Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?



  • Physical thin clients have been suffering for a while. The cost of producing them, which are generally in low volume, has remained high while the cost of traditional PCs and alternative PC-like platforms such as low power RISC machines have plummeted. Today you can run to Walmart or Cosco and have a full fat client for $300 or built a Raspberry Pi fat client for about $60. These are cheaper, generally, than most thin clients on the market, while being vastly more functional.

    These days, though, I would hypothesize that those kinds of thin clients are seeing the end. Chromebooks have so much more volume, and can often do thin client tasks better than thin clients, that I bet the thin client market is at an end. In many cases, Chromebooks are based on thin client-like hardware. In fact, because for so long thin clients have been able to do local browsing, one can legitimately argue that Chromebooks truly are just a brand name of thin clients!

    Now that Chomebooks can run Android and Linux apps, there is no one making a cost effective thin client any longer. So full Chromebooks are cheaper, and more flexible, and more powerful with constant software patches and hardware refreshes. Chromebooks can do basically any possible form of thin client from RDP, to ICO, to Amazon WorkSpaces, to NX, Xterm, and more. Plus all the power of the Chromebook platform.

    I bet the traditional thin client market is all but gone. The cost just doesn't make sense any longer. Given that alternatives are so common, so cheap, and so good, what use case remains for dedicated thin client branded hardware today?



  • Maybe so, but I can only justify thin clients in environments that would call for security and limitation of the user. Something that even the rpi could do without much effort. Otherwise, there is really no need in thin-clients anymore.



  • @NerdyDad are you discussing only physical thin clients?

    I can imagine use cases for needing thin client VMs.



  • @DustinB3403 Yes, the physical device that would take the place of a full stack computer, but only provides the user with a physical monitor, keyboard, mouse to a VM operating somewhere else.



  • @NerdyDad said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Maybe so, but I can only justify thin clients in environments that would call for security and limitation of the user. Something that even the rpi could do without much effort. Otherwise, there is really no need in thin-clients anymore.

    Is there any thin client that provides additional security over fat clients today? All thin clients of which I am aware offer so many additional things, and all fat clients can be locked down so thoroughly, that it seems like a wash (when the fat client is used in a thin client architecture.)



  • @DustinB3403 said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @NerdyDad are you discussing only physical thin clients?

    I can imagine use cases for needing thin client VMs.

    Only the physical yeah.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @NerdyDad said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Maybe so, but I can only justify thin clients in environments that would call for security and limitation of the user. Something that even the rpi could do without much effort. Otherwise, there is really no need in thin-clients anymore.

    Is there any thin client that provides additional security over fat clients today? All thin clients of which I am aware offer so many additional things, and all fat clients can be locked down so thoroughly, that it seems like a wash (when the fat client is used in a thin client architecture.)

    Would you use any particular type of software for the fat client or would you lock down the OS (Linux or Windows) with something like Group Policy or Salt?



  • @NerdyDad said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @NerdyDad said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Maybe so, but I can only justify thin clients in environments that would call for security and limitation of the user. Something that even the rpi could do without much effort. Otherwise, there is really no need in thin-clients anymore.

    Is there any thin client that provides additional security over fat clients today? All thin clients of which I am aware offer so many additional things, and all fat clients can be locked down so thoroughly, that it seems like a wash (when the fat client is used in a thin client architecture.)

    Would you use any particular type of software for the fat client or would you lock down the OS (Linux or Windows) with something like Group Policy or Salt?

    Something like Salt would be best. You need something like that with anything, traditional thin clients included, because they offer the same flexibility as fat clients today.



  • I agree, no point in excluding the fat or thin clients. Their money is all the same.


  • Vendor

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    I bet the traditional thin client market is all but gone. The cost just doesn't make sense any longer. Given that alternatives are so common, so cheap, and so good, what use case remains for dedicated thin client branded hardware today?

    While I agree we are seeing ChromeOS become a common thin client (it supports Horizon BTW) a few things in defense of the old brick...

    1. Environmental. Some of the thin clients are designed to withstand crazy temperature, shock, dust etc. Throw in that they also are often ARM-based in leads into...

    2. Low Power and weight. Every pound I put on an oil rig, needs 7 pounds of metal to float it. Go over 55 pounds and now fly something on a helicopter and need a boat. Weight above xxx requires another 2 man case for the marines, or can't fit in an overhead bin on a plane. There are MASSIVE niche markets where logistics of power and weight matter

    3. Supply chain. Can I get a replacement in Kenya in under 4 hours? What about Bowerston OH in 2 hours? Shelf spares work for some, but having a spare PLUS a technician who will sort the migration of xxx matter to others.

    4. Lifecycle tooling. Terradichi exists not because of PCoIP but because of their stateless Zero Clients ability to be destroyed and require ZERO effort to get full firmware etc upgraded to where it was before. As firmware security gaps become a bigger deal the lack of out of band lifecycle on a lot of IoT devices on ARM turn them from cheap to a nightmare. Aramco and other nation-state attack targets don't give a flying fuck about capital cost if it becomes the source of the next threat vector.

