Car rental company moves to .net terminal services system

Enterprise Rent-A-Car plans to deliver Microsoft Office and internally developed car-rental applications to 5,000 branch...

Enterprise Rent-A-Car plans to deliver Microsoft Office and internally developed car-rental applications to 5,000 branch locations equipped with Windows CE-based terminals.

Thin-client devices will access the applications through the enhanced terminal services as featured in Microsoft's upcoming release of Windows .net Server 2003.

For more than 10 years, branch employees have rented out cars using 5250 terminals that link back to the company's AS/400 servers. But Enterprise wants to replace the limited-function screens with a more graphical interface and give its users a more PC-like environment that will support new features and capabilities, says Mark Adams, an assistant vice-president of information systems at the company.

Enterprise wanted to retain its existing support model for its 5250 terminals because it knows well the effort required to support full-blown PCs. Enterprise settled on Windows CE-based thin clients because it found them easier to manage and configure and considered them more consistent across vendor lines than Unix- and Linux-based devices, says Derik Reiser, Enterprise director of platform solutions.

The Windows CE terminals launch Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) 5.1 client software and establish sessions either through a LAN to a server in the branch office or through a shared frame-relay circuit to servers at Enterprise's headquarters.

As part of Microsoft's Joint Development Program, Enterprise has been testing terminal services at 18 branches that have two-processor servers running locally and at two branches that connect to four-way boxes.

During the next 24 months, Enterprise plans to roll out Windows .net Server 2003 to 2,500 of its larger branches and connect the remaining 2,500 to its central servers.

The sheer scale will set the Enterprise project apart from the typical Microsoft terminal services deployment, according to Gartner analyst Mark Margevicius. He said 250 to 300 clients has been the "magic number" for terminal services. Beyond that, most companies have gone to a more scalable product, such as MetaFrame XP from Citrix Systems.

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