SafeDesk Server System Thinks Thin

 
 
By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2005-05-30
 
 
 

SafeDesk Server System Thinks Thin


A good LTSP integration package should reduce Linux thin-client complexity and provide easy deployment, and eWEEK Labs tests show SafeDesk Server 1.8 manages to do so.



Click here to read the full review of SafeDesk Server 1.8.

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A good LTSP integration package should reduce Linux thin-client complexity and provide easy deployment, and eWEEK Labs tests show SafeDesk Server 1.8 manages to do so.

SafeDesk Solutions updated SafeDesk Server is a thin-client software package that has modest system requirements, low licensing costs and lightweight architecture. We believe SafeDesk Server 1.8 will appeal to a variety of economy-minded environments.

SafeDesk, which uses Linux and open-source LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) technology, is designed to build and deploy applications. It aims to enable small and midsize companies with minimal in-house Linux knowledge to quickly deploy a thin-client solution. Indeed, we found SafeDesk easy to deploy and manage, and it will save companies hardware costs in the process.

SafeDesk, which shipped last month, comes in two editions. The SafeDesk Server Standard edition, which we tested, runs on Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux Professional 9.2 and comes with a client software package that includes OpenOffice, GIMP and custom applications such as education software.

SafeDesk Server Standard supports as many as 30 users and can be downloaded for free (at www.safedesksolutions. com/quickstart). Sites that must support more than 30 users or companies that need to integrate SafeDesk with existing domain controllers can purchase the $99-per-user SafeDesk Server Enterprise edition, which runs on SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and comes with the same client application package as the Standard version. Standard edition users can upgrade to the Enterprise edition for $59.

Because SafeDesk provides mostly open-source software, there are no upfront licensing fees. This makes the software less expensive to scale up than many of its competitors.

The SafeDesk software bundle is LTSP-ready, which makes deployment simple. We had the software up and running on a test system in less than an hour—and most of that time was devoted to installing the SuSE Linux operating system.

SafeDesk Server Enterprise provides directory support so IT managers can leverage existing Novell eDirectory, Microsoft Corp. Active Directory or LDAP architectures to handle user management tasks.

SafeDesk Server Standard edition LTSP models do not have built-in support for integration with other thin-client solutions. In contrast, the SafeDesk Server Enterprise edition provides built-in support for RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) and Citrix Systems Inc.s ICA (Independent Computing Architecture) protocol, allowing more flexibility and scalability for larger sites.

SafeDesk Server Enterprise 1.8s ICA support enables organizations to integrate SafeDesk with their installed Citrix thin-client infrastructures to access legacy DOS or Unix-based terminal applications.

SafeDesk Solutions works with customers to provide the proprietary hooks that allow LTSP to work with Microsofts or in-house applications that would normally be difficult to configure. For example, SafeDesk Server can be deployed with CodeWeavers Inc.s Wine applications for Windows-centric organizations.

Companies can use SafeDesk Servers built-in Kiosk tool to create customized thin-client environments.

SafeDesk Server does not compete directly with other thin-client solutions such as Citrixs MetaFrame or Microsofts Terminal Server. Instead, it can integrate with these environments. For example, organizations might have a Citrix infrastructure for employees but run SafeDesk Server for guests or contractors. SafeDesk Server does compete directly with third-party LTSP tools.

Click here to read more about third-party LTSP tools.

SafeDesk leverages existing system management tools within SuSE Linux, such as YaST (Yet another Setup Tool) , and does not provide its own management layer. When we fired up the five-disk SuSE Linux installation, the YaST installer included the operating system and SafeDesk seamlessly, and the process was fairly straightforward.

After installation, IT managers will have to configure network settings. Because we configured two NICs on separate networks—one for the Internet and the other for the thin-client network—setting up the network could be the most challenging part of the deployment, especially for non-Linux users.

It was smooth sailing after we configured the network settings to our liking. YaST makes the rest of the configuration tasks a snap. We ran a console command to set up the LTSP service, which enabled our thin clients to connect to the server. Thin clients connect with the server using a PXE (Preboot Execution Environment) boot. SafeDesk Solutions can provide PXE-enabled NICs for shops running older hardware systems, at an additional cost.

SafeDesk can run on most Intel Corp. x86 hardware, but we recommend a fairly robust server with capacious memory. For a 30-user environment, the company recommends that a server have at least one Intel Xeon-based processor, 2GB of memory, three 36GB SCSI hard drives with RAID 5 and dual Gigabit Ethernet.

For sites that need thin clients as well as software, SafeDesk Solutions offers SafeDesk thin-client hardware, a $249 headless system with a Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. processor, 32MB of memory, integrated video and a single integrated 10/100M-bps NIC. The system has a small form factor and comes with multiple USB ports to accommodate peripherals.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

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Evaluation Shortlist

Citrix Systems MetaFrame Enterprise-class thin-client platform with strong Windows focus, scalable across large organizations (www.citrix.com)

ShaoLin Microsystems Ltd.s Aptus Thin-client Linux software allows clients to use local processing power while running shared operating systems and applications on the server (www.shaolinmicro.com)

Symbio Technologies LLCs Symbiont Management Suite Web-based management tools for configuring Linux terminal servers with diskless thin clients (www.thesymbiont.com)

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at francis_chu@ziffdavis.com.

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