Also see Terminal Server product, Microsoft software that serves the Windows desktop and applications to terminals.
Generally in information technology, a terminal server is a hardware device or server that provides terminals (PCs, printers, and other devices) with a common connection point to a local or wide area network. The terminals connect to the terminal server from their RS-232C or RS-423 serial port. The other side of the terminal server connects through network interface cards (NIC) to a local area network (LAN) (usually an Ethernet or token ring LAN) through modems to the dial-in/out wide area network, or to an X.25 network or a 3270 gateway. (Different makes of terminal server offer different kinds of interconnection. Some can be ordered in different configurations based on customer need.) The use of a terminal server means that each terminal doesn't need its own network interface card or modem. The connection resources inside the terminal server are usually shared dynamically by all attached terminals.
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Some terminal servers can be shared by up to 128 terminals. The terminals can be PCs, terminals that emulate 3270s, printers, or other devices with the RS-232/423 interface. Terminals can use TCP/IP for a Telnet connection to a host, LAT to a Digital Equipment Corporation host, or TN3270 for a Telnet connection to an IBM host with 3270 applications. With some terminal servers, a given terminal user can have multiple host connections to different kinds of host operating systems (UNIX, IBM, DEC).
The term communication server is also sometimes used instead of terminal server.