If you have been following along with this series you are probably at the point where you want to start testing your VMware View environment with a thin or zero client. Picking out a thin/zero client is a pretty overwhelming process for most IT professionals. I always find it easier to start with your list of requirements and then weed out the products that don’t have the features you can’t live without. The good news is there are a lot more vendors/models of thin/zero clients then there were even 2 years ago. As a result of this competition innovation has gone up and price has gone down.
In this article I will explain the following
- End-Point Requirements
- What is PCoIP
- Explain the difference between thin and zero clients
- VMware View 4.5 & PCoIP Optimization
- Take a closer look at some of my favorites zero clients
- Thin Client Configuration tips
This article is part 8 of a ten part series. Future articles are listed below.
There are primarily four different types of end-points that are utilized in VDI environments; Thin clients, Zero Clients, Blade PC’s, and software clients. I am going to focus on Thin and Zero clients because I think they are better solutions are more widely used.
As you were reading Part 7: VMware View 4.5 Planning & Implementation Guide you probably noticed that one of the largest benefits of VDI is a reduction in total cost of ownership. The type of end-point you decide to purchase can dramatically change your TCO.
So what are some of the most common requirements?
- Reduce TCO – spend less money on your VDI environment this includes both operating expense and capital expense.
- Improve Productivity – Instead of dedicating resources to fixing laptop and PC problems focus your efforts on business intelligence and other initiatives.
- Transparency to users – the users should have the same feeling and experience as if they were using a desktop PC or Laptop
- Reduce Energy Costs – Save on power and cooling costs by going with an end-point that draws very little power and is convection cooled.
- Improve Security – mitigate against data theft by not storing any data on the end-point.
- Reduce Management – spend much less time working on break fix issues, managing hundreds or thousands of PC’s, managing the software used to manage all of your client computer’s.
- Ability to utilize USB Devices – plug in any USB device like printers, headsets, storage, etc. Some end-points require firmware updates or software to leverage the use of USB devices.
- Ability to watch videos without performance degradation – watch training videos or WebEx conferences without problems. A lot of end-points require Multimedia Redirection capability, if you don’t get this on the end-point video and sound frankly suck!
- Multiple Monitor Support
- Wired/Wireless Ethernet
- Does it support VMware View 4.5 – pretty important for these articles J
I figured it would be useful to some of you to explain what PCoIP actually is because throughout this article I will be referencing it quite often. For those of you who already have a commanding knowledge of PCoIP you can probably skip this section.
PCoIP is a remote access protocol owned and designed by a company called Teradici. PCoIP was developed as a way to connect zero clients to a host environment, this includes VMware View.
Microsoft’s RDP protocol has been around for a long time and primarily used in terminal server environments. RDP works great but there are some serious limitations which PCoIP overcomes.
PCoIP currently supports the following features:
- Display Compression
Support of USB Devices
- Printers – including multi-function printer-copier-scanners
- Custom 3D CAD manipulation devices
- Smart card readers
- Many PDAs
- Biometric devices
- Web cameras
- Custom Bloomberg keyboards
- Wireless keyboards, mice
- Bluetooth adapters
- DVD/CD drives
- USB HDDs
- Many USB Flash drives
- USB keyboards, mice
- USB headphones (VoIP)
- Game controllers
- Game driving wheels
- Ability to watch HD Video and HD Audio
- WAN Support ( you still need a decent WAN, 3MBPS is usually sufficient for normal data usage, streaming HD Video , doesn’t work unless you have a very fast WAN)
- Improved security allowing you to block unauthorized USB Devices
- Operating System independence
- Auto-Logon – allows administrators to pre-configure user information and domain name on Zero clients for Automatic Logon
Thin Vs Zero
There are four main end-points used in VDI environments: Thin, Zero, Blade-PC’s and software clients. Thin and Zero clients are definitely the most popular options but what is the difference between to two?
