Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, Thin client in primary schools in Technical; Has anybody deployed a thin client solution in a Primary school. Did you use exciting PC. Just wondering if it ...
12th March 2014, 03:19 PM #1
Thin client in primary schools
Has anybody deployed a thin client solution in a Primary school. Did you use exciting PC. Just wondering if it can be done as a way of replacing desktops. What it be a way of getting away from XP?
12th March 2014, 03:23 PM #2
We had a look at it for a few full network rebuilds, but in the end when you add in licensing, upgrading the network to cope with the extra traffic, and then upgrading the server to cope with it, we didn't find it anywhere near cost effective.
Remember you'll be paying for the licenses one way or another, whether it's server end or client
13th March 2014, 12:51 AM #3
- Rep Power
Most primaries don't have the techie knowledge for rds/vdi or the money for the backed to support it in my experience.
I would suggest going to win7 if your xp now.
we did help two primaries last year to do this - I'm it tech at secondary -
We did hardware audit and helped them replace/upgrade stuff that wouldn't do win7.
We had a very good lea tech guy update dc servers to 2008r2 in two days as paid support and we setup WDS and new gpo for desktops, was two weeks work for both schools.
13th March 2014, 06:34 AM #4
- Rep Power
We did. They lasted about 2 years then we pulled them out. We found that normal towers were better in our lab environment then the thin clients
13th March 2014, 09:00 AM #5
We are a middle school and have some thin clients in our 'lower half' which is primary age. A total of around 15 clients are available for them. They are used for stuff like accelerated reader, small group VLE work, some typing up etc...
However, if we didn't already have a RDS backend in use for 2 of our suites (which are mostly used by upper school, but do get used by lower school also, for general IT purposes (powerpoints, web browsing, word etc...) we wouldn't have deployed them.
13th March 2014, 10:58 AM #6
The problem is thin client's are just too inflexible when faced with unannounced or unplanned changes in usage patterns.
With a fat client, if you paid £350 per client you'd get a PC that could do almost anything - if you want it just for web browsing and PowerPoint, it'll work great, If you then want to put Photoshop or an audio editing tool on it, go for it, it'll still work great, granted it won't be superfast, but it will work, it may even be slow for that particular Photoshop user, but the other 29 will be fine for the other pupils jus doing PowerPoints..
With RDP it is horribly inflexible because you may have sized it up for year 5s to do a maths website game, or just PowerPoints. You only had £350 to spend on a) thin client b) RDP etc licences, c) server infrastructure. Your set up was the best you can get for the money at the time.
A year and a half down the line, you need to run Photoshop or audio editing on these thin clients instead of PowerPoint, and this is where you run into problems. Suddenly, running Photoshop is really slow and problematic, and worse still when a couple of users are running Photoshop, the other 28 users who are just minding their own business doing their PowerPoints are negatively affected by the slowdown too - you can end up with a bunch of frustrated teachers and pupils who hate using your thin client rooms.
The worst part is? You've got a system that's totally inflexible, doesn't do what you need it to do a year down the line because the exam board changed something or other, and you actually spent the SAME money as you would have if you'd just bought a bunch of Dell PCs with Windows 7 pro on.
You can argue that the above should never happen if you plan properly and you'd be partly right. It comes down to money, you can overspec a thin client system to cater for possible future use, but then you instantly lose the cost savings you were after as you've had to spend £300 each on an actual thin client device that can handle multimedia, and you had to buy twice as many servers as you really need.
But when you build a system to a budget, and lets face it if you're looking at thin clients then you must be hoping to save money and spend less, you can get the above happen. It did happen to me! Priorities massively shifted over a 2 year period and ended up wanting to do graphic design, Photoshop, design technology etc in a thin client room originally designed for internet and office. Never again, it's been a nightmare trying to run it without buying new servers, even if we did buy new servers the HP thin clients can handle the job - and with fat clients, that never will happen again. I've 100 more thin clients to phase out over the next two years and I am not looking back longingly.
13th March 2014, 05:40 PM #7
You are rather focusing on the negative, a decent thin client shouldn't cost more than £150, (so half the price of your fat clients), also
- you don't need to worry about any updates at the client end
- no virus considerations at the client end
- if one fails it is a 30 second job to replace and be back exactly where you were before the failure
- thin clients, being solid state, should have at least 5 year warranty
- thin clients should boot in a couple of seconds
- typically use 5 Watts of power
- assuming the client does not have an operating system it won't suffer the way XP devices have done
- they're totally silent
- they avoid the inevitable "fiddle factor" and possible theft "attraction"
- take up less space - normally fitted to rear of monitor ?
