I am appalled and disgusted by how expensive thin client devices are and how much they effort they are to manage. Unless you specifically need to watch videos on these things (which I guess applies to about 3% of the people who buy them), I think anyone who spends more than $15 on a thin client device is an absolute fool.
I have an alternate suggestion:
- Go to eBay and buy the cheapest used thin clients you can. (5 for $20, 3 for $13, etc.)
- As they come in the door, configure them to use DHCP and have them automatically connect to a published desktop called “desktop” using a DNS name server location called “citrix.”
Users turn these things on and they immediately connect to a published desktop on a Citrix Presentation Server. Upon logging on, Program Neighborhood Agent software on the server drops icons for various application on the remote desktop. ICA Passthrough (which works very well and does NOT negatively affect performance) can be used to make a double-hop connection to the applications on its own silos. (Or if you don’t have a siloed environment then simply have the thin clients run published desktops on member Citrix servers.)
That’s all there is to it. No management. No client viruses. No additional firmware management software to learn. No client-side settings that will ever need to be reconfigured. While this idea sounds crazy at first, I challenge you to find something wrong with it? Seriously... what’s wrong with this idea?
New thin client devices from the big vendors are expensive. The “manageable” ones just introduce another management application into the lives of overworked admins. This is a total sham. These new “features” the thin client vendors talk about are mainly ways to keep themselves in business. (XP Embedded? Local Media Player? 256MB of RAM? Do we really need this to run Outlook?)
Any late 1990s-era Windows-based terminal that runs Windows CE 2.12 will be fine in today’s environment. You can pay a high school kid a few dollars an hour to receive the new devices and use Google to figure out how to configure the firmware for DHCP and the default auto connection.
So seriously, what’s wrong with this? Some people have suggested:
“But you can’t manage these devices”
So what? What is there to manage? They’re freaking thin client devices. Who says we have to manage them? Do I need to update firmware? No. I just need them to run ICA. They use DHCP and locate their servers based on DNS. That will never need to change which means you don’t need to manage them. The only reason you need to manage new thin clients is because they’re bloated and break too much or weren't configured properly in the first place.
“But you can’t put the newest ICA software on them?”
So what? Why do I need ICA 8 or 9? For the past 7 years ICA has supported 24-bit color and plenty of resolution. What else do you need?
“But you can only run one session”
So what? I’m connecting to a desktop tier (which I can manage and is the level at which I want to manage my environment).
“But this is just wrong!”
No, paying $500 for a thin client device that requires management software and can get infected by worms is wrong.
“But they won’t have the same performance as new thin client devices.”
Performance for what? Word? Outlook? Guess what? They were good enough for ICA sessions in 1998 and they’re still good enough today. Even though the applications have become bigger, pixels are still pixels as far as the thin clients are concerned.
“But these things are old, used, and have no warranty.”
Yeah, there are also unlimited supplies of them and they cost $6 shipped. Buy extras.
“But my rep from <thin client vendor X> won’t invite me to the golf outing next year.”
Take the money you save on thin client hardware and the time you spend on management and buy everyone in your IT department a new set of clubs and a country club membership.
Seriously, look on eBay right now. (Dig deep. Sort by price.) If you ever spend more than $15 for a thin client device then you’re a fool.
Don’t be bamboozled!