Zero client, also known as ultra thin client, is a server-based computing model in which the end user’s computing device has no local storage. A zero client can be contrasted with a thin client, which retains the operating system and each device’s specific configuration settings in flash memory.
A typical zero client product is a small box that serves to connect a keyboard, mouse, monitor and Ethernet connection to a remote server. The server, which hosts the client’s operating system (OS) and software applications, can be accessed wirelessly or with cable. Zero clients are often used in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI ) environment.
Benefits of zero client computing:
– Power usage can be as low as 1/50th of fat client requirements.
– Devices are much less expensive than PCs or thin clients.
– Efficient and secure means of delivering applications to end users.
– No software at the client means that there is no vulnerability to malware.
– Easy administration.
– In a VDI environment, administrators can reduce the number of physical PCs or blades and run multiple virtual PCs on server class hardware.
The term zero client is often misapplied in thin client vendor marketing materials. True zero client endpoints do no local processing and have no client operating systems, drivers, software, storage, or even any configuration settings. They are completely stateless and management-free. Zero clients mean zero endpoint management – absolutely zero.
Some thin client vendors have even tried to make their endpoints look “zero” by keeping the client operating system image on the hard disk of a separate “streaming” appliance, requiring that users wait while it is downloaded to the endpoint’s hard disk or flash storage before use. Unfortunately, this only makes the entire VDI architecture from these vendors even more complex and fragile.
To see if vendor claims of “zero-ness” are valid, apply these tests:
1. Does the endpoint include a CPU of any kind? Any RAM or Flash Memory? Any storage devices or moving parts at all?
2. Are you forced to configure the endpoint in any way before use?
3. Do you need to reconfigure the endpoints before you are able to swap them between users?
4. Does the endpoint need to download an operating system image or any software before you can use it?
5. Are you not able to use the native Windows drivers that Microsoft or the manufacturer supply to connect to a new peripheral?
6. Does the endpoint require you use an embedded management tool?