- massively easier job to update applications - as done once, centrally on server
the list goes on...
It sounds like your expectations were not correctly set at the onset, and I certainly wouldn't argue a PC is more flexible, but at the cost of all the points above.
Please don't take this posting as questioning your personal experiences with your thin clients or your integrity, clearly your HP thin clients did not deliver for you
- but I felt it fair to highlight the reasons why many schools do go down the thin client route, and most find the experience very successful, as shown here:
Axel AX3000 m70 for Lesson Monitor
17th June 2014, 10:27 PM #8
- Rep Power
Thin Clients certainty have they're benefits however they require a considerable amount of infrastructure which is not in an average school so you would need to invest in that as well. First you would certainly need a powerful server (or two for redundancy) you don't want all your eggs in one basket. These server(s) need allot of CPU especially if your running flash e.g 2x 16Core 64gb RAM servers with a GPU to handle RemoteFX and Solid State Storage due to the amount of IOPS needed. Secondly a 1Gbs network should be ok however link aggregation support would be beneficial. Thirdly the thin clients need to be pretty good if you want to use the likes of audacity as you would need a built in audio card (external USB ones get stolen) and critically RemoteFX support otherwise flash will fail over the server in seconds and the end user experience will be diabolical
Thanks to johnat1121 from:
17th June 2014, 10:40 PM #9
I would say if you are playing with video editing for 32 desktops then maybe this would not be a great idea. I am no supreme expert on the matter but you would either look at Microsoft Multipoint for the easiest deployment where basically one computer does all the work and you get thin clients (either USB or over LAN) but really you would be looking at a decent remote desktop system such as the ones from Microsoft or VMWare / Cisco.
I looked into the RDP system with thin clients and the initial setup costs a small fortune. I think I worked it out as being roughly what it would cost to replace all the desktops with new, i5 models so I chose that as it is a tried and tested solution. Also (again could be wrong) but I would be bloody careful your switch's could take it before a large scale deployment.
On a closing note, I think thin clients can be around £2-300 anyway so you may save on space, heat and maintainance however the cost is still quite high in my opinion.
Saying that its only what I found when I looked into it and if I had a brand new school I would look into this a lot more. Would love to hear from a school who have gone down a large scale deployment of this.
18th June 2014, 12:02 AM #10
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I did a lot of work on this before going for a 10Zig thin client solution. I chose these TC's because they stream sound and video almost perfectly. I even did a test with a WYSE thin client side by side and the WYSE suffered sound being out of sync with the video. I was told that the 10Zig did a lot of the multimedia processing on the client but I could not understand how this worked. However I was that impressed at a demo of them that I bought 50 TC's and did a classroom of 32 and a library with 18. I had a lot of problem having totally trusted the supplier to set them up since at the time I had never teamed NICs in a server or built a terminal server specifically (Remote Desktop Server). We went for a server farm with two HP G7 Servers with 36 Gb RAM in each and could run up to 50 clients on just one server. The clients were load balanced between the two servers and a specific IP was set up to receive the connection to the farm. This resulted in having to login twice since you login to the farm and then into the specific server you are directed to.
Yes the servers cost a lot and the 10Zigs were between £300 and £400 each. But the experience was very fast. E.g. Photoshop running on the faster school computer with an i3 processor and 8Gb ram loaded to the working screen in 4 seconds. On the farm it took 0.5 second.
We had massive problems owing to the solution using multicasting and ended up having to subnet the entire network and put all the TC's and Terminal Servers on their own VLAN with Internet access routed via the HP Layer3 Core Switch. This solved not just this problem but other network issues and we never looked back. It sounds simple, but you do really need to know what you're doing to go from a single flat VLAN to nine VLANs. It meant having to re-address every single IP device in the school. This was not too hard for DHCP compliant clients but with servers, printers, CCTV camera's etc you have to configure each one. We used port based VLAN's so every single switch had to be completely re-programmed.
Yes it would be easier to stick with PC's but them you do not gain all that useful experience! Seriously, if you have students doing video editing or high end CAD or graphics then I think a PC would be better. However 90% of what goes on in schools can be done on TC's. Most organisation use mainly TC's and then have some PC's where they have to owing to legacy software or specialist use.
