Thin Client Computer Lab Paper

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Dvorak Technology Academy Thin Client Computer Lab Project
Submitted by James I. Davis TIE-532 November 30, 2008

Thin Client Computer Lab Project - page 2

Thin Client Computer Lab Project
Introduction Computers are an integral part of 21st century life, and as such technology education is recognized as part of the Illinois Learning Standards (ISBE, 2008). A computer lab is an efficient way to deliver access to computers and the Internet to students. Traditional labs, like the one at Dvorak Technology Academy, are populated with complete, standalone computer systems. In network terms these are "fat clients", because each workstation is a complete system, with its own memory and disk space and performing most if not all computing on the local workstation. "Thin client" systems shift most of the computing, memory and storage tasks to a centralized server. The client only handles user input, like typing or mouse movement, and displaying the results of user activity. As a result, in a thin client environment, the hardware on the workstation needs only minimal functionality to run the latest software and perform current computer tasks because the actual processing is handled by a server. The life of older equipment that can no longer run the latest software is thereby extended, and maintenance tasks are simplified as most maintenance only needs to be done on the server. The thin client server needs to be robust and powerful, but this extra power is much cheaper to concentrate in one server than in multiple workstations. This project describes an overhaul of the existing Dvorak Technology Academy PC Computer Lab to extend the life of current school resources and upgrade the lab at a minimal cost to handle current and future software functionality by changing the architecture of the lab from its current "fat client" setup to a thin client architecture. This document describes the necessary hardware, software and network structure for such lab within the CPS computing environment, as well as the proposed budget, administration, security, training and rationale for such a project.

Project need In a lab setting, each student has access to a workstation, and a technology teacher can provide instruction to many students at once. In addition, students can use the lab for self-directed projects. The concentration of machines in one location simplifies maintenance. However, the Dvorak PC computer lab is designed around standalone personal computer systems, where each workstation includes a CPU with a local hard drive and operating system. This "fat client" setup ("fat" because each workstation is a

Thin Client Computer Lab Project - page 3 complete computing system) means that software updates and disk maintenance must be done on each system (in this case, 32 machines). Such fat clients are also relatively expensive to set up and upgrade, because each machine requires its own memory, disk space, operating system and installed software. Dvorak Technology Academy currently has an aging set of computers in its PC lab. Of the 32 systems, approximately half were purchased during the Windows 98 period, with only 128mb of memory. As a result, they are unable to take advantage of advances in Microsoft software, including features in Windows XP, web applications and Office software. If the machines can run the software, the applications run slowly on the older processors. At the same time, the CPUs, monitors, keyboards and mice are still functional. As standalone computers they have limited functionality. They can, however, function adequately as terminals on a thin-client system. In addition, the thin client solution proposed here will also support Power PC based Macintoshes, so machines currently in storage and awaiting displosal can also be pressed into service if needed. Dvorak Technology Academy, like most Chicago Public Schools, is faced with chronic budget problems which make it difficult to continually...
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