How to choose the right Thin or Zero Client

Written by Tom Dodds, Marketing Executive and Kevin Greenway, Technical Director at 10ZiG Technology. 

Thin and Zero Clients are often seen as a commodity. Unfortunately, the realisation that this isn’t the case has cost companies serious amounts of time and money to rectify (it may well have cost people their jobs too!). We aren’t just talking about the physical hardware here either; the wrong vendor choice can have equally as frustrating and costly consequences.

What can you do to make sure you are buying the right endpoint from the right vendor?

Understanding the Reasoning behind Your Project

The first thing to outline in your project is the reason you are doing it in the first place.  This includes a full understanding of the limitations, challenges or headaches your current endpoints are giving you and how you want to see these pain points rectified or improved upon. Additionally, are there any key drivers to the project such as reduced energy costs, increased desktop performance or maybe a business critical requirement to support a particular application, protocol or feature?

Understanding Your Users

Next, it is important to understand the performance requirement of your users. Any devices you are looking at need to be able to perform or provide support for the day to day needs of your workforce. This can save vital time when it comes to requesting and testing potential suitors for your desktop. In addition, it is important to prepare for tomorrow as well as today. For example, it is no use purchasing devices that only cater for a Microsoft Office only use case if you know that in twelve months’ time you are replacing your legacy phone system (PABX) for a Unified Communications / Collaboration platform such as Skype for Business.

Thin Clients are like any other product in that you get what you pay for, so if you need support for UC (Unified Communications), Flash, CAD or HD Multimedia now or in the future then you have to be prepared to pay for it. As the saying goes... you can’t have Champagne taste on a beer-bottle budget. On the flip side, you could be about to pay through the nose for a device that is overkill for your requirements.

Some use cases may be out of the ordinary and only required by a small pocket of your users. These could include, Quad Screen Support, Smart Boards, Dictation hardware, Wireless or Smart Card integration. These can and most probably will affect the device you require, or at least for some of your users.

Management

The management and support of large PC estates can be a nightmare. More often than not, the cost of keeping the lights on ageing PC’s and the time spent fixing and supporting them are within the key drivers listed by companies moving toward Thin or Zero Clients. Have an idea of how you would like a Thin Client management tool to work for you, not only during the installation phase but as an ongoing tool to make your life easier. A Management tool should drastically reduce installation time, firmware upgrades, patches and implementing scheduled tasks. 

Key differentiators to look out for within the various management tools you test should include; how intuitive the console is, whether it has the ability to provide autonomous deployment, how many user licenses it supports, and its cost (including hidden upgrades for full functionality etc.). 

Shopping Around

You now have a full list of requirements that any potential endpoint has to meet in order to make it to your desktop for testing. Once you have this then you can start to conduct your own research online. Good places to start are as follows depending on your chosen desktop solution…

Citrix Ready Marketplace

VMware End User Computing Marketplace

Teradici Zero Client Product Finder

A good vendor will help you to qualify this further and will listen in depth to your requirements. They will help you understand the limitations and benefits of their solutions and should offer you a flexible evaluation period to put their device/s through its paces. There may be a situation where you need to try out more than one device, so a vendor that allows for multiple evaluation devices is advantageous.

As well as looking through their product catalogue, do some additional checks such as where they are based, and where support is located.  If you are working with a partner then this is information they may be able to present to you. It is also worth noting that a good vendor will be happy to work with your chosen hardware partner and make access to pricing, information and evaluation devices a hassle free process for them.

Evaluation Period

Before the device’s arrives on site, have a plan as to how you will best use your time with them. Which users will you give test devices to, which applications will you run and what peripherals will you connect?

For unified communications, video, flash and HTML5 testing, consider the following... 

It’s important to understand how the technology you use by vendors such as VMware / Citrix / Microsoft handles different types of media. 

For example if using headsets for Softphones/UC clients, are there options for terminating audio devices locally or are they forwarded in a compressed method between the client device and server?  Likewise the same is true but more significant for Webcams.  If for example Webcams are forwarded uncompressed between the client device and server, watch your network switches and router illuminate like Christmas trees!

As with multimedia, does the media offload, fetch and render on the client device.  Alternatively is the media rendered and encoded in server.  In both cases the client device can greatly affect the overall performance.  This doesn’t just apply to the level of hardware used, but also the operating system and software available.  In days gone by windows was the platform of choice for leveraging the greatest functionality, but today other platforms including proprietary zero and Linux offer equal functionality.

