Thin Clients. Again. Stop. Please.

Oh boy, no matter how much I try to avoid it, the whole thin client subject keeps coming back and the pro arguments do not change. Jeroen wrote about the  flaws on Thin Clients last week and I wrote something about them as well a couple weeks ago, that you can read here.

Let me explain again what is wrong with Thin Clients and why the arguments most vendors have about them is completely bogus in my opinion.

First of all, in times of $200 PCs at Walmart, there is no justification why a Thin Client should cost twice or three times as much as a full blown PC. Unless these thin clients are coming with Quad Core Xeons and Dual GPU ATI Radeons on them and not one told me. I still think that is not the case and more than that, most of these come with non-Intel CPUs and crappy, subpar video cards. So why they cost the same or much more I have no idea. Add to that the fact I personally worked on building thin clients and dealing with suppliers in China, I do know exactly how low you can go on pricing these things.

Arguments like ‘no moving parts’ add an extra cost are also not 100% accurate. You can get some very reasonable, small system boards that will take IDE Flash Drives (Disk on Module). These days a 1GB one costs less than $20 and we are not talking about large quantities here. Years ago I was able to build one of these systems for less than $80 and proved it would be possible to bring them to the market for $99. That included a centralized management tool that we developed at the time, to manage all these from a single location.

I guess my main complain is really regarding what you get for what you pay, when compared to a full blown PC. Vendors will say it is all about management (and that is valid – and more than that, it is the same in the PC world; managing PCs or any other asset for that matter is key) but the price that carries from the vendors I think is simply too much. Again, it can be done for much less.

I think at the end my main complain is the same as everyone out there. If these things would be selling for $99, many people I know would buy way more of these than they do today. But when you have small boxes with way less power for more than a PC, it becomes a tough sell, especially on times when companies are trying to save as much as you can.

One thing I must say is in part this is not all their fault (the thin client vendors). The fact all the greatest and latest features on the connecting clients (ICA or RDP) are only available on Windows (and I mean full blown Windows – Windows CE in many cases does NOT support all the features) for sure has an impact as you need bigger flash drives and Microsoft licenses what adds up for sure.

That brings me to one question. Why you Citrix, cannot deliver a decent ICA client that has pretty much all the functionality you have on Windows? You can AND you know that. The same question applies to Microsoft but in that case we all know the answer. And unfortunately that same answer may apply to Citrix.

And on ICA, things get worse as unlike RDP, ICA is closed and the specs are NOT available what prevents anyone from writing a decent ICA client for Linux (what can be done at least for RDP – and please we all know the ICA Client for Linux sucks balls big time). Should Citrix open the specs on ICA? Not sure, especially considering how ahead of the game they are when compared to VMWare View offerings…

The point here is simple. Hardware wise thin clients could cost the same as PCs (or less for sure) but the software layer may add something to the price and if not adding (meaning using Open Source OSs) may not deliver the experience you need/want for your users.

Resuming. You are screwed and should use locked down PCs. Or contact me and we will build a decent thin client.

And I promise I will try not to talk about thin clients anymore until the end of the year.

CR

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Now what VMWare fanboys?

On my last post on the subject, VMWare lovers/fanboys/users bashed me because I complained about the vSphincter vSphere 4 client not working on Windows 7.

The main argument used was ‘Oh you are bitching about support for an OS that is not even released so shut up” and I could live with that at the time.

So now Windows 7 is out. Note this is not Ubuntu 9.10, YourMommaLinux or any other small player OS. This is a MAJOR OS coming from a vendor that dominates more than 90% of the desktop OS market and more than that, made earlier releases of such OS available to ANYONE, VMWare included.

Is the vSphere 4 client working on Windows 7 out of the box? Not yet.

I have heard VMWare is waiting for Windows 8 to come out to then support Windows 7.

Thanks VMWare.

CR

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Not a Microsoft MVP anymore.

Well before you go ahead and read this post, please note this is not a rant about it. It is just what I honestly think about how Microsoft is evaluating the work people like myself have been doing on the Terminal Services communities over the past year (that is all that counts when Microsoft comes up to a decision if they will or not re-award you).

