If you’ve considered deploying thin-client technology in a Windows environment, you’ve probably just thought about firing up Terminal Services on your Windows 2000 server. As powerful as Terminal Services is, it can also be constraining in terms of end-user and administrator flexibility. Fortunately, the granddaddy of thin-client computing, Citrix Systems, offers an alternative called MetaFrame. In this Daily Feature, I’ll show you how MetaFrame improves on Terminal Services and helps your budget at the same time.

What’s Citrix MetaFrame?
Citrix MetaFrame installs on top of Windows 2000’s Terminal Services, extending its functionality and broadening its features. Although Terminal Services is a new feature for Windows 2000 and MetaFrame is a new product from Citrix Systems, both products have a long, intertwined history.

Citrix Systems first launched a product known as MultiView in 1989. This product was based on OS/2 and allowed different types of computers to run OS/2. MultiView was a success, but with uncertainty hovering over the future of OS/2, Citrix struck a deal with Microsoft. The result was the development of WinFrame, a complete multiuser product based on Windows NT.

After Citrix developed WinFrame 2.0, which was based on Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft decided to muscle its way into the multiuser market. To do so, it developed Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition, which shipped in July 1998. Today Windows 2000 has fully integrated the Terminal Server technology, making it available on any Windows 2000 server.

To avoid being trampled by Microsoft’s Terminal Server offerings, Citrix decided to change its tactics. Rather than fight head to head with Microsoft, Citrix redeveloped its thin-client technology, and MetaFrame saw the light.

Why should I use Citrix MetaFrame instead of Microsoft Terminal Services?
Since Terminal Services comes free with Windows 2000, you may wonder why you should invest in MetaFrame. MetaFrame has many advantages over Terminal Services. First, MetaFrame can work over several different transport protocols like TCP/IP, IPX/SPX and NetBEUI, whereas Microsoft’s Terminal Server will work only over TCP/IP.

Another major advantage MetaFrame has over Terminal Server is Citrix’s support of a wider array of client operating systems. MetaFrame supports a wide range of operating systems, including Microsoft operating systems, Macintosh, Unix, Linux, and even OS/2. To get the best performance out of Terminal Services, users must run Windows 2000 Professional, although other Windows flavors work as well. Citrix is continuously adding support for additional client operating systems.

Citrix MetaFrame also has better management and configuration tools than Terminal Services. The Citrix Management Console, available with the new release of MetaFrame XP, centralizes configuration and management of all aspects related to the thin-client environment.

Finally, one of Citrix’s most popular features is its ability to make applications run within a Web browser without writing a single line of code by using Nfuse, Citrix’s Application portal software. All you need to make this work on the client side is an Internet connection and a supported Web browser.

What’s it going to cost me?
The price of purchasing the MetaFrame XP software varies, depending on which version of XP you need. Citrix sells three versions of MetaFrame XP:

  • MetaFrame XPs
  • MetaFrame XPa
  • MetaFrame XPe

MetaFrame XPs is the least expensive of the three packages, starting at $5,000. This will get you the software and a 20-user license pack. MetaFrame XPs has all the core features of MetaFrame, but it lacks Advanced Load Balancing and the enterprise features such as system monitoring and analysis, application packaging and delivery, and network management.

MetaFrame XPa is intended for medium-size businesses. It has all the features of XPs in addition to Advanced Load Balancing and has a starting price of $6,000. Like the starting price for XPs, this includes the software package and a 20-user license pack.

MetaFrame XPe is the enterprise version of XP and is intended for large businesses. It includes all the features of XP and more enterprise-wide tools such as advanced system monitoring or resources. MetaFrame XPe has the ability to package and deploy software packages from one central location. It now includes support for SNMP, letting you create SNMP traps and gather different information about your system. XPe has a starting price of $8,000, which includes the software and a 20-user license pack.

You can buy additional license packs of 5, 10, 20, or 50 user licenses. Citrix offers several licensing programs, each of which means different prices for upgrades. Licensing programs you can choose from include:

  • Citrix Corporate Licensing Program (CLP)—This program is primarily targeted at medium and large customer groups. It provides volume discounts and access to electronic product licenses through the use of a points-based system. There are four corporate discount levels in this program.
  • Premium Licensing Program (PLP)—This program gives volume discounts based on a forecasted commitment to Citrix software solutions over a two-year period.
  • Enterprise Licensing Program (ELP)—If you’re making a long-term commitment to MetaFrame, this program gives the best discounts and most flexible combinations for licensing arrangements.
  • Flex Licensing Program (FLP)—This program employs a pay-as-you-go licensing setup that lets you purchase additional licenses as you need them, not in a block.
  • Academic Entity Licensing Program—As the name suggests, this plan is for academic institutions.

The Flex Licensing Program and Academic Entity Licensing Program are available only in North America. For more information about Citrix licensing programs, you can visit the Citrix Licensing Web site.

With the constraints on IT budgets lately, it may be difficult to see how spending $5,000 for MetaFrame XP can save you money. Let me show you how the implementation of Citrix MetaFrame XP can improve your bottom line. Let’s assume your company has 500 older computers that you want to run Windows 2000 Professional and Office 2000. Let’s further assume that 250 of these computers need hardware upgrades in order to run Windows 2000 Professional and Office 2000. The other 250 have Windows NT Workstation 4.0 but otherwise have adequate hardware that can run Windows 2000.

Even with recent reductions in the cost of new computers, you’ll pay around $1,000 to replace or upgrade each of the 250 older computers. This would total $250,000 just to upgrade your hardware, not to mention the additional cost of deploying these computers and deploying images that fit different departments. Then there’s the additional time and productivity costs of upgrading Windows NT Workstation to Windows 2000 and installing Office 2000 on the hardware that didn’t need replacing or upgrading. Finally, let’s not forget the cost of 500 copies of Windows 2000 Professional for your workstations. It all adds up to a considerable expense.

In comparison, a MetaFrame solution comes off costing much less. First, to accommodate 500 users, you’d need about 10 Citrix MetaFrame XP servers because of Citrix’s recommendation of 50 users per MetaFrame server. Even granting an overly pessimistic estimate of $10,000 per server, there would be a hardware outlay of only $100,000. The cost of licensing MetaFrame would vary, but assuming you had to purchase 10 copies of MetaFrame XPe with 50 licenses each to cover the servers, that would only be an additional $112,500, still cheaper than the desktop replacement option. In this scenario, you’d save $12,500 right off the bat before even considering the cost of additional Windows 2000 Professional licenses and the time and cost of doing upgrades and software installations.

Because there are so many different factors that go into determining how much MetaFrame can cost an organization, Citrix created the ACE Cost Analyzer. This is a Web-based tool you can use to estimate what MetaFrame will cost you and how much money it can save you. To find out more about the ACE Cost Analyzer, visit Citrix’s ACE Cost Analyzer Web site.

Get framed
Like any technology, MetaFrame has its good and bad sides. Printing can be problematic and in some cases a downright annoyance. However, when it comes to providing a thin-client environment that offers the most flexibility for the end user and administrator, MetaFrame beats Terminal Server hands down.