If there is one company which has epitomised Thin Client-Thick Server computing, it is Citrix. Together with Microsofts Windows Terminal Server, Citrix offers a centralised form of computing. Using Citrix also eases the administration and support issues, since all desktops can be controlled from the server itself. Citrix also works well over low-speed lines since the data transfers are quite limited.
An article in Information Week (November 29, 1999) provided the perspective on Citrix:
Since its founding in 1989, Citrix has grown steadily by selling software built on Microsoft operating systems. Its core technology is called the Independent Computing Architecture, which lets multiple users access applications with a range of thin devices from a remote server. Now that access to Internet application servers is commonplace, remote access to applications doesn’t sound like a big deal. But in the early ’90s, when Citrix introduced the technology that Independent Computing Architecture is based on, people were amazed, says Greg Blatnik, VP and analyst with Zona Research.
“Citrix did something that had never been done before and hasn’t been done since: It turned Windows NT into a multiuser operating system. Back then, people were blown away because demos looked as if the application was running locally when it could have been halfway across the country,” Blatnik says.
Independent Computing Architecture, which lets IT departments deliver universal access to Windows applications without regard to client device, operating platform, network connection, or available bandwidth, is the technology basis for Citrix’s primary server software products, MetaFrame and WinFrame.
There are problems with Citrix when looked at from the point of view of enterprises in emerging markets. Citrix by itself does not reduce the need for software organisations still have to buy all the Windows licences for the users. In addition, Citrix has a high cost for its own software. In India, the cost is upwards of Rs 14,000 (USD 280). So, the advantage of the cheaper hardware is more than offset by the software costs. The real value of Citrix comes in its ability to reduce support and administration costs and offer remote working for employees. Both of these advantages have limited appeal in emerging markets.
What Citrix does, though, is offer a starting point for thinking about a possible solution which can not only leverage the cheaper hardware but also reduce the need for expensive, proprietary software. What is striking when enterprises in emerging markets think of providing desktops with hardware and software costing USD 1,200 to employees whose salaries are less than USD 300-400 per month. There is a definite need for an alternative computing model one which learns from the history of computing and leverages tomorrows technologies to create a future where computing is for everyone.
Linux-based Thin Client-Thick Server computing may just be the Disruptive Innovation to take computing to the mass markets in the emerging markets of the world.
Tomorrow: The Linux Difference