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BSF Thread, Thin client performance in BSF schools in United Kingdom (UK) Specific Forums; Originally Posted by Butuz You can't fight the tide - the tide is going to be for computer systems to ...
  1. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by Butuz View Post
    You can't fight the tide - the tide is going to be for computer systems to need less and less technical support, ideally computer systems should run like a TV. Turn on, do what you want, turn off. End of. No need for technical support. Will we get there? Not for 10+ years. But we will get there.
    Oh, exactly...

    Servers will mount themselves in racks, cables will plug themselves in, workstations and thin client access devices will connect automatically, fibre optic cables will run themselves in buildings and self-terminate, devices with moving parts such as printers and hard disks will repair themselves, keyboards will grow new keys automatically when damaged or vandalised, and all upgrades will be handled virtually ...

    I don't think it is bossman who is living in a dream world here.

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    bossman (12th June 2009)

  3. #32
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    Amazing how this thread has evolved. It seems to have gone from a single school implementing an inhouse thin client solution, to a county (country?) wide solution coming from a Data farm based in another continent!

    There will ALWAYS be a need for technical support, TVs still need repairing afterall

    Plus, as technicial support, I have to teach people how to use the software, and how to get the best out of the hardware they are using. Plus there are always printers, scanners, projectors and other aspects of the job which a thin client won't touch.

    From my, basic, understanding, it comes down to points of failure doesn't it? If you are completely reliant on that one connection to the server farm, and that connection is cut/damaged/slow/unreliable then you risk losing everything. Is that something that LEAs, or individual schools, would be happy with? Whose responsibility would it be if the server farm burned down, taking all the data with it? Without even a server onsite, a school would be at the complete mercy of whichever company has the contract.

    But I have yet to try thin client (trials start next week!), but those were my thoughts...

  4. #33

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    @Butuz:

    I have never been looking for a job for life and just to prove that I have had at least 10 different jobs in my working lifetime, having been made redundant 6 times over a period of 34 years that equates to a little over 5 years per job and I have never been out of work for all this period.

    As for the miners I was actually living at a place called Grimethorpe near Barnsley in Yorkshire when the strikes were on and to see Brothers and Fathers fighting each other was so sickening that for a while I completely lost faith in the human race.

    Time stops for no man but what good is a country with no work which is not producing anything.

    Don't know how old you are young man but you have quite a long way to go before you reach my age so watch your future as mine is coming to an end and I won't be too bothered but you may want to have a family or own nice things but if your not working cos everything is outsourced then how will you do this because as you have said "no-one has a job for life".

    "Technology does not solve everything, it just helps us to make mistakes a lot quicker"
    I have read that somewhere but cannot remember now.

    Have a good life young man and don't be too hasty to run down that path.

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    webman (12th June 2009)

  6. #34
    Butuz's Avatar
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    Hey I did not mean to offend Bossman, yes my post was a bit flippant but I was in a mass rush. Appologies for that.

    I am just saying things as I see them. Yes TV's still need the TV repair man.... or do they? (either tv's need one repair every 5 years, or the TV is simply scrapped?)

    Yes, servers are not going to install themselves. But I think in the future, each school won't need masses of servers (if any), each school won't need massses of unreliable fat clients, each school will not need multiple technical support staff full time. Systems will just work most of the time (a'la TV), if a server fails in a datacentre, Vmotion brings it back up on another server within a couple of seconds, if a thin client fails (has anyone actually had a thin client fail???) within minutes another can be put in its place, the desktop will be presented back to the user intact as they left it.

    Of course, the datacentre is a weak link, the connection between the school and the datacentre is a weaker link.. But let's not forget that 10-15 years ago, barely any schools had a leased line, and I was a seriously quick internet user at home on my 64k ISDN, now, most schools have a leased line, even primaries, and I get annoyed if i cant get a 10Meg connection at home. In 15 years time, schools will have at worst, single very fast reliable connections, at best, multiple redundant connections.

