BIVBlog #35: Thin Clients and Beyond

If thin clients like the SunRays I’ve shown in BIVBlog #34 were so appealing to users, system administrators and managers alike, then why did they stay a niche product? And why does nobody care about them anymore?

The answers to these questions are interesting not only with regard to thin clients, or SunRays, but to the design of virtually any IT system that is meant for real world end users.

Table of Contents

00:01:00 Performance and efficiency of thin clients…
00:01:15 … in the network
00:03:10 … and on the server.
00:06:15 Reliability.
00:08:05 Longevity and vendor lock-in.
00:12:40 Today’s alternatives for thin clients: Tablets and docks for smart phones.
00:15:05 Thin clients vs. managing large numbers of machines, then and now.
00:22:00 What to do with my SunRays.

Preceding video with a closer look at the SunRay environment in BIVBlog #34 (


Long term IPv6 evangelist/book author/trainer/consultant and generic Unix guy (*BSD, Linux, Solaris, and about a dozen more).


  1. Markos

    Hi, I just discovered your channel and this particular post.

    I was thinking about the points you make on thin clients in general, and I do agree on most of them but I think that they are a bit restricted to a particular time (when the Ray was released, and Thin Clients in general began to win popularity).
    I do think that TC make sense (even nowadays) under certain conditions, namely:

    – You can run independently of any particular HW/SW vendor for the base system. I.e you are not tied to some sort of “Oracle” 🙂

    – You are not running something that requires real-time feedback / network intensive applications (the example you make about Video Editing makes the point).

    – You have a reasonable strategy for high availability (good servers with redundancy, you can distribute clients around different servers, etc…. anything you can do to avoid single point of failure as you mention)

    – Your organization has reasonable competent IT personnel, or a good SLA.

    Of course it is not suitable for any organization, but again if you meet certain conditions it could work.

    Even for Windows OS could make sense to have cheap RDP machines for mos of the seats, and manage only a handful of servers, instead of 100s of individual machines.
    I’ve run several (very expensive) windows apps on large organizations, and it works pretty ok if you have a decent infrastructure.

    If your organization does not depend on very specific HW, you can go full Open Source and save a big sum of $ both in HW and SW (training aside).
    Most departments do use a very limited set of apps, relying nowadays in browsers for most of the work…..

    What do you think?


    • Benedikt Stockebrand

      Hi Markos,

      sorry for the long delay, I’m things are rather busy here right now. Anyway, yes, I agree with your reasoning, but today where notebook (and tablet) computers are largely the norm in enterprises, thin clients which are tied to a specific locations in my opinion are still a niche product.

      That said, yes, especially when it comes to certain software licensing issues, or sporadic need for serious compute power, then thin clients still are well worth a look at.



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