Thin Client vs Zero Client - Zero Clients Paving the way for Smart Clients?

Zero Clients / Thin Client vs. Zero Client - Thinlabs

Zero Clients

Not a Zero Sum Game for Today’s Enterprise Network

Zero clients were born in 2007 when a company called Teradici introduced an Integrated Circuit (IC) chip that compressed and decompressed data better than any technology previously.  Teradici built its unique technology chips into zero client hardware both on the server and client sides - the concept wasn’t fully embraced by the marketplace, however, and its hardware quickly disappeared from enterprise networks over the years.

The original zero client hardware, which didn’t use an operating system or software, ran on an underpowered CPU chipset and was limited to one or two connection protocols to exchange and transfer data. Teradici’s devices delivered limited connectivity through the PC-over-Internet Protocol (PCoIP).

PCoIP technology was seen as innovative for its time, but was strictly a hardware technology solution. The technology really didn’t take off until VMWare decided to purchase the rights to PCoIP and integrated the technology into its software several years ago. This allowed for the creation of more advanced and robust Smart Clients and the dramatic decline of limiting zero client hardware.

Today’s Smart Clients have progressed well beyond support for a simple PCoIP protocol, supporting multiple connections. These innovative devices support multiple desktop virtualization and network optimization protocols such as Power-over-Ethernet+ (PoE+), 2X Application Server XG, Citrix HDX, Citrix XenDesktop and Internal WiFi.  Smart Clients’ support for multiple protocols gives an IT administrator great flexibility to better centrally manage applications and data across an enterprise and better apply timely application updates.

While zero client hardware is still available from several manufacturers, newer Smart Clients, like those offered by Thinlabs, deliver greater value, performance and return-on-investment than the original zero clients.

The original zero clients operated with CPUs that were well below 1 GHz.  At the time, the original Teradici ran on a single 800 MHz processor.  Today’s smart clients take processing to a new level with advanced CPU technology.  For example, Thinlabs’ HELIOS is driven by 1.6 and 1.86 GHz Intel Dual Core Chipsets, allowing for the delivery of data across the network at over twice the speed of the original zero client hardware.

When it comes to thin client vs. zero client, it is also about the physical environment and users’ access to work space within that environment, in addition to network and system performance.  The sleek and powerful All-in-One design of today’s Smart Clients allow for seamless integration into a broad range of working environments, including remote locations and mobile operations. Smart clients from Thinlabs can be easily integrated into almost any workplace and are VESA-compatible for easy wall mounting.

Looking at the benefits of each, zero clients can severely limit the options available to IT administrators for leveraging the latest and future technologies and innovations.  For example, the limited number of connectivity options could potentially lock an organization into a particular vendor or technology severely restricting  one’s IT infrastructure from benefit from the latest technologies, such as cloud-computing and web-enabled solutions.

Smart clients have proven to provide the truest cost-effective desktop experience for users, while still giving IT administrators and departments complete control over desktop client management, maintenance and support. Smart clients offer superior centralized management, allowing for automatic system updates and management for groups of devices, versus the process of needing to manually managing individual devices from the user’s location, a time- and resource-consuming activity.

Smart clients are flexible and robust devices designed for the needs of the individual end-user and work environment, and are well-positioned to support the next generation of business applications currently on the market, or those programs and technologies that are in development or have yet to be discovered.  Smart clients also allow for applications such as browsers, email clients, PDF readers, graphics applications and Office applications to easily connect to legacy client servers and their applications.

With more and more things happening online in today’s society, application delivery is no exception.  The delivery of business applications through centralized enterprise servers within an organization or accessing them through web services has become more prevalent.  This has significantly streamlined and optimized organizations’ workflow and increased productivity. Smart clients are poised to best take advantage of the emerging web services models of application management and delivery.