ISSUE 471: The high-tech office- Nov 3
Citrix program gives network computer users
the chance to get their money's worth
A year or two ago, the big buzzword
in business computing was Total Ownership Cost, or TOC.
The idea was that the initial cost of buying a
computer forms a relatively small part of the real cost. Instead, look
at the cost of supporting the computer -- buying software, upgrading
the hardware and software, training the user, paying the user's salary
while they play computer solitaire or surf the Net.
The TOC idea led to the network computer, or NC, a
minimalist machine typically lacking a hard drive but connected to a
central server. It would be cheap to purchase and maintain, while
offering its user few opportunities to fool around.
The NC hasn't caught on to the extent predicted. In
part, the US$500 computer arrived on the scene, not as a network
computer but as a lower-priced, fully functioning PC. But while
companies such as Sun and Oracle touted the network
computer concept as a way around Microsoft's domination of the
personal computer industry, Microsoft busied itself looking for ways to
make use of many of its key concepts.
One result has been the recent, relatively quiet
release of Windows NT Terminal Server Edition. TSE is built on the core
of the standard (and two-year-old) NT Server 4.0, but adds a feature
long familiar to Unix and mainframe systems. With it, NT becomes a
multiuser system. That allows users at a variety of machines to launch
programs that all run on the server.
But while local area network users often run programs
from a server, in those cases, the programs still run on the individual
client machines. In this case, the programs actually run on the server,
and the clients merely get a picture of what's running on their
systems. As a result, users don't need much computing power on their
individual machines; with this system, you can run new demanding
Windows software on minimalist Windows terminals -- or even on the old
PCs capable of running only Windows 3.1 that are now cluttering many
companies' storage rooms.
The idea isn't new to Microsoft. Florida-based Citrix
Systems (www.citrix.com) had been offering WinFrame,
providing multiuser hooks to the older NT Server 3.51 for a couple of
years. Microsoft, in fact, purchased technology from Citrix and the
French company Prologue for use in developing Terminal Server
Citrix has gone on to one-up Micro-
soft, once again. Their latest release, MetaFrame, requires Terminal
Server Edition, but gives that version added capabilities. With
MetaFrame, you can connect a much wider range of machines to your NT
DOS machines, Unix boxes, even Macs. Regardless of the operating system
on the client machine, all can run fancy 32-bit Windows programs on
their desktop -- and at the speed of the server -- even on a computer
that is generations old.
As with many things that sound too good to be true,
there are a couple of catches.
If all the processing is being done on the server, you'd better count
on needing a pretty skookum server. Much of
what you save on the client machines may end up being spent on beefing
up your server. Expect to be able to accommodate about 15 clients per
CPU on the server.
And the software isn't exactly cheap.
NT Terminal Server Edition is priced exactly the same
as the standard NT Server -- there's no price penalty in buying this
new version. In fact, while the standard NT Server 4.0 is still
available, rumour has it that all copies of the next version will
include the Terminal Server features.
But depending on your licensing agreement with
Microsoft, you may need to purchase an NT Workstation licence for each
client (even if it's running a different operating system), along with
an additional Client-Access Licence for each machine. Citrix licenses
MetaFrame on a concurrent-user basis, which saves some money. (In this
model, if only 20 of your 50 machines are running the software at one
time, you only have to pay for 20 licences.)
As a result, figuring out the actual cost of going
this route is difficult. Windows NT magazine looked at a
variety of pricing scenarios for a hypothetical company wanting to
connect 150 Macs to an NT server. Estimated costs for using Terminal
Server Edition plus MetaFrame ranged from US$2,149 all the way up to
US$81,545. Real-world costs would be somewhere in between, showing that
it pays to shop around. *
On another note, Canadian Peter de Jager was
one of the first to call attention to the Y2K problem. While he might
be the last to suggest it's a laughing matter, he's sponsoring a Y2K
humour contest, because, he says, "Without a sense of humour, none of
us are going to make it over this hurdle with our sanity intact."
Entries can include jokes, short stories, songs or
what have you, as long as they are humorous and feature a Year 2000
Prizes currently range from $500 to $2,500 donations
to the charity of the winner's choice -- though de Jager is urging Y2K
vendors to contribute and increase the prize pool.
Send submissions to humor@year 2000.com by
December 31, 1998, or check www.year2000.com for more in-