A Thin Client is named such because it is a slimmed down version of a PC. It still has a processor, storage, RAM, and an operating system on it. The Operating System is usually Windows XP embedded, Windows CE, Windows 7 embedded, some flavor of Linux, or the manufacturer’s Operating System. Typically the Operating System is installed on a 1, 2 or 4GB Flash drive, but I have seen Solid State drives as well.
The range of models varies from low cost models marketed towards terminal services to expensive models that have faster CPU’s, more RAM, larger disk space, multiple DVI outputs. This basically turns them into cheap desktop PC’s. The higher end models are usually in the $550-850 range. The extra hardware is needed a lot of times to run the operating system on the Thin Client. For example, Wyse uses its TCX application suite to manage video, audio, flash, multiple monitors, etc.
Thin Clients also typically have firmware that you must be updated from time to time which can be annoying from a management perspective. Sometimes you even need to download and update the drivers for the embedded operating system you are using in order to get certain USB Devices to work.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you must update and manage all of the operating systems on all of your thin clients in your environment. This is typically made easier with some sort of overlaying management software. The problem is the management software can get expensive, and you need to commit valuable IT resources to it.
- Cheaper capital investment than most desktop PC’s
- Reduce Energy Costs
- Improved Security over a desktop PC
- Most devices have pretty good USB support
- Less management expense then a Desktop PC
- Some models have wireless capability
- Some models support multiple monitors
- Cheaper than most desktop PC’s but not by much
- Still have to manage and update an embedded operating system
- Have to update drivers and firmware every now and then
- Higher level of IT skill needed
- IT staff has to spend time using management tools
- Management tools are expensive especially when maintenance is taken into consideration
- Sometimes Thin clients require additional licenses for multi-media redirection and USB device support.
Here is an example of some of the cost considerations of a Thin Client
Unlike a Thin Client a Zero client doesn’t have any processing, drives, or embedded operating system on it. A Zero client has the logic necessary to connect to an Ethernet network as well as present audio and video and connect USB Devices.
You are not limiting yourself by not having these features in fact the exact opposite is true. Think about not having any operating system to update, no drivers to install, no viruses or spyware, no hard drive to crash, no need to cool the device, they practically last forever. In fact, I had some old Wyse terminal services clients that lasted 9 + years. Thin clients have much more overhead compared to zero clients. When you setup a zero client you shouldn’t need to spend any time maintaining it.
Zero clients allow you to simplify your network and start realizing some of those TCO cost savings that got you interested in VDI in the first place. I don’t see the point of using Thin Clients in your VDI environment. Thin clients tie you down to the same issues you are trying to get away from. They aren’t quite as bad as fat PC’s but why half ass it.
- Low cost end-points
- No embedded operating system that you have to update, maintain, and secure.
- Zero end-point management and configuration , saving IT staff time
- Very low energy costs
- Lack of moving parts improves life span of the product
- Ability to utilize USB devices
- Ability to leverage multiple monitors with most models
- Most new end-points leverage the PCoIP protocol
- Ability to play HD videos.
- Some models support VMware View 4.5
- Most models are purpose built for VDI
- Zero clients require a fast network connection since none of the processing is done locally. Accessing clients over the WAN is still an issue today although there are some new developments that are improving this.
- Cannot be re-used for terminal servers.
- This isn’t really a big Con but every now and again you may have to run Firmware Updates as new features are released. However, this shouldn’t really be something you have to do very often.
Sample cost of using Zero Clients
VMware View 4.5 PCoIP Optimization
- Install VMware tools on your parent VM or virtual desktop depending on what kind of desktop pool you are using before you install the VMware View Agent.
When creating your Virtual Desktop pools select the following Adobe flash options by going to your VMware View Administrator à Inventory à Pools à Select your Pool à Edit à Click the pool settings tab
Set the remote display protocol to PCoIP on that same screen. You will also want to set the desktop display resolution to whatever the native resolution is for the monitor attached to the Zero Client.