It’s important that in testing the various types of multimedia you understand what is responsible for making it tick.  Start by looking at server GPU/CPU/RAM utilisation and also consider the same utilisation for the client device.  Also consider how the information gets from A to B and talk with your network team about bandwidth and quality of service (QoS) monitoring.  In your testing consider how many users are likely to access this content simultaneously and understand the scaling benefits of both rendering and encoding in server of offloading fully to client devices.  

Again choosing the right vendor here helps because if you choose one which is fully focused in Thin and Zero Clients, they can assist you by sharing their experience and communicating with your teams to help them optimise each requirement.

Flash Test >

http://wwwns.akamai.com/hdnetwork/demo/flash/default.html

https://www.youtube.com/

Note: HTML5 is now the default player for YouTube.  This can be adjusted depending on the browser used (Internet Explorer/Google Chrome/Mozilla Firefox).  Check which player is used by right clicking within the video stream and check for ‘About’.

HTML5 Test >

http://www.quirksmode.org/html5/tests/video.html

https://www.youtube.com/

Note: HTML5 is now the default player for YouTube.  This can be adjusted depending on the browser used (Internet Explorer/Google Chrome/Mozilla Firefox).  Check which player is used by right clicking within the video stream and check for ‘About’.

 

1080p Video Test >

It’s imperative with these tests that you consider the different media types and media players required in your environment.  Are your users requiring media for training scenarios or is it casual usage on breaks and lunchtimes? 

Again talk to the supplier and vendor about how best to leverage video based on use case and requirements.  Should your videos offload and render to the client devices, or should they remain at the server where they are rendered and encoded before being delivered towards the client device.

Below is an array of different media types (WMV/MOV/MP4), test the performance of each required using available media players (i.e. Windows Media Player/VLC Player)

http://www.nvidia.com/object/nzone_hdcontent_home.html

3D/CAD Tests – NVIDIA GRID >

If your requirements are focusing on 3D/CAD applications and you are using Server based GPU’s such as NVIDIA GRID, then there are some great desktop monitoring tools to help you along your way.

Imperative to these environments is not just the server side utilisation required to render in GPU, encode in GPU/CPU, and deliver to client device.  The Client device is also responsible for decoding content either in hardware or CPU.  Monitor the clients to see how much headroom you have in supporting these different types of applications.  This is where decoding either in dedicated hardware or a powerful enough multi-core x86 based processor make a big difference in overall performance.

HDX 3D Pro Testing Tool >

If used in conjunction with Citrix HDX 3D Pro, then a great desktop monitoring tool is HDX Monitor.

Focus on the Graphics – Advanced Thinwire section to understand FPS and Image Compression technique used.

https://cis.citrix.com/hdx/download/

PCoIP Testing Tool >

If used in conjunction with VMware Horizon and PCoIP, then consider the following for PCoIP statistics monitors.

https://techsupport.teradici.com/link/portal/15134/15164/Article/1082/Tools-for-PCoIP-Protocol-Deployments-15134-1082

During your testing, utilise any questions you have as a way to test the sales/support service of the vendor. Often, something that isn’t working as you expected can be as simple as one setting or a simple fix to have it running as it should. This will also give you a good feel as to how the vendor will support you should you choose to move forward with them.

Decision Time

By now you should have a good feel for the quality and performance of both the hardware and the vendor. Reach out to them for case studies or reference sites if required and feel free to contact the vendor directly if you have any further questions. A good vendor will be happy to work and liaise with both you and your chosen partner to deliver the best solution possible.   

About 10ZiG Technology

Who are we?

10ZiG Technology is solely focused in the development of Thin and Zero Clients, with a primary focus in the desktop virtualisation (VDI) marketspace. Our devices are designed for the latest VDI protocols, including PCoIP, HDX /HDX 3D Pro and support the full feature sets of VMware Horizon, Citrix XenDesktop and Citrix XenApp.

Our Thin & Zero Client range offers a variety of OS options, including WE8, WES 7, Windows 10 IOT, Linux (PeakOS), Zero (NOS). Our product line also includes the widest selection of Teradici Tera2 PCoIP Zero Clients on the market. We understand that not all users are the same, so we offer additional hardware choices for use cases that may not be the norm. These include support for Quad Screen, Smart Cards, Legacy Ports, VESA Mounting and Wireless.

www.10zig.com

An Introduction to 10ZiG Technology