Installing thin client components

A discussion of the newest browser-based thin-client technology features available in Citrix and Terminal Services.

Installing thin client components
Barrie Sosinsky

Thin-client technology has been around for a while. It connects the user to a remote server and runs all applications from that point. In the past, it required the installation of software on the user's desktop. Newer technology, however, promises to eliminate this last step. Vendors are releasing browser-based products that ensure no additional software need be installed by the end user. The newest products use either a Java applet, which installs classes on demand, or a Netscape Navigator or ActiveX browser plug-in. These are a boon to system administrators, because they do not need to maintain a locally installed client application that requires updating on a regular basis.

Both the native clients and the Web clients use the same or similar libraries that install components on demand. The downside is that a few megabytes of software will be installed on the local machine. In most instances, that is not difficult to live with. Depending upon an organization's needs, there appears to be something for everyone, even in an mixed environment. For example, for a site that uses Unix and Windows platforms both, there are excellent products such as Citrix Nfuse 1.5 (http://www.citrix.com/products/nfuse/default.asp) or Tarantella Enterprise 3 with the Windows Connectivity Pack http://www.tarantella.com/knowhow/e3/wcp/). They offer scalability and control over applications, servers, local users, and some services. Microsoft Windows 2000 offers Terminal Services Advanced Client or TSAC, which is a free download to Terminal Services clients. It is very easy to install and has ActiveX control components. Software prices in this product category range from $143 for a single user license to around $5000.00. Nfuse 1.5 and Tarantella Enterprise 3 support the Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator and native clients, and have good security features.

Some feature handy wizards for installation and setup, plus template interfaces so the product can be customized for an intranet. Citrix Nfuse offers some other customization feature such as Corporate Yahoo Portal integration, which allows companies to publish applications to an intranet Web site that uses the Yahoo Portal application. One called Hoblink JWT offers Hob Link Secure, which enables 128-bit encryption. Thin-client technology lets companies serve applications to graphical terminals much as that used with legacy mainframe technology. Because all screen data is sent over the network wire by specialized display protocols, thin clients may have noticeable refresh delays when using graphic-intensive applications. Thin clients may not be suited for every site but most will find one that is perfect and cost effective.


Barrie Sosinsky (barries@killerapps.com)is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.

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Related Book

Thin Clients : Web-Based Enterprise Computing, Delivering Information Over The Web
Author : Dawna Travis Dewire
Publisher : McGraw-Hill
Summary:
Written for systems designers, architects, and planners; IT managers; and systems development managers, this authoritative handbook provides thorough, clear, and up-to-date information on architecture from Netscape IIOP to ADSL, middleware, Internet technology, the World Wide Web, and Intranets--everything you need to know about this exciting, and increasingly essential, technology.


This was first published in June 2001

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