What’s next in the computing evolution?
What¹s next in the computing evolution?
Early computers filled entire rooms. Minicomputers typically fit in a few refrigerator-sized racks. In the 1970s, the earliest desktop computers emerged. But it wasn’t until the 1980s, however, that actual personal computers were launched using standard processors to keep costs low and give users a complete computer that fit on their desks. PCs later gained graphic user interfaces and networked operating systems, such as Macintosh and Windows.
Fast-forward to now. Thick-client PCs still perform their own processing before sending it to servers. They require regular updates and become obsolete quickly. One advantage: they allow background data transfer while working on other tasks using their own internal resources. Thick clients also do a better job supporting multimedia-rich applications, such as video games.
Thin clients have grown increasingly popular in recent years primarily because thick clients are the least secure elements in traditional client/server environments. Fat or thick clients can provide easy entry for hackers and other malicious intrusions. Aside from disk-drive locks or diskless workstations that prohibit the loading of unauthorized software or viruses, easy accessibility to PC files is a gaping security hole.
A thin client graphically displays images provided by a server, which performs the bulk of the data processing. The role assumed by the server might vary, from providing data persistence for diskless nodes to actual information processing on the client’s behalf.
A hybrid client is a mix of the two client models. Similar to fat clients, hybrid clients process locally but rely on a server to store data. Another trend involves an ultra-thin, or zero, client, which no longer runs a full operating system. The kernel merely initializes the network, begins the networking protocol and handles display of the server’s output. And Web thin clients, which run a Web operating system, rely on Web-based software for applications and data storage. Increasingly, public- and private-sector organizations are finding that thin clients provide the best way to resolve escalating fat-client security and management problems. Thin clients eliminate the effort required to upgrade hardware, update software, deploy applications, improve security and ensure the regular backup of data on client devices.
Federally mandated drivers behind the evolution of client computing
Behind the adoption of modern client computing solutions are a few federally mandated requirements that are accelerating broader adoption. Two of the most significant include:
The Federal Desktop Core Configuration. FDCC provides a standard managed IT environment for Microsoft Windows-based desktop and laptop computers. By establishing a common configuration, FDCC aids federal efforts to improve security, reduce costs and resolve application compatibility issues while enabling greater agility in deploying updates and patches. The drive to a common desktop systems configuration sprung from cost savings, exceeding $165 million, achieved by the Air Force, which adopted a desktop configuration based on security standards set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Microsoft. Many agencies are now following suit. Further information on FDCC can be found at nvd.nist.gov/fdcc/index.cfm.
The Telework Enhancement Act. Signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2010, the act set a timetable for the federal government to address new requirements to enable its 1.2 million employees to work from home and/or off-site locations. The Office of Management and Budget has issued policy guidance requiring each executive agency to acquire systems that enable and support telework, unless the head of the agency determines that there is a mission-specific reason not to do so. Telework can help federal agencies reduce both energy and office space expenses, and it serves as a valuable recruiting tool. In traffic-congested Washington, D.C., telework translates to fewer people on the roads, trains and buses during rush hour. Telework is expected to usher in cost and operational benefits such as reduced traffic and office space requirements and improved employee productivity, even during emergency situations. More information is available at: www.teleworkexchange.com.