Citrix has long been a major player in the thin client arena. It has thrived in offering products for enterprise organizations looking at ways to reduce their support costs. Now that Microsoft has made a serious entry into the thin client space with Windows 2000 Terminal Services, many more organizations are looking at the advantages that thin client technology can offer.
If your company is looking at Win2K Terminal Services and Citrix products for the first time and evaluating which solution is right for you, you’re naturally wondering whether the features of Citrix MetaFrame justify its extra cost. This article will take a look at the additional features offered by Citrix and try to clear the air on MetaFrame’s real value proposition compared to Win2K Terminal Services.
Taking a look back
Citrix developed the original technology behind thin client computing around 1989. Microsoft purchased rights to the core technology and integrated it within their Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server product. Large enterprises were quick to jump on the features of a combined NT 4.0 Terminal Server and Citrix WinFrame solution because it allowed them to reduce their TCO while increasing productivity.
Suddenly, these large enterprises could prolong the life of PCs, decrease the cost of implementing new application upgrades and migrations, and reduce the cost of network management. Additionally, many companies were looking for ways to allow a small set of users to have remote access to their applications over the Internet, and thin client technology made that possible.
The problem with the old version of NT 4.0 Terminal Server was that it was basically a separate product with its own set of administration tasks and its own set of bugs. Many smaller organizations found it difficult to justify the additional administration and cost of a thin client solution. However as the rest of Microsoft and Citrix technology have evolved, so have the thin client solutions. Enter Microsoft Windows 2000 Terminal Services and Citrix MetaFrame.
Start with the desired solution
Let’s take a look at the features that Win2K Terminal Services and Citrix MetaFrame have to offer. Figure A shows some important feature differences between the two solutions. Notice that Citrix MetaFrame provides key features such as the ability to run on virtually any client over virtually any connection. This is a very important consideration for organizations that are not running a homogenous Windows 9x or greater environment.
Citrix provides other key features that Windows 2000 Terminal Services has yet to offer, such as the ability to do automatic drive redirection. This allows a connected user to have access to the server drives as well as local drives. This can be important for someone who needs to transmit and receive data between the server and a local device.
Are these features worth the extra cost associated with MetaFrame? The best way to answer that question is to go down the list and see if there are MetaFrame features you must have in order to implement a thin client solution for your organization. If so, your choice is a simple one. But if you find that your solution does not absolutely require any of the features Citrix MetaFrame provides, your budget might demand that you simply use Microsoft Windows 2000 Terminal Services.
The price equation
When comparing the price of Windows 2000 Terminal Services to that of Citrix MetaFrame, the equations look similar—but there’s one difference. A MetaFrame thin client solution consists of all the costs of a Windows 2000 Terminal Services solution plus the cost of MetaFrame. This is because Citrix basically runs on top of Windows 2000. So it’s easy to understand why no MetaFrame solution will be priced lower than the comparable Windows 2000 Terminal Server solution.
For larger and more complicated solutions, there are even more MetaFrame costs involved. This can include Citrix’s Resource Management Services or Load Balancing Services. In Figures B and C, you will find a basic Windows 2000 Terminal Services vs. Citrix MetaFrame cost comparison that will help you begin to understand the difference in costs.
|Cost of Windows 2000 Terminal Services|
|Cost of Citrix MetaFrame on top of Win2K Terminal Services|
Every possible solution involving a thin client technology is inevitably different. Take a close look at your requirements and the features your solution demands. If you look carefully at the features of Windows 2000 Terminal Services compared to Citrix MetaFrame and weigh the cost differences, you should have the information you need to determine whether the additional cost of Citrix is justified.
How does your organization use thin client technology?
Are you running Win2K Terminal Services and/or Citrix MetaFrame? We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.