So what have I been doing in the community this past year? Some may say a lot, some may say not too much. So here you have my take on that.

– I wrote and made available at no cost an 80-page guide about Terminal Services. It describes everything you need to understand what it does, how it does and how to properly set it up from start to finish. It is based on Windows Server 2003 (and I am now updating it to Windows Server 2008 R2). You can download it here.

– I posted about the industry in general here on my blog and on other places several times.

– I presented a session again at BriForum regarding Windows Server 2008 R2 RDS (as I have been doing since BriForum’s inception).

– Helped people through my website (direct emails) and on the Microsoft public newsgroups.

Apparently, this is not enough for Microsoft. I just wish they had a more palpable, clear policy on what is indeed required to get your MVP status renewed. Several other MVPs did probably way less than above and are still MVPs.

Will I be back next year? Assuming all I have been doing means nothing (as it is the case as I have not been renewed), then no, I am not coming back (as I see no need to do more than I am actually doing and more than that, I do think I have done a lot for the TS community over the past year AND over the years).

See you guys!

CR

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Why all this drama now?

If you have been around the SBC space for a couple of years, you are probably aware if you had a Terminal Services/Citrix solution in place at your company you were treated in a different way. Not necessarily a good one.

In most cases the ‘Citrix’ solution was left on its own by the ‘Server’ guys. The ‘Citrix’ guys were the ones responsible for setting it up, making sure it was up and running, that performance was good (at least from their end – you cannot do much regarding Outlook performance when your ‘Server’ guys decide to run a 1000 maiboxes Exchange 2007 Server using VMWare Player) and so on.

That of course caused some interesting issues. When you had a performance problem the ‘Server’ guys almost automatically would blame ‘Citrix’. As the tools available evolved, it became much easier to prove to these douche bags the issue was actually on the way they setup their SQL servers (all in one single disk!), their Exchange boxes, their AD and even their switches/routers. And not on Citrix.

Fast forward to today’s world, where VDI is the next big thing (well, funny pause here: years ago, when everyone started talking about VDI, the CEO of a very large company that is a MAJOR player in the SBC space told me during BriForum that for him ‘VDI was one of the dumbest ideas ever but as everyone is talking about it we are now supporting this…’), and now people are all concerned about how to treat the ‘VDI’ guys at the datacenter. Read Gabe’s post on the subject here.

My point here is simple. Why all this now? ‘Citrix’ people have been used to this for years and in most cases, the guys pushing VDI forward are the EXACT same guys that had to push ‘Citrix’ forward years ago.

These people are used to that and learned how to deal with that separation at the datacenter at the time. In the past the user’s desktop was hosted on a server at the datacenter (that ran Windows Whatever with TS enabled and Citrix WinMetaXen or QuestProvisonvWhat) running on server grade (hopefully) hardware and users would access it over RDP/ICA. Today’s hotcake, VDI, has the user desktop hosted in a datacenter, running on server grade hardware and they access it over RDP/ICA. So where is the difference?

There is no difference. The ‘Citrix’ guy is now the ‘VDI’ dude (as guy is really ‘out’ – dude is ‘in’). And the same way the ‘Citrix’ guy had to fight his battles with the ‘Server’ guys and had to find his way to manage his loved puppy, all the ‘VDI’ dudes need to do is basically the same.

With a huge advantage: they have all the history, everything we, ‘Citrix’ guys, had to go through, discussed/documented/explained all over the web.

If these ‘dudes’ can learn with our past mistakes/battles/history, they will see this is not rocket science and that in several ways they are no different than what we were 5, 10 years ago.

Grow up guys. VDI is not that different from TS.

Before you thank me for this post, You are Welcome.

CR

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Thank you VMWare.

This time I will be quick. Over the weekend I upgraded my VMWare ESXi environment at home and from that end, everything worked smoothly (yes I know most of the time upgrading VMWare stuff is not really that easy). But as with anything that usually comes out from 3401 Hillview Ave, Palo Alto, CA, something wrong had to happen.

