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Raspberry PI Thin Client? Why not!

Todays focus on server infrastructure is all based on Cloudbased solutions. Wether it’s a local cloud or an offsite cloud. The problem with moving all the compute power from a local Desktop to a server is that it requires very powerfull and expensive servers. If you decide to put all your servers in an offsite solution (renting servers offsite or just using Amazon for examle) the price gets even higher over time. So how do we make the more expensive infrastructure worth the money? One of them are Thin Clients of course!

The thing is that even a Thin Client can cost a whole lot more than you expect, and sometimes even more than a standard PC!
A nice concept, that is an easy to use solution for IT management, is Igel. Buying one unit gives you access to the free management console, UMS, where you can control all your units from a single point with or without your own defined policies. Heaven for IT management!
But, there still is a couple of issues… Because we most likely need to use Microsoft products, we stumble upon the License djungle. And that’s where Microsoft is the Panther. You’ll never se it coming, and when it does it takes a huge bite of your behind…
The cheapest Igel Thin Client is the Igel Zero series, with the exception of the UD2-LX which is the most powerfull of the cheapest. They all have Linux, which requires that you buy a Microsoft License to be able to connect to the Microsoft enviroment making them a bit more expensive. But Igel also comes with a Microsoft Windows OS if you want to buy that instead, eliminating the Device licensing. It comes with a price though, and is about the double.

So what can we do to get a cheap Thin Client? You guessed right… Raspberry PI comes to the rescue!
Raspberry PI has alot to offer in all terms. Building a Thin Client is one of them. Either you do it yourself, which is really easy, or you download a prebuilt image like RPITC. Check it out:
Price for this solution? About $40-100, with a presumed Microsoft license cost, case, etc. That’s about $100-200 cheaper than the cheapest Igel with the same licenses!
And if you’ve got i.e. 1000 units in your company, that’s about $100 000-200 000 savings! A very nice contribution to the budget for the servers!

RPITC is a really good prebuilt image that is ready to use. The easiest way for IT Management to administer these devices is to simply load the stock image from RPITC, or start building your own, and just making a copy of that specific image. Once you’ve got the image ready to deploy, yojust load SD cards with it and send out the devices. The thing is that updating these units isn’t that easy. Using the above example of managing the units will require you to send new/updated SD cards to the users with these units. To solve this you could create a webservice that publishes a config file, and at startup the RPI makes a call to that service to get any updates in the config. This is basicly what Igel UMS does. It has a webservice on port 8090 if the UMS server where the Igel Thin Clients call in to get the current settings. It’s a bit more tricky to get this working, I haven’t done this myself yet, but when I do I’ll publish a HOW TO for you guys.

Apart from better price and the ability to fullfill our needs, does it really work? It depends on your needs…
You can do most tasks without any problem. If you use normal office programs it’s not a problem. But once you need get graphic srequirements don’t even consider Raspberry PI. It works better with the codec you can buy for it, but it’s far from good. The best way to find out if Raspberry PI will work for your company is to buy a unit and give it a shot.


How much power do you need..?

A question you always ask yourself when buying new hardware is how much power do I really need?
In most cases you end up with an oversize to be on the safe side, rather than facing the consequence of having to little power. Due to all the attention for the environment and the fasion to be green, oversize is not an option.

Calculating the correct amount manually is tricky, and you will probably forget something. Every single bit of hardware consumes power. The RAM for example, one unit doesn’t use much but when you install a bunch that number could be the difference.

Having this issue myself, I stumbled upon a great website, eXtreme Outer Vision, making this issue non existent!

For personal use, this service is free. You’ve got some limited options regarding hardware, but it mainly covers all your needs as long as you don’t go berserk. For commercial use you have to pay a very small price, at this moment priced at $1.99. Extremly useful when dimensioning servers where the load should be just right.

Apart from the calculator they have some great tools for calculating Overclock, Airflow, etc. Have a look!