Clients: Thick, thin and zero?


Clients: Thick, thin and zero?

In the world of virtualization, it seems every new concept in IT lately is an old concept reborn. The very idea of server virtualization that created this revolution in open systems IT has been used in mainframes for decades. Recently, the federal government has begun adopting a thin client approach to data processing, switching computing power from desktops to massive data centers. This trend brings back to mind mainframes and minicomputers of the 1970s and ’80s, in which most computing took place at centralized servers and workers’ machines were merely terminals processing basic input and output commands. What was old is new again.

Through thin and thick

Thin clients are computer terminals that contain no hard drives or other moving parts and only need operating systems to run local software. All other essential resources are hosted on servers. This makes thin clients easy to deploy, energy efficient, cheap to replace and dramatically lowers costs for agencies facing shrinking budgets.  Also, thin clients can be configured and managed remotely because virus scanning and software updates run on servers, providing an added benefit as more agencies go mobile as a result of the federal telework mandate.

But there are other end-point solutions to access the data centers. In contrast to thin clients, thick clients are less dependent on connectivity to central servers, allowing users to work offline and synchronize when access to the data center is restored. These clients are most useful for traveling users who have unreliable connectivity to the data center. It is important to note that these types of clients retain data on the end-point device, making it important to consider how that data is stored and secured.

‘Zero’ future for VDI?

Zero clients are similar to thin clients, except operating systems, including all software and drivers, are stored on servers. All computation is done through data centers with endpoints, requiring little to no management. Typical hardware includes a small box, which connects to a monitor, Ethernet, keyboard and mouse. When paired with virtual desktop infrastructure solutions, zero clients provide a quick and secure way to deliver applications. Zero clients barely use any power, with some running on as little as five watts. In addition, repair and replacement costs are lower than even thin clients. Ultimately, zero clients could save agencies, and taxpayers, money.

Who’s got your data?

Thick and thin clients automatically secure the data because it never leaves the secure confines of the servers. However, thick clients do retain copies of the desktop those users are accessing. This brings up the issue of data security if a mobile thick client is lost. VDI solutions such as VMware’s View offer FIPS validated EAS-128 encrypted local disk security measures that protect against lost end-point devices.

When adopting any of these virtualization models, government agencies need to examine short- and long-term needs, data security planning and their implementation strategy in order to achieve optimal results.

For more information, check out our VDI page, or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) directly. We are also talking about virtualization on Twitter and Facebook.

Image Courtesy of *ejk*

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