    I just think in this thread that some people are fighting the technology far too much. you'll lose that fight, for sure.

    And yes I am quite young (ish)

    Butuz

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    @Butuz:

    With age comes resilience young man and nothing you have said has offended me, quite the opposite made me titter as I remember when I was your age and the world was "my oyster" well that little thought was quickly erased when my first job was working on trawlers fishing for cod off the Icelandic coast which gave me incredible faith in my workmates who you had to rely on for your life.

    What mankind always needs is companionship whether that be male or female not technology.

    Thin client technology was a big thing of the past in the eighties as Broc would tell you as he worked for IBM and then it moved full circle to fat clients again. It is not always in the best interest of the business and sometimes can cause major concern as like British Gas who having outsourced their business IT infrastructure, lost a third of it's business within 2 years and are now sueing the outsourcing company.

    Go in peace my young man and "don't look a gift horse in the mouth"

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    webman (12th June 2009)

  9. #36

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    The IT industry like many others is in a continual state of evolution, and from time to time 're-invents' itself. Thin client is nothing new, it is something that has come & gone several times over the last 30 years as the underlying technology has changed. I have seen several thin client technologies come & go...... I am old enough to have worked with most of them

    I don't think there is much mileage to be gained by having an all out thin vs fat 'war' argued by zealots in both camps; there are many situations where they can & should co-exist, in the same way as I feel that we should not have arguments about everything wired vs everything wireless. They are all complementary technologies.

    What is absolutely key with any form of client is the need for robust, reliable, and fast communications. I think we can all agree on this. I think we might also agree that there are some applications that are more suited to 'fat' workstation technology, things like video editing & rendering, graphics etc. I agree wholeheartedly that 'bread & butter' applications like Internet browsing, basic office tasks like wordprocessing are well within the capabilities of even quite modest thin client technology, as long as the network is available and has capacity.

    In a well financed business environment, coping with changing technology is rarely be an issue, however the same cannot be said for schools, especially those BSF schools who will be starved of investment in the years that follow their transition to a managed service. They will be at the mercy of the LAs, the MSPs who are following their own agenda......

    Apart from pruning support costs, another way the MSP can cut costs would be to spend less on capacity for expansion, resilience, backup capacity, and hardware redundancy. I worry that these are all areas that will end up crippling BSF schools ......

    On the subject of support costs; the discussion thread quite rightly pointed out that thin clients & server farms have the potential to lower support costs, but not much discussion has taken place about end-user support. A far larger part of my schools support resource is soaked up helping end users, (advising SMT, turning their ideas into reality, assisting staff & students with training) than is spent fixing client problems. This whole area frequently gets overlooked (conveniently) when it comes to BSF too....

    Sorry, didn't intend to turn this into yet another BSF thread. I think BSF is great... honest ....

  10. 3 Thanks to broc:

    bossman (12th June 2009), Butuz (12th June 2009), webman (12th June 2009)

  11. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by webman View Post
    This is all well and good; but I can see two pretty big problems, and that lies with the WAN link between your thin client terminals and your data centre. When it fails or performs sub-optimally, the school loses everything - curriculum, admin, communications - the lot. Even worse - if the data centre itself fails (or its section of the WAN), then schools in the whole county lose everything.
    What point is there to having local applications if your data is all central? I'd see each school having a centrally managed data cache that trickle feeds data back to the data centre. This way most of the recent data is accessed locally at local speeds but its still backed up centrally. Only the changes need be sent minimising the impact on the WAN links. Most Virtual environments support some form of "cloud" load balacing and remote management so there should be nothing stopping each school having its own thin client server on site. This gives some capacity for data and applications on site at all times. When demand is high processing power for applications is borrowed from the data centre to support the additional users.

