This is the first of two articles which shows the key points to consider when looking at the operating system of thin client endpoint devices. There are numerous flavours of firmware available in the market, but they can be reduced to three key groups: Zero Clients, Linux and Windows Embedded based thin clients. True Zero Clients are based on the Teradici chipset and work only with PCoIP, so are out of scope for this document, other “zero clients” in name exist, but these are being grouped with the Linux firmware as they use a local operating system, so will be discussed in the second article.
Windows Embedded background
Microsoft released a replacement to their operating system, the lightweight Windows CE, several years ago. This was to be as close to their desktop operating system as possible, with a security layer to prevent local changes and at a price that is considerably lower than the equivalent version of traditional Windows. The current release is Windows 10 IoT, and, like earlier releases, is almost identical in look and feel to Windows 10. Where it differs is based on what you can use the operating system for, and how it is secured.
Let’s look at the 5 key reasons to use Windows as the endpoint operating system:
1. The Write Filter
The Write filter provides a simple way to lock a configuration at the desktop. Once set and enabled, all writes to the local storage are volatile and are lost once the device is power cycled, reverting to the original configuration. This does not prevent the device from participating in a Domain, or receiving anti-malware updates, as the filter can be configured to allow changes to pass through and be permanently written on the local storage.
2. VDA License
Windows Embedded can now be incorporated into Microsoft Software Assurance, which will negate the need to purchase a VDA license for each device which accesses a “thin” Windows desktop.
3. It is not Linux
An obvious statement, but a genuine obstacle that Linux still must overcome. Windows is pervasive, so using Windows Embedded is no different than any other desktop. Adding software and configuration can be done by anyone familiar with Windows without requiring additional skills. (It is also true that the End User License Agreement (EULA) is restrictive, it is therefore important to check that the software being run from Windows Embedded is allowed). Another important point to underline is that RDS is Microsoft original, so the connection is smooth and flawless.
4. Market dominance
The majority of third party vendors of hardware and software will develop for Windows first. This translates to better choice and support for any technology that is needed to work at the endpoint. Furthermore, feature development and improvement works on a trickle-down principal with Windows being first to get these developments.
Praim provide a range of hardware and software utilities which are designed to make a Windows Embedded environment work easily and seamlessly. Praim ThinMan Management platform fully manages the Windows Embedded Write Filter as well as providing a centralised method to deploy configuration and software to the thin client devices. It is also important to stress at this point, that the control of the Write Filter is not a common feature and this is an aspect that requires establishing to determine the suitability of existing software and tools. For other vendors devices and for existing PCs, Praim provide a utility called Agile which will extend the ThinMan concepts to all Windows devices. Agile also provides a simple way to present a kiosk like interface too, so making the endpoint experience even easier to use and manage.