Jamestown Community College was no different from many other organizations when it came to its client-side architecture. Its administrators wanted to find an easier, cheaper way to give users access to the schools network while extending the life of equipment.
So last year, the 4,000-student college began replacing some of its desktop PCs with thin-client appliances from Neoware Systems Inc., of King of Prussia, Pa. The initiative started small with the installation about 18 thin-client stations and one server in the library of the schools main campus in Jamestown, N.Y. The initiative has since grown to include about 24 thin clients in the library and a second server, as well as 125 more stations in the schools new Cattaraugus County campus in Olean, N.Y.
The school is now looking to expand the program by adding even more thin clients as well as remote access management capabilities, said Jeff Camp, network systems administrator at JCC. “We were looking for an inexpensive way to buy more user stations,” Camp said. “We thought we would give [thin clients] a try.”
Thin clients offer a number of advantages over a traditional PC environment, including easier manageability. Because the operating system and applications reside on a central server, such tasks as patch management need to be done only on the server, rather than on every client. It also means client hardware tends to be less costly and more secure.
For Camp, manageability was important. “Centralization was key,” he said. “Instead of having to be responsible for a couple of thousand PCs, you could consolidate that into one single point into the server. The administration can be done centrally, [and] any changes to the applications can be done centrally. … With PCs, you have to go out to [the individual] stations. With thin clients and servers, its all centralized.”
In addition, because everything is housed on a back-end server, deploying thin-client appliances is easier than deploying PCs.
“Getting a PC up was taking us part of a day to do,” Camp said. “Thin clients are ready to go out of the box. … You can take it out of the box, plug it in, give it an IP number and get it online in about 10 minutes.”
All that is important to a school with an IT staff of about 10 people who cover hardware, software, networking and more on all four of JCCs campuses.
Lower Costs, Better Durability
Cost savings was also a factor in the decision to implement a thin-client environment. A thin-client appliance can cost as little as one-third of traditional PCs, Camp said. Those savings are enhanced by JCCs ability to get the thin-client devices through IBM, which resells the Neoware devices to JCC at discounted prices. In addition, because the thin-client devices dont have such components as hard or floppy drives, they tend to last longer than desktop PCs, he said.
There are drawbacks, Camp said. Centralization means that if there are problems with the server or software, everyone on the network is affected. “If someone is getting an error, theyre all getting it,” he said. “But with thin clients, [the errors] can be dealt with centrally.”
The college implemented the thin clients first in a classroom setting in the library, where students could use them to get information from the librarys resource sites or the Internet, Camp said. The implementation has since expanded into the main part of the library, replacing the card catalog with a Web-based access point.
Through Citrix Systems Inc.s MetaFrame software, library officials can monitor what students are viewing on the appliances and regulate when students can log in to the network.
At JCCs new campus, the plan is to continue replacing desktops with thin clients in student areas, although there are some compute-intensive software—such as CAD applications—that will remain on PCs, Camp said.
In addition, Camp said he is looking at bringing remote access capabilities into the thin-client environment, enabling students to load terminal emulation software onto their home PCs and laptops.
Camp and his team are reviewing the schools infrastructure to ensure that there is enough bandwidth to handle the demand generated by students accessing the network remotely. Eventually, students will be able to get the same access and experience from their homes as they get from the Neoware terminals on the campuses, he said.