Opinion on using MS Terminal Services or a Linux LTSP and rdesktop solution

By greavette ·

Just want to say this up front...this is not a question on how to by-pass Microsoft Licensing. If the best solution warrants us paying, we will pay. But if there is a way for us to save some money and use existing licensing/Workstation O/S's that we've already paid for I'd like to explore those options as well.

So here's the scenario...

In our lab we have a caustic (Dusty and Acidic) environment for our hardware where our PC's don't last very long and need to be replaced. Each workstation runs Windows XP. We run one Windows application that does not work over Wine so we need Windows for our Workstations. Attached to each of these workstations is a balance for measuring weight connected via serial cable as well as a USB attached barcode scanner.

Big Assumption:
I'm assuming I'll be able to send data from my Serial Attached Balance (Serial over IP maybe) and attach my USB connected barcode scanner over IP (USB over IP). Pretty big assumptions I know...but I'll keep researching how to do satisfy those onto my questions for this post.

I see two possible scenarios for us:

Since we already own the Windows XP licenses my thought is to keep the Windows XP workstations and P2V them to run on in our KVM (Proxmox) virtual environment. We have two Host Servers with more than enough Ram and horsepower to run our 17 Workstations as well as other Virtual Servers. I then use an LTSP Virtual Server to serve up an Ubuntu O/S to each Workstations Thin Client (PXE booting into the LTSP Server). I'll have a script that runs when the person logs into their LTSP desktop that automatically RDP into their respective Windows XP VM. In this way if the workstation breaks down, we drop in another, set it to PXE boot and we are up and running again. Since we paid for each of these Windows XP O/S I'm thinking I won't be going against Windows Licensing by doing this.


I could Setup a Microsoft Server 2008 with Terminal Services Cals and user cals (which we will buy) for each workstation to login to the Server to run their application. I would again use inexpensive workstation terminals to RDP into the Terminal Servers. I suppose I could again use PXE boot into a LTSP Terminal Server desktop session for each workstation that will RDP into the Terminal Services Session.

For both ideas I could also boot off the inexpensive workstations with either a desktop installed on the workstation (Linux) or a livecd/usb but I'd like to make this a simple as possible process to replace the workstations.

Which do you think would work best for us in our environment. Keeping in mind my solution is designed to keep costs to a minimum, use existing licenses where possible and give us a quick as possible solution to replace a failed workstation.

Thank you.

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All Answers

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Just say no

by robo_dev In reply to Opinion on using MS Termi ...

If there's a must-have feature Proxmox cannot do, I would look at VDI solutions like:

Virtual Bridges VERDE
Quest vWorkspace
VMware View,
All over MS Terminal services.

My personal opinion/experience of using Term Services is that it is not as stable as other technologies and is often used to help a 'bad app' perform well. Do a google search on Terminal Services Printing issues, for example, it yields >27m hits :)

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Reponse To Answer

by greavette In reply to Just say no

Thank you for your opinion on Terminal Services. I was thinking however that even though what I'm proposing use my VM's on Proxmox that I'm in a way doing VDI aren't I? Isn't VDI just isolating the desktop environment for each user to a VM anyway...which is what I'm doing.

Thank you for these links. I'll be honest, I don't quite understand VDI so I will take your advice and research it more to better understand how we could use it in our office.

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Reponse To Answer

by robo_dev In reply to Just say no

Correct, you are using one of the top three VDI solutions on the market already with Proxmox. So going to TermServices would be a huge leap backwards, technology wise.

VDI is making each desktop virtual, which makes support a whole lot simpler. Of course your network has to be reliable and sometimes special hardware (like your lab equipment) can make it difficult to go virtual.

There may be some performance or hardware support benefits to going with a commercial VDI like VERDE or VMware, but that strictly depends on your requirements.

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Hardware designed for the job

by glen.harris In reply to Opinion on using MS Termi ...

Whilst you'll reduce your time spent configuring replacement PCs, would you not consider buying equipment designed to work in that kind of environment? The Optiplex XE range, although around 1.5 times the cost of a standard PC should take a hammering and can be shoved in a cupboard (to minimise dust) with very little airflow and survive. They're designed to be installed in environments such as yours and in places such as under supermarket counters where they get absolutely caked in crud such as dust, fluff, food crumbs, shattered glass, exploded sugary drinks and anything else that can travel down the checkout belt.. I've seen kit of this standard (different manufacturer though) that has been in place for 10 years that can only be located by poking around under years worth of screwed up carrier bags, receipts and crud. A few minutes of attacking them with some detergent (and sometimes a paint scraper) on the outside and half a can of air inside and they're ready to be installed again.

Alternatively, filtered enclosures are available that you can put a normal PC inside which will dramatically extend its life.

I'm just thinking that from a cost point of view, putting the right metal in place, whether that be a robust PC or a decent cabinet to keep it in, will probably make more financial sense than replacing the boxes regularly (hardware + labour) or relying on something like PXE which will have an off day now and again and leave people unable to function at a cost to the business.

I do admire your thinking though, as I think a lot of organisations could benefit by switching to Linux purely for stability. If you're seriously thinking about going this way, the IGEL UD2 would be a great replacement to a standard desktop - can boot from PXE or has a limited linux environment built in for the purpose of connecting to sessions elsewhere, consumes very little power, has an external sealed (laptop type) psu to keep it cool, no fans to suck dust, 5yr warranty and from experience of seeing a deployment of several thousand (as citrix clients in this instance) , the DOA rate is well under 0.5% and they cost next to nothing to buy in comparison to a desktop.
The manufacturer has a toolset to configure the box very fast - much quicker than building a PC and adding software - just look up the mac address on the bottom of the box and use the tool to send your usual settings down to it. For the low price you can have a couple sat readily configured in your desk drawer to shove in following unexpected death.

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Reponse To Answer

by greavette In reply to Hardware designed for the ...

Thank you for the replies. I appreciate the opinions and especially the hardware we could use that come preloaded with linux on them. I see your point that relying on PXE could be a problem. Having a linux desktop that I could drop in means all I would need to add would be my rdesktop script to boot to the VM.

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