    Quote Originally Posted by webman View Post
    It also makes for a pretty large attack vector. It only takes one vulnerability to potentially leak a whole lot of data to the outside world, or let a whole lot of viruses/trojans affect the whole network, again - potential to take down the whole LEA education infrastructure.
    But you put it all in one place and spend serious money on getting the security correct in one location rather than distributing it and never having enough resources for one site let alone all of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bossman View Post
    @Butuz:

    Not aimed at offending anyone but where does it stop in the name of saving money or a reverse way of profiteering at the cost of peoples jobs and lives.

    Eventually where will this country of ours end up if we don't produce anything and give away all our services to other countries?
    What will our poor people do to make ends meet.
    I think many people see this as a cost saving excercise. I'm sincerly hoping its not as case of "how cheaply can we educate the future citizens of this country" and that its an excercise in efficiency enabling schools to have IT services that are accessible, reliable and with good performance. That will allow IT support staff to support school staff in their USE of ICT, not just in fixing faults. If schools/LEAs get this right and are able to split the current IT tech roles into an "infrastructure and services" role and a "user support" role (as most large organisations have) then the whole lot becomes a lot more efficient. You're not asking a CCNE how to make text bold in MS Word or to turn on a projector and your not expecting your new "toner monkey" straight out of college to install and configure a Sharepoint services based VLE and deliver training on it. Those that want to look after the hardware will have much better chance of progression in a large centralised service than in a school and those that thrive on helping users on a one to one basis or on providing IT software training get the free time (with no servers to fix) that gives them satisfaction too.

    IF we get it right it shoudl be better for all.

    Why do I keep using that word IF?

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    Butuz (12th June 2009)

  14. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by broc View Post
    but not much discussion has taken place about end-user support. A far larger part of my schools support resource is soaked up helping end users, (advising SMT, turning their ideas into reality, assisting staff & students with training) than is spent fixing client problems. This whole area frequently gets overlooked (conveniently) when it comes to BSF too....
    Just imagine if as a User Support ICT Techncian you could be booked out to assist in classes or in training staff. You could create those video resources thes school needs or set up a flash animation for the display screens we'll all be getting or help in the schools recording studio or design new content for the website. Or you could write a database or show someone how to use mail merge and cut the time it takes them to run their reports. Just imagine you could do all that without having to worry whether the servers will be up, or the backups are working or the Internet cache has failed or the warranty on your laptops needs renewing.

    Just imagine if as BSF IT Service support technician you could turn up to work to reconfigure the Cisco switches that you'd just been trained up on and your dream of becoming a specialist network engineer was now true or that the server farm you'd just installed was now providing services 5 schools and today you were going to add another 16TB of iSCSI SAN storage. Just imagine if you could do this without having to unjam the lables from the photocopier, AGAIN!, or explain the funtion of the power button having been called half the length of the building in response to a "the internet isn't working again!" request.

    Splitting the roles is the way forward IMO. 2 roles is liek 2 bosses, you're never going to please them both. Most school's aren't currently big enough to do this in house. Even if you do the technology side of things is now so complex and far reacdhing its impossible to be an expert in everything in one school. Who can fault find in NAC and write apps for Sharepoint and optimase a SAN and do everything else we're currently expected to do with little budget for training and do all that before your first coffee of the morning, which reminds me its 4pm and I've still not got as far as "hot water in cup..."

    And even if you can do all this its impossible to be everywhere to support everyone before first period. And if you are an expert and can be everywhere and you're still working in school either send me a copy of your CV, we're quite busy this summer and could do with a hand, or seriously consider how much more you could be earning elsewhere!

    Its very hard to stop a cow but you can influence which direction it goes in. Those that try to stop it may get trampled and those that manage to steer it may get a glass of milk. I'm hoping for milk.

