Feature

A Wyse move switching to Windows 2000

Wyse Technology shows how migrating to Windows 2000 could be an ideal opportunity to move large parts of the network onto a thin client, server-based computing architecture

The introduction of Windows 2000 Server Edition from Microsoft offers every purchaser the option of deploying a less expensive, more efficient, more productive, and safer IT architecture than has been available in the Windows NT environment.

Using the multi-user capabilities of Terminal Services, a feature in Windows 2000, organisations can deliver the benefits of the Windows 2000 Professional desktop client software environment immediately to all their users, without having to upgrade or replace any of their current desktop machines. Enabling the Terminal Services application mode option is the fastest way to upgrade your desktop PC to Windows 2000, with no extra desktop hardware costs.

By transferring all applications and data to centralised server-based computing, organisations can free themselves of the maintenance, support, and upgrade challenges posed by PCs. They also can improve their software and network administration and management, increase productivity, efficiency, IT availability and security, while deploying other applications more rapidly. It also lowers the cost of providing and supporting desktop computing assets, achieving a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Many of these values are delivered, to a lesser degree, by Windows 2000 operating in its conventional PC client/server mode. But the investment required in new or upgraded PCs, in increased bandwidth and in increasingly complex administration tasks, makes the Terminal Services alternative a very attractive option to explore. Windows-based terminals can offer further advantages to running Terminal Server. They can replace PCs in up to 80 per cent of corporate situations while guaranteeing all the operating and productivity benefits Terminal Services offers, and can deliver significant advantages over other desktop technology, because they are designed and tailored to run in the Terminal Services environment.

Terminal Services

Terminal Services is a component of Windows 2000 Server that enables organisations to implement a multi-user computing architecture in a Windows application environment. In this architecture, all software applications, data processing, and data storage occur on central servers, and are displayed across local area or wide area networks or dial-up connections to desktop devices (Windows-based terminals or PCs).

The user's experience is that of using a PC to run Windows and Windows-based applications, free of the need to administer and/or trouble-shoot the PC, back up files, or suffer periods of inactivity when the computer breaks or when it is offline for a software or hardware upgrade.

The experience of IT administrators in this environment is one of regained control, lower cost, and ease-of-administration. As a result of the shift of computing resources, data storage, software applications, and data to the server environment, the administrator can ensure a more secure, reliable, efficient, and productive IT environment for the company. Vulnerability to viruses, theft of corporate data, or other attacks from the desktop is reduced. Software administration is simplified and licences more effectively managed.

Perhaps the biggest headache for all IT administrators, desktop service, management, and support, is brought under control. As Microsoft puts it: "When Terminal Services is enabled on Windows 2000 Server, administrators do not have to install Windows-based 32-bit applications on each desktop computer. Instead, the application is installed once on the server, and the clients automatically have access to the new or upgraded software package".

In the multi-user Terminal Services architecture, software applications execute only on the server and are centrally managed, allowing for greater control and security, vastly easier bug fixing and software upgrades, and near-instant software deployment. Desktop service and support may be greatly reduced, due to the centralised architecture, and through the opportunity to place a simpler, longer-lasting, more reliable machine on the desktop.

In addition, this architecture enables integration of Windows-based applications and other graphics-based and Internet-based applications with legacy-, Unix-, or mainframe-based applications, all on one desktop device. To companies who benefit from the lower cost of ownership of the centralised architecture and who are loathe to relinquish the benefits of centralised computing for the flexibility and "personal empowerment" of the PC, this provides a powerful opportunity to get the best of both worlds. In the case of Windows 2000, Terminal Services is a configurable service that is standard to the server software which gives it the ability to run 32-bit Windows-based applications centrally from a server. For the first time, these services are fully integrated with the Windows 2000 Server kernel. When Terminal Services is activated, all application processing occurs on the server and only the application presentation, the GUI, is sent to the client. Each user logs on and sees only his or her session, independent of any other client session.

