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Hardware Thread, Thin Client Laptops in Technical; Hi - we're looking at deploying some thin client laptops on a XenApp backend over wi-fi - just wondered if ...
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    Thin Client Laptops

    Hi - we're looking at deploying some thin client laptops on a XenApp backend over wi-fi - just wondered if anyone else has done this and whether you're happy with the results?

    Cheers

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    Yes, we've been doing this for a couple of years, although with plain windows 2008 terminal services rather than XenApp.

    Are we happy with the results? Yes and no.

    Some benefits:

    • You don't need to worry about deploying large software packages and hotfixes over a wireless network
    • You don't have problems with wireless network congestion when multiple users are trying to login & load roaming profiles over the wireless network at once
    • If a laptop fails or loses its connection or the battery dies, you can re-connect to your session on another laptop, without losing everything.
    • You can use older/cheaper/lower-spec laptops without worrying too much about performance degrading.
    • Great for IT support, we spend very little time dealing with software issues on the clients.


    However:

    • RDP 5.2/6 performance over wireless isn't great (XenApp might be better). It's noticeably more "laggy" than on ethernet. It's fine for general use, but anything multimedia is completely hopeless.
    • You need to ensure your wireless network is as close to "bullet-proof" as possible. Remoting protocols like RDP or HDX require a continual stream of uninterrupted data, if you think about how they work it's quite different to conventional thick clients. Packet-loss or excessive latency on the wireless network will cause the user experience to be glitchy - laggy response to k/b and mouse inputs, temporary lockups, loss of connection to the session etc. Packet loss will probably be a bigger issue than bandwidth.
    • The user experience is not great because of these issues. Ask our users about their experiences with laptops and the response will not necessarily be particularly positive.


    Things to consider:

    • How many thin client laptops are your proposing and is your wireless network up to the job?
    • If multimedia performance is important to you then test carefully before deploying. There are much better remoting protocols than RDP 5.2/6, but I would imagine that wireless bandwidth may become an issue.
    • What OS are you going to run on your laptops? There are various options from Linux with ThinStation to the new Windows 7 thin OS. On most of ours, we boot XP and have replaced the explorer.exe shell with mstsc.exe (terminal servies client). There are some policies to prevent unauthorised tweaking.


    Would we do it again? Don't know. It works and does what it set out to do, but the poor user experience is a problem, so we would need to look at better remoting protocols. So many websites and educational resources now have embedded video/audio/animation and users expect to get decent multimedia performance. At the moment we aren't delivering that. We understand why, but they don't. We started out by saying that it didn't really matter as that wasn't essential, but the fact is that the user experience is poor and the feedback from the user base is not particularly positive.

    So - have a think about what your requirements are and test carefully.

  3. Thanks to PeterH from:

    Butuz (12th May 2011)

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    SpuffMonkey's Avatar
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    Thanks Peter - interesting and roughly what I thought might be the answer - cheers

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