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    Butuz (12th June 2009)

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    Different 'thin' models

    A good thread but one which highlights the fact that 'thin' has evolved a lot over the past few years, and there are now several options. I work for Wyse and we have been in this space for many years - in fact we invented the thin client - but I'll try and avoid gratuitous plugs

    The most important thing is to understand the thin model that is being talked about. There are 4 main technology approaches:

    Classic "thin client" aka server-based computing (SBC): The OS and applications run on the server and are displayed on a thin client using a thin protocol, typically Citrix ICA or Microsoft RDP. Applications are shared between users, most applications work (but not all), you can get lots of users on a server, and streaming multimedia works fine now (though not all vendors have the technology to do this). By streamed media I mean video clips, flash and audio. Fast moving graphics that are not streamed are still a problem; so you won't get acceptable performance with an application like Google Earth.

    Virtual desktops or VDI: Everything still runs on the server but each user is connected to a 'virtual desktop' on the server which has its own OS and applications. This means that just about any application will work. The graphics capabilities are the same as server-based computing, although there are new technologies like PCoIP coming to market that give excellent performance for all graphics. VDI does need more server hardware per user so the cost per user will be higher than SBC.

    Web clients: If you only need browser access, a Linux or Windows based thin client with a browser is the best way to do this. No additional server infrastructure is needed, but it only works for web apps. A current specification web client should give graphics performance as good as a PC.

    Streaming / Provisioning / Zero clients: This is the technology we are finding works best in schools. The operating system and applications are streamed on-demand to the thin client (often called a zero client as there's no local storage at all). Diskless PCs can be used too. Everything then runs locally which means graphics performance is just like a PC, so it passes the 'Google Earth' test. Because applications are using the local processor, it doesn't need as much server harware. Streaming has to be from a local server so on a multi-site school there will be servers on each site, but these can all be managed centrally so you still get the benefits of managing the OS and applications in one place.

    I hope this helps,
    regards,
    David

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    @DavidAngwin

    You present a strong case for thin client, which I would agree meets many workload requirements.... but I have one workload in particular which worries me in the thin client/remote centralised server & data farm scenario as proposed for some BSF schools:

    Let us suppose we have a media studies student, armed with a camcorder containing 40+ mins video, how do we get this data loaded up so they can edit it? What if he/she is part of a class of 20 students, with similar simultaneous requirements?

    If you look at their workflow, where do they plug in the camcorder/SDHC card, where do they copy the data to store it (& how do we secure it), and where does the editing and rendering take place, resulting in the final video being burned on DVD?

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    Quote Originally Posted by broc View Post
    @DavidAngwin

    You present a strong case for thin client, which I would agree meets many workload requirements.... but I have one workload in particular which worries me in the thin client/remote centralised server & data farm scenario as proposed for some BSF schools:

    Let us suppose we have a media studies student, armed with a camcorder containing 40+ mins video, how do we get this data loaded up so they can edit it? What if he/she is part of a class of 20 students, with similar simultaneous requirements?

    If you look at their workflow, where do they plug in the camcorder/SDHC card, where do they copy the data to store it (& how do we secure it), and where does the editing and rendering take place, resulting in the final video being burned on DVD?
    I'd say that its still a case that you need to use appropriate tech. in each area. In admin offices server based computing is fine as its unlikely they will be doing anything graphically intensive (legitimately as part of their daily tasks). Class front computers could be streamed/zero clients so that you have good graphical performance (although in most cases its only streamed apps or flash I see used). Classroom computers could be either streamed, VDI or classic thin clients, if I understand correctly when you authenticate onto the thin client it can choose which services you are permitted to access. So as a member of technical or teaching staff you may get a VDI session so that you can continue working in one session from any terminal no matter where you are working, for a student you may just get a classic shared session, admin staff may also be restricted to a shared session.
    If you have a media suite then put full PCs in there, I'm recommending macs based on our experience of them. Kids treat them with more respect, less desk space requirements and obvioulsy the option of running MAc or Windows on them AND you can run windows apps under MAc OS from the published applications on the Classic server based computing server.

