zero client

Zero client, also known as ultrathin client, is a server-based computing model in which the end user has no local software and very little hardware.

Zero client, also known as ultrathin client, is a server-based computing model in which the end user's computing device has no local storage. A zero client can be contrasted with a thin client, which retains the operating system and each device's specific configuration settings in flash memory. 

A typical zero client product is a small box that serves to connect a keyboard, mouse, monitor and Ethernet connection to a remote server.  The server, which hosts the client's operating system (OS) and software applications, can be accessed wirelessly or with cable.  Zero clients are often used in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment.

Benefits of zero client computing:

  • Power usage can be as low as 1/50th of fat client requirements.
  • Devices are much less expensive than PCs or thin clients.
  • Efficient and secure means of delivering applications to end users.
  • No software at the client means that there is no vulnerability to malware.
  • Easy administration.
  • In a VDI environment, administrators can reduce the number of physical PCs or blades and run multiple virtual PCs on server class hardware.

Vendors of zero client products include Digi International, Pano Logic Inc., Teradici, Via Labs and Wyse Technology.

See also: dumb terminal, thin client, client/server, virtual machine (VM), virtualization, cloud computing

This was first published in February 2011

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