In the VMware View Administrator GUI go to Policies à Global Policies à Edit Policies à Ensure multimedia redirection is set to deny. If you need to enable Multimedia redirection for one of your other desktop pools you can do it on the local policy level instead of the global policy level. Zero clients don’t support MMR so it’s just a waste of CPU cycles. Furthermore, set the PCoIP hardware acceleration to Allow and priority to Highest for the best desktop experience. You probably will want to play around with this value because it does impact CPU.
- For optimal performance ensure you are using a full/duplex gigabit Ethernet connection to your Zero Client. A user accessing Microsoft Office Applications uses about 150-250kbps, however while running 720p videos that number is much higher. Furthermore, confirm that your round trip latency is also low, less than 150ms.
Recommended Zero Clients
Samsung PCoIP Monitor
The Samsung NC190/NC240 definitely wins the sexy award. You can get either a 19inch or 23.6 inch Samsung monitor that has PCoIP support built into it. You can’t really get any sleeker than this. In fact, all you need is the Samsung Monitor, a keyboard, mouse, and an Ethernet cable. The Samsung NC190/NC240 support VMware View 4.5 while leveraging PCoIP. They use the Teradici Tera1100 Portal Processor to present a very good desktop experience.
You can own the 24 inch version for around $550 and the 19inch for around $450. All things considering that’s a pretty reasonable price.
Wyse has been making Thin Clients since I got into Computers, and they have been doing it well. They extended their portfolio to include zero clients as well. The Wyse p20 is fully supported with VMware View 4.5. It has multiple display support, multimedia playback support, HD Audio, and four USB ports. It uses the same Teradici 1100 Portal for PCoIP connectivity. They run you around $400 and include a three year warranty.
Wyse Thin Client Configuration Tips
If you are using a Wyse Thin Client to connect to your View 4.5 environment then you will want to perform the following configuration settings. First of all you want to ensure that Wyse Multimedia support is installed when you install VMware tools. Not you only need to install MMR if you bought a Wyse Thin Client that supports it. Generally you also need to purchase a license to activate MMR. Please reference this article for more details http://www.tcpdump.com/kb/virtualization/virtual-desktop/wyse-tcx-mmr-and-vmware-vdi-view.html
- Install VMware Tools on your client before installing the VMware View Agent
Load VMware Tools, Click Next
- Chose Custom and click Next
Expand VMware Device Drivers à Scroll down to the bottom and set “Wyse Multimedia Support” to “this feature will be installed on the local hard drive”, and the click the Next button to continue.
After selecting this option there should no longer be a red X next to Wyse Multimedia Support signifying that it will in fact be installed.
Auto Launch VMware View Client
If you are using a thin client you want access to their desktop to be very easy. One way to do this is to have the VMware View Client set to auto launch when Windows Embedded loads.
- The first thing you probably need to do is change the boot order on the Wyse Thin Client to boot to the flash drive first instead of DHCP unless you have that configured.
- Then you must hold down the shift key while you are logging into the Thin client. This will allow you to sign in as the administrator otherwise it takes you right into the desktop. The administrator password is Wyse123#. On the desktop there should be an icon for you to enable the write filter. Double click on that icon and you will need to reboot and sign back in as the administrator. Enabling the write filter allows you to write data to the flash drive.
- Set the VMware View Client to start when the profile loads by placing it in the startup folder.
- Also preconfigure the View Connection Server and domain and save these settings so your users don’t have to enter them in.
- When finished disable the write filter
Sign in as a user and it should automatically try connecting to your View Connection server and the user just needs to enter in their password.
If you are looking at using end-points in your VDI environment I strongly suggest using zero clients. I listed two of my favorites in this article, click here for more options. I listed single unit pricing for the two end-points I reviewed but if you are purchasing these in bulk I am sure you can get better discounts. I hope this article helped you wrap your mind around end-points accessing a VDI environment. Please stay tuned for my next article in the series on ThinApp.