Thin Client vs Zero Client

I was reading a discussion on an internal mailing list today about the differences between Thin and Zero desktop clients for VDI. I thought I would summarise the discussion and share it with you as it certainly helped to get it clear in my mind.

Zero Client

  • A Zero client is a special purpose / built client that uses a SoC or FPGA.
  • It is upgraded using a  firmware image. (Think of it like your  WiFi router.)
  • They all have software and they all run an OS.
  • The Teradici zero client for example runs a RTOS ( Real Time OS ) called Thread-X

Thin Client

  • A Thin Client is a device that has a stripped down custom OS, customized Linux OS or OEMed Windows Embedded OS.
  • The image is typically larger than a firmware payload and in some cases a little more difficult to distribute depending on the management tools.
  • Some will argue they need to be managed / patched more and in some way that is true.

An example of a Thin Client would be like VDI Blaster where you have a tiny OS installed on a PC which has only one function and that’s to get you to your virtual desktop.

In Summary

  • A Zero Client is more likely to be a purpose built hardware (SoC or FPGA), designed specifically to connect you to your virtual desktop.
  • A Thin Client is a more generic device which could be used and programmed to run different functions/software other than just connecting to a virtual desktop
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