Thin Client-Thick Server: Update

Last week, we were able to get support on the Thin Client for the local devices: floppy disk, speaker, CDROM and hard disk. (Need to check if we can record audio). Some of this may come in useful if we target the home segment. We also did some traffic analysis: there’s a lot of traffic that flows across! Making the solution work on a 10 Mbps LAN will be tough – we definitely need a 100Mbps LAN. What we need to try out though is the port rate limiting – to see if the solution can work on a 1-2 Mbps connection between the TC and TS. We are also working to add a second TS, and split users between the two, to get an idea of the scalability of the solution. We also need to think through the design/architecture of the solution in the coming weeks, and work out a productisation plan.

Going ahead, in the coming weeks, we will deploy the TC-TS solution at a few external locations, to get a feel for how others react. The commercial motivation is there, but we now have to see if it creates “pain” for the users. A few thoughts on this matter:

– initially, we should look at installing our own TS and a few TCs at the beta test locations, so we cause minimal hassle for the organisation

– we also want first-time users, not just the Windows users who may be asked to switch. Its the difference between delight and disappointment. Windows users will take a little time getting used to it, but like I have done, it is absolutely possible to make the switch.

– we want to use the system integrators/assemblers as we do our tests, so that they can then become advocates for our solution.

– we will need to do a “survey” of the current environment at the location – users, the non-PC users, the PC configurations, what they use computers for, the applications, etc. Understand what the problem it is that the solution will solve for them: will it legalise their software, will it enable them to give computing to more people in the organisation – understand the benefits of the solution for them.

– we need to emphasise training. First-time PC users should be given a 3-4 hour training on all aspects of the computer, while Windows users need to be given 1-2 hour training, with special emphasis on the differences from what they’ve been used to. Later, we could use the training institutes for this training.

– whom we identify as the first 2-3 users is going to be very important. They need to become our champions. So, they are the ones who are most likely to be open to change, the ones who like to try out new things first, the ones who can then explain the solution to others in the organisation.

– we have to add new users gradually, rather than trying to move everyone on the TC-TS at one go. Incremental is the way to do it, rather than disrupt their existing way of doing things.

What all this means is that we have to create a process for how we deploy the solution. Few companies in the world have attempted a grassroots movement to get Linux on the desktop. If we fail, it will not be because the technology couldnt do it, but because we did not take care of the softer factors in the migration. The technology problems are solvable, the people problems are harder, and we need to be sensitive to those. In that lies the success of this project.

The big question is whether the TC-TS solution will work in corporates. Ours is a predominantly software setup – mostly people work on the shell windows, few use OpenOffice or Windows, and people know they don’t have a choice! In corporates, its not going to the same. The only way to actually tell is to deploy it at a few locations and then see.

I am quietly optimistic. A few months ago, when we started, this was just a dream. But now, I feel it is close to becoming a reality. We first wanted to solve the technology problems, and we have succeeded in solving most of those. Now, we need to test the waters of the real world. The baby needs to start walking and talking.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.