    5. Compliance. A Wyse Thin client has passed xxx,yyy,zzz compliance requirements. They may be stupid tests that show if a child licks it, they don't die, or if it lights on fire it doesn't produce toxic smoke, but they sent them to a lab and spent the money.

    6. Weird device redirection support as part of a certified end to end solution. Healthcare doesn't have the staff to verify workarounds, or 3rd party vendors like Impreveada may not certify your cheaper solution. A hospital who's spent a 9 figure some deploying EPIC and Cache doesn't give a shit about saving $50 on a thin client if they don't know up front "it's just going to work and my vendors will not complain".

    7. Some thin client vendors will offer 10 years of support. Just like HDS VSP's, there is a market for people who don't have to replace everything in 3 years.

    Not every company see's economic value in becoming an integrator.
    I agree Chromebooks are a rising force in end-user computing (Google was a major sponsor at VMworld the past few years for this reason). ARM is powerful (I'm installing it on my PI3 this weekend). That said, VDI and thin clients are neither dying anytime soon, nor are they the future of End-user computing. I'd encourage you to watch Brian Madden's "is VDI Dead" session.

    Youtube Video



  • @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    1. Supply chain. Can I get a replacement in Kenya in under 4 hours? What about Bowerston OH in 2 hours? Shelf spares work for some, but having a spare PLUS a technician who will sort the migration of xxx matter to others.

    I think Chromebooks have the best global supply chain at this point. If I need something in Kenya in four hours, Chromebook is exactly where I would want to be.



  • @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    That said, VDI and thin clients are neither dying anytime soon, nor are they the future of End-user computing.

    VDI isn't dying. Chromebooks just seem like the best physical solution for delivering it at the end point. Along with loads of other solutions.

    The question is only why would you use an expensive, under powered, "pure" thin client when normal computers now do a better job at all of that stuff?



  • Dell WYSE terminals are alive and well where Iā€™m at.


  • Vendor

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Chromebooks just seem like the best physical solution for delivering it at the endpoint

    Unless I need redirection capabilities that ChromeOS can't do.
    Need serial redirection for a cheque reader?
    Need WAN-efficient printer or scanner redirection that's seamless and can be managed by GPO to devices and work with EXISTING devices that are required for xxx compliance?

    I LOVE Chromebooks as end devices. Sadly they don't work everywhere yet...



  • @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Chromebooks just seem like the best physical solution for delivering it at the endpoint

    Unless I need redirection capabilities that ChromeOS can't do.
    Need serial redirection for a cheque reader?
    Need WAN-efficient printer or scanner redirection that's seamless and can be managed by GPO to devices and work with EXISTING devices that are required for xxx compliance?

    I LOVE Chromebooks as end devices. Sadly they don't work everywhere yet...

    Why can't they do those things? Things are all functions of the thin client software, not of the OS.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    That said, VDI and thin clients are neither dying anytime soon, nor are they the future of End-user computing.

    VDI isn't dying. Chromebooks just seem like the best physical solution for delivering it at the end point. Along with loads of other solutions.

    The question is only why would you use an expensive, under powered, "pure" thin client when normal computers now do a better job at all of that stuff?

    When did they ever not do a better job though? that's my question. I've run them side by side since the early 2000's, a full desktop was always way better. Granted required one to lock it down.



  • @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Chromebooks just seem like the best physical solution for delivering it at the endpoint

    Unless I need redirection capabilities that ChromeOS can't do.
    Need serial redirection for a cheque reader?
    Need WAN-efficient printer or scanner redirection that's seamless and can be managed by GPO to devices and work with EXISTING devices that are required for xxx compliance?

    I LOVE Chromebooks as end devices. Sadly they don't work everywhere yet...

    Why are you locked to GPO? Why can't another management solution be used?

    When you have existing solutions - well - you're just boned.



  • @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    That said, VDI and thin clients are neither dying anytime soon, nor are they the future of End-user computing.

    VDI isn't dying. Chromebooks just seem like the best physical solution for delivering it at the end point. Along with loads of other solutions.

    The question is only why would you use an expensive, under powered, "pure" thin client when normal computers now do a better job at all of that stuff?

    When did they ever not do a better job though? that's my question. I've run them side by side since the early 2000's, a full desktop was always way better. Granted required one to lock it down.

    That's not really true. Fat clients used to be more costly, have shorter life spans, were harder to manage. All that stuff has only recently changed. Your idea of "better" is incredibly subjective, it doesn't address "cost" which is the primarily definition of "better" to a business.



  • Ugh, I put thin clients out there with e-Machines PCs. šŸ˜›

    We decided years ago to avoid them and stick with the smallest form factor PC would could deploy Windows Pro on. It's paid off well. No driver headaches, no print issues, dual display is plugging in a second cable and monitor, and security can be hardened via Group Policy.