VMWare had MONTHS to fix the freaking issue with their VSphere Infrastructure Client or whatever that is called now (as they now copy everything Citrix does, they started changing names – word on the street is VMWare ESXi will be renamed VMWare SEXi and VSphere will become VOval) when on Windows 7.

Of course I am running Windows 7. Windows XP, according to my daughter, is “so last year” so I moved everything I have to Windows 7. Once you are in Windows 7 land the VIC (Virtual Infrastructure Client Crap) does not work anymore and when you try to logon it throws one of these really useful, easy to understand error messages. Why not show a simple window that says “You are screwed. Thanks for using VMWare.”?  

Thank Lord there is a fix for what lazy VMWare screwed up. You need to grab a DLL from somewhere and change a config file to get that crap working again. All explained here.

Once I did that, everything is now up and running again. And on Windows 7.

Please do not tell me you need Windows XP Mode on Windows 7 to fix this crap VMWare.

Virtualization is cool and great. But using it to fix shit you created in the first place, is not cool.

Really.

CR

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User needs and the impact on TS/VDI.

After reading Daniel Feller’s post today on ‘VDI or TS’ I started thinking about one of the main arguments people have to justify VDI:  flexibility to deliver a unique desktop/environment to the user.

The more I think about this, the less sense it makes to me. When we start to think about tools, procedures, regulations and a bunch more things that surround us every single day and that are part of our lives, we can find a common thing/trend there: everything has a set of rules that we all, as a society, accept and follow. Several without questioning.

Before we go ahead let’s take a look at certain examples. When driving, if you see a red light you stop. You never questioned why the light is red and not bright pink. Plus the traffic authorities will not really change the red/yellow/green traffic light at the corner of your house just because you prefer Purple/Bibbidy Bobbidy Blue/Crushed Mellon. Nope. Once you get your license you accept the fact these are the colors and that they have a certain meaning that you will follow.

Same for your bank. You know they are usually opened from 9:30am to 4:30pm and that you cannot withdrawn $100,000 in cash on that ATM close to your place. Again, the bank is not really going to acommodate your needs to be able to withdrawn $1,000 in one dollar bills just because you think it is more efficient for you if you could do that. Or open at 2:00am because your wife prefers that.

Once you go through all the scenarions/things that are around us it is easy to understand the reason why we have regulations in place like SoX, HIPAA, etc. To have a common set of rules/procedures that guarantee certain things will always be there, done in a certain way and so on.

Why IT services these days are seen in a different way I have no clue. What I mean here is simple. IT is always being pushed by users to deliver something extra because every freaking user these days has a different, unique requirement!

Why does someone need his icons shown using Hattenschleisse fonts instead of Arial? Why does he need a picture of his three year old single testicule three legged albino camel as a background instead of the corporate logo? You get the picture.

Why users cannot live with a common, standard set of tools? I do understand Engineering needs different tools than Accounting and I am fine with that. But why do we need to support twenty five different Accounting departments in a company that has 25 users in the Accounting department? Is there really a need, in a business environment, to give every single person a unique set of tools so they can work? Cannot they work with something called a ‘common toolset’?

TS can deliver that extremely well, assuming a common toolset is there and is enforced. At several places we deployed SBC the users had to adapt to the working environment and not the other way around.

I can definitely see the value on VDI and several reasons to use it. But the simple reason ‘TS cannot address all the user requirements we have at our company’ is giant, MEGA BS to me. Why all the sudden users do not need to follow rules on their working environment the same way they do for everything else in life?

If that was not the case we would have traffic lights with pink, purple and brown lights just because your grandma likes and wants it.

As proven over the years, IT goes through cycles, always coming back to something that was done years ago. I am sure that will be the case here.

Once this generation of architects/admins/consultants creating these ‘do-whatever-you-want’ business enviroments are gone, I am certain someone down the road will realize how much of a PITA these are to manage and we will get back to the old days where you would get the right tool for the job and nothing else.

Before you ask, no, I do not hate users. But I cannot understand why you need a pink keyboard matching a yellow mouse.

At the end, are these valid user needs or simply user ‘whinning/bitching’? Ask that yourself the next time you are asked to deploy XenDesktop.

Cheers.

CR

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