particular requirements (physical space, power requirements, etc) Blades may be the best option. And of course it all depends how big this environment will grow.
As an example right now I am working on a 50,000 concurrent users TS environment. At the end we will have over 1,000 servers. Could not be done without Blades.
Does it mean I would use Blades everywhere? Nope.
For a 2-10 TS environment I am almost certain I would stick to the 1U pizza boxes.
Love Pizza man. ;-)

Claudio Rodrigues
Microsoft MVP
Windows Server - Terminal Services
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Author Comment

by:quahitis
ID: 20393754
Thanks for the input. Now I'm thinking 2 Dell 1950s with W2K3 Standard, dual quads, 4GB ram, and 2X load balancer sounds like a much better solution. I love pizza too!!
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