  • @PhlipElder said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Ugh, I put thin clients out there with e-Machines PCs. šŸ˜›

    We decided years ago to avoid them and stick with the smallest form factor PC would could deploy Windows Pro on. It's paid off well. No driver headaches, no print issues, dual display is plugging in a second cable and monitor, and security can be hardened via Group Policy.

    We are using NX for our VDI right now, which has been good for the use case that we have.


  • Vendor

    @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Why are you locked to GPO? Why can't another management solution be used?

    Because plenty of people have other applications and platforms that for AAA use AD and don't support other LDAP/Kerberos systems so given how cheap per user a CAL is they say "screw it" and use AD to distribute GPO (note GPO isn't tied to AD it's just commonly viewed that way).



  • @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Why are you locked to GPO? Why can't another management solution be used?

    Because plenty of people have other applications and platforms that for AAA use AD and don't support other LDAP/Kerberos systems so given how cheap per user a CAL is they say "screw it" and use AD to distribute GPO (note GPO isn't tied to AD it's just commonly viewed that way).

    Wouldn't that affect the other side of the VDI, though, not the client side?



  • @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Why are you locked to GPO? Why can't another management solution be used?

    Because plenty of people have other applications and platforms that for AAA use AD and don't support other LDAP/Kerberos systems so given how cheap per user a CAL is they say "screw it" and use AD to distribute GPO (note GPO isn't tied to AD it's just commonly viewed that way).

    Wouldn't that affect the other side of the VDI, though, not the client side?

    Couldn't it do both?



  • @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Why are you locked to GPO? Why can't another management solution be used?

    Because plenty of people have other applications and platforms that for AAA use AD and don't support other LDAP/Kerberos systems so given how cheap per user a CAL is they say "screw it" and use AD to distribute GPO (note GPO isn't tied to AD it's just commonly viewed that way).

    Wouldn't that affect the other side of the VDI, though, not the client side?

    Couldn't it do both?

    Maybe, I mean you CAN control thin clients with GPO, but not normal thin clients.


  • Vendor

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Why are you locked to GPO? Why can't another management solution be used?

    Because plenty of people have other applications and platforms that for AAA use AD and don't support other LDAP/Kerberos systems so given how cheap per user a CAL is they say "screw it" and use AD to distribute GPO (note GPO isn't tied to AD it's just commonly viewed that way).

    Wouldn't that affect the other side of the VDI, though, not the client side?

    Couldn't it do both?

    Maybe, I mean you CAN control thin clients with GPO, but not normal thin clients.

    Correct. The thin client itself I see managed by either thin client management tools (Terradichi) or by MDM API's.



  • Thin client, absolutely. They are slow as fuck in most environments as they are just terrible hardware with an onboard OS that still needs to be patched. They are neither a stand-alone computer with full functionality, or a zero client with speed and security; they are the worst of both worlds.

    Zero clients though, completely different story as that's a software-delivery discussion.



  • @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @scottalanmiller said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    Why are you locked to GPO? Why can't another management solution be used?

    Because plenty of people have other applications and platforms that for AAA use AD and don't support other LDAP/Kerberos systems so given how cheap per user a CAL is they say "screw it" and use AD to distribute GPO (note GPO isn't tied to AD it's just commonly viewed that way).

    Wouldn't that affect the other side of the VDI, though, not the client side?

    Couldn't it do both?

    Maybe, I mean you CAN control thin clients with GPO, but not normal thin clients.

    Correct. The thin client itself I see managed by either thin client management tools (Terradichi Teradici) or by MDM API's.

    FTFY šŸ™‚


  • Vendor

    @bbigford said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    They are slow as fuck in most environments

    Are they slow, or did someone underprovision the Shitrix environment behind it?



  • @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @bbigford said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    They are slow as fuck in most environments

    Are they slow, or did someone underprovision the Shitrix environment behind it?

    the problem I've always had with thin clients was flash. Any app or webpage that used flash caused the whole screen to flash white between pages. Though this never happened on a typical PC - Even Windows XP with 1 GB RAM - it never flashed and worked well.



  • @Dashrender said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @StorageNinja said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    @bbigford said in Is the Physical Thin Client Era Dead?:

    They are slow as fuck in most environments

    Are they slow, or did someone underprovision the Shitrix environment behind it?

    the problem I've always had with thin clients was flash. Any app or webpage that used flash caused the whole screen to flash white between pages. Though this never happened on a typical PC - Even Windows XP with 1 GB RAM - it never flashed and worked well.

    You mean you had a problem with RDP or other remote sessions, not Flash locally on a thin client? I think you are mixing the concept of the hardware with the effects of some remote access protocols. Very different things. It's like being unhappy with your car based on not having found a road that wasn't congested.