One of the biggest benefits of this approach, Microsoft points out, is that most 16-bit or 32-bit Windows-based applications can run as is, with no programming changes required to run in the multi-user environment. User profiles stored on the server allow numerous users to see their personal desktop preferences and settings, and run their applications. Security policies control remote access rights and permissions, and operating system interfaces allow simultaneous sessions in which users safely access common files and databases stored on file servers. Terminal Services also allows users and applications to share central server hardware resources - CPU, memory, storage, operating system, system backup, peripherals, and other resources such as registry and other data structures. This sharing can be extended across banks of central servers - often called "server farms" - that are deployed to connect to hundreds or thousands of Windows-based terminals and/or PCs acting as thin clients. Server farms provide redundancy and back-up, allow for better resource sharing, and eliminate single-point-of-failure concerns. With proper allocation of user needs for computing resources among servers, Terminal Services can deliver a computing experience harnessed to a powerful central server that is every bit as flexible and versatile as a PC, without most or all of the "personal" IT administration experience that accompanies use of PCs.

Where Windows 2000 Server is implemented to support desktop computers and other devices, administrators will face an enormously expensive and time-consuming task. In order to run Windows 2000 Professional on a PC, Microsoft says you need a computer with a minimum of a 133MHz CPU, 64MB of RAM, and 1GB of hard drive space for the operating system alone. Independent reviewers have concluded that these CPU and RAM requirements are insufficient, and conclude that a minimum of a 300MHz Pentium processor and 128MB of RAM will be required, plus the necessary applications software. This will inevitably involve a series of significant costly hardware upgrades for the PC network. There is also the significant cost of buying the Windows 2000 Professional licence for every desktop to consider.

But by enabling the Application Server mode of Terminal Services, companies can deliver a "virtual" version of Windows 2000 Professional immediately to all their desktops, including MS-DOS PCs, Macintosh, Unix-based machines, and others. No hardware upgrades or replacements are required, and the cost of a Terminal Services Client Access Licence is much cheaper than a copy of Windows 2000 Professional.

Windows 2000 Terminal Services supports all the basic server-based benefits and features of Windows 2000 Server, such as Active Directory services, the Microsoft Management Console, Distributed File System, and Server Performance Monitor. In addition, Terminal Services offers many new features not available in Windows NT 4.0, Terminal Server Edition. Terminal Server Edition delivered the basic multi-user functionality of a server-based architecture, but lacked a number of improvements that Microsoft did not include, such as local printer support, load balancing and remote client administration, pending release of Windows 2000.

Windows 2000 Terminal Services with Windows-based terminals

Industry analysts predict that 10 to 30 million Windows-based terminals will be installed worldwide over the next five years. These thin clients will connect to Windows 2000 Server with multi-user Terminal Services enabled or Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition. The multi-user Windows NT server operating system (now Windows 2000 Server) is fast moving into the front ranks of departmental, divisional, and enterprise-wide computing, because it delivers a wide array of Windows-based applications to users through the familiar Windows graphic interface.

Users can access Windows applications in a multi-user architecture, in which the computing and data are kept at the central server and the desktop thin client is a device for display, input, and output. Desktop devices, software applications, and corporate data can be managed, maintained, upgraded, and supported more easily, rapidly, and efficiently than in a standard, distributed client/server environment.

Windows-based terminals offer several advantages over PCs. They have no moving parts, low power demands, and connect to powerful centralised networked servers which provide better computing power and data storage than a desktop PC. Thin clients do not need the latest CPU, the greatest amount of RAM, or other rapidly changing features of the PC. In effect, all the instability and uncertainty that is inherent to the present and future value of a personal computer is off-loaded to the server.

Windows 2000 Server makes Windows-based terminals and personal computers peers on the corporate desktop for the first time. Prior to this, customers who wished to adopt a centralised, multi-user Windows environment had to buy different software or additional software from Microsoft.

The release of Windows 2000 Server marks the end of the early-adopter period for thin clients - multi-user deployments of Windows-based applications should now become mainstream, particularly in very large enterprises and government organisations. Terminal Services is an easy, cheap, and less time-consuming way to deliver the Windows 2000 Professional desktop operating system and applications to all an organisation's IT users.

Compiled by Paul Grant

(c) 2000 Wyse Technology, Inc.


This was first published in March 2000

 

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