When the server farm and TC's are all set up and working and you fully understand how to manage it will make management a breeze. If you need to add some software to all users you do it once on the server, however if you make a mistake on the server it affects all the users. So net result is if something goes wrong an entire classroom or two cannot work. At least with PC's it tends to mean that you have one or two machines down. I currently work as a deployment engineer deploying thin clients and I have seen staff come in at 9.00 and be able to do no work until 12.00 pm! The beauty of the TC's is the control you have, the savings on electricity, heat generated and the fact that they are very robust. In three years we had one power supply fail that was replaced under warranty. We have no damage to any of the units. Whereas on PC's the kids pushed in the front panels and generally abused them.
Our switches were HP and we found that performance was even better when we out all the TC's on their own 1Gb port on a new 1Gb switch rather than 100Mb.
In summary I like the thin clients but I think a VDI Solution (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) is much better. The problem is that VDI is even more expensive if you want to provide individual desktops for your users. Just be prepared for a lot of headaches and troubleshooting if the company you employ do not know how to team network cards on an HP switch. Being configured with the wrong protocol caused profile corruptions of five or six every lesson which made me look stupid. Eventually I sorted it but not before I lost respect from the powers that be. Unfortunately the IT manager has to carry the can for third party failures.
2 Thanks to Dantech:
AButters (18th June 2014), witch (18th June 2014)
18th June 2014, 09:09 AM #11
Thanks for all that info. We would be looking to convert our current dual core, 2GB RAM IT suite machines to TC, so I wouldnt be buying more clients.
18th June 2014, 09:28 AM #12
Start with the thin clients themselves and work back. You need 32 that support local video at reasonable speed and resolutions. So you're probably look in the £300-£400 price bracket for each one, if not more. Now look at the prices of normal desktops for the same money and their proper local processing.
Then look at the server(s). You're basically centralising the computing power of all those desktops. So maybe you're looking at 32x2 cores + 32x4Gb Ram. So a 64 core server with 128Gb ram? Okay probably overkill, but if your doing video on 32 thin clients, probably not that overkill. Add in OS costs both server and Thin Client CAL's. Then mix in some input lag, with the best will in the world your still running the input and output over Cat5e for 32 machines simultaneously.
Seriously I doubt you'd save much money, if any, over traditional desktops for this kind of use and you will notice performance issues under load. Personally I wouldn't do it. Thin Clients have their place. We use them in our library, SEN and for admin staff. Replacing student desktops? not really.
18th June 2014, 09:29 AM #13
I agree you want a decent server - but those specs would be for a large number of clients. As in more than 100. Up until very recently, we ran around 100 clients on 2 virtual machines, each with an available 44GB of RAM, and 16 virtual CPUs (on top of Intel Xeon E5-2690 CPUs), running on SSDs. When all the clients were in use, with Flash videos and games, we still don't come anywhere near the capability of those servers. We run "RemoteFX for RDS", which does not require a GPU. You only need a GPU if you're running RemoteFX for VDI. Performance in this config is better than it was when we were running on 4 x dual quad core Xeon E5440 boxes, each with 16GB RAM and 4 SAS drives in RAID 5, with Citrix XenApp. RDS itself has come a long way in a short time.
Originally Posted by johnat1121
I'd happily say our current servers would scale to double what they run now without breaking a sweat.
That said, there are tasks we simply don't do on them - no audio or video editing, for example.
Converting existing clients is a good way to start with thin clients. However, it can be A Faff ™.
Originally Posted by witch
If your clients can run something like Windows Thin PC, then you should be able to do it relatively easily. However, you would need an active volume license with software assurance to get access to that software.
Otherwise, you may end up looking at a Linux distro, and running FreeRDP to connect up to the server, and this can be a big faff, especially if you're not a regular Linux user.
Last edited by localzuk; 18th June 2014 at 09:34 AM.
18th June 2014, 10:10 AM #14
Linux User? I'm not even a Linux Viewer!
So, if I was to use our current computers then I would need to buy licences for Windows Thin PC? I would need a decent server (1, 2?) and...what else?
My current server is an HP ML350 - is that good enoough? I know nothing about virtualisation.
Is setup easy or would I be looking at an external company?
I'm having an issue with what I would need, on the ground as it were, to do this. If I know, and can get costings, then I can compare it to the cost of a new IT suite.
Thanks to witch from:
Gardinho (23rd July 2014)
18th June 2014, 10:15 AM #15
- Rep Power
You answered this yourself in another thread when you said in your view thin client are only a good for "light" duties.
I think you got it right, you would need dedicated servers and infrastructure for this, I think your going down the wrong path if one of your criteria is to support multimedia apps, you could get better full fat machines for 5 years to do that for less than it costs to do it properly as vdi IMHO
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