Many VDI shops look to thin clients as simple, easy to manage hardware. But the cost of provisioning a slew of new thin clients and the time it takes to learn how to manage them are often significant.
Fortunately, there's a free way to turn PCs into thin clients right under many administrators' noses: Citrix XenClient Enterprise Engine, and it's included with XenDesktop Enterprise and Platinum licenses.
XenClient allows you to repurpose existing PCs with its Type 1 bare-metal hypervisor. PCs that have Virtualization Technology enabled with their CPU are typically equipped to run XenClient, but Citrix also provides a tool to check the PC for compatibility issues and ensure it will be able to run XenClient. XenClient's user interface -- the Launcher -- includes a Dock that has Google Chrome, a Remote Desktop client and a built-in Citrix Receiver. For basic thin client capability, this is often all users need.
You can use XenClient's Synchronizer to deploy a Windows virtual machine (VM) to the client. With a local Windows OS, the user gets a VM with whatever he needs: full-featured Windows, Citrix Receiver, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office and more. You can also hide the XenClient interface so the user only sees the Windows VM screen. This makes for a transparent user experience.
Synchronizer is also a central management point for updating XenClient PCs and their host VMs. Repurposed PC hardware resources can perform with few of the compromises associated with thin clients.
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