    The issue isn't thin client/vs fat client here. If you had local "swap space" (ie a hard disk, but then its not so thin) in your desktop box you could stream the os to the desktop device so you still benefit from centralised OS deployment even if you end up with storage in each machine. The problem is the volume of data either way. 1hr of dv is 12GB, 40 minutes is 8GB, 20 students is 160GB of data. Unless they do all their editing locally then only upload the finished article you're going to have to get all that data to the server and then process it from the server during editing too. In either case, fat or thin the user will need local storage.

    IT /specialist suites should get fat PCs with multimedia applications installed. Day to day apps with no special requirements should be streamed to centralise administration and minimise local footprint.
    Offices should get thin clients, of a variety to suite their needs.
    Class front PCs is where you need to make a careful choice but if one wise device can be run as either a classic/vdi or zero thin client then it becomes a configuration issue rather than a purchasing one.

    You may even want to consider running Atom based PCs (which IMO run apps like google earth well) with RDP/ICA sessions set up to access other non graphical applications as server based applications. I'm ready to be corrected but many Atom based desktops now run on as little power as thin clients and take up about the same amount of space. I'm not sure how they compare in performance etc though. That would be an interesting comparison to make... DaveAngwin???

    Anyone run IWBs of Atom PCs?

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    A couple of different questions here so I'll take them in turn, but before that, you need to be sure what it is you want from a 'thin' solution. I think the following list probably matches most priorities (but yours could be different):

    Reliability - computers that work every time, no matter what the previous user did to it
    Cost - deploy more computers for the same budget
    Reduced support overhead - reliability helps achieves this as does centralised management
    Better learning environment - no noise and far less heat output
    Flexibility - instant reconfiguring for different use without IT intervention
    Energy efficiency - save money & meet green targets

    With this in mind; what to do for media studies students?

    There are only 2 thin technologies than can meet this requirement. A virtual desktop with one of the new protocols such as VMware's PCoIP. This will handle the graphics, and all the data handling will be on the server & centralised storage at datacentre speeds. Loading the data are burning the DVDs would be the challenge so probably a dedicated PC for this.

    The 2nd approach would be streaming solution to a powerful zero client or diskless PC. Here the editing would be done locally on the client. Supporting a classroom of students doing the same thing will need a fast network, probably its own subnet, with the streaming server and datastorage on the same subnet - in other words pretty much the same network setup as for a PC with network storage. Loading data and burning DVDs could be done on each station. As cjohnsonuk says, local swap space may be needed give the performance, but without having the OS on a local disk.

    Would you set up either of these technologies for one or two student workstations? Probably not. If however you have a class of 20 the reliability and centralised management advantages of thin vs PC become pretty strong.

    On the question of class front computers, I think its centralised management rather than performance or power savings that makes a streamed zero client interesting. Anything that still stores its OS locally will have you either visiting the classroom, or running PC management software. Thin clients should always use less power than Atom based PCs, and certainly have the required performance.

    One of the smart things with a streamed solution, is that you can then run the 'classic' RDP/ICA client on the streamed OS. We have schools using a streamed solutions that still deliver Office and similar applications using Citrix XenApp.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidAngwin View Post
    One of the smart things with a streamed solution, is that you can then run the 'classic' RDP/ICA client on the streamed OS. We have schools using a streamed solutions that still deliver Office and similar applications using Citrix XenApp.
    Presumably a streamed OS to a thin client would get over the traditional problem of whether an application is supported under "thin client" and whether local hardware is supported (eg interactive boards, data loggers, security dongles). As the software could be streamed and is running on the thin client with just the file storage for the os and apps virtualised the board/USB device will not know any different.

    ChrisJ

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    @chrisJ

    You've got it! The way to think of a streamed thin/zero client is that it IS a PC, just with the disk virtualised back to the server. With the OS and apps running local, it means that PC peripherals work in exactly the same way as they do on a standard PC.

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