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Mar 17 2016

Thin Client OS of Choice: eLux™ RP5

Standardized platforms, simple management, easy upgrades and patches, consistent security policies, and cost transparency – many companies tend to deliver long and detailed wish lists to their IT departments at the beginning of a new year. Fujitsu Thin Clients with eLux RP5 help CIOs and administrators to meet such demands.

Why Thin Clients?
Back in the early 1990s, managers and users from all industries started to count the blessings that had derived from the decade-old PC revolution. For a large number, the results were disappointing: desktop systems often were complicated to handle, suffered from hard- and software incompatibilities, and sometimes were abused by tech-savvy employees for unauthorized or illegal activities. As a result, many decided that they wanted to regain control over their desktop infrastructures. In response to this demand, IT vendors developed thin clients – affordable, lightweight endpoint devices with limited compute and small (if any) storage capacities that could be used to fulfill a set of predefined tasks. The concept turned out to be successful. In the years that followed, many firms switched to the new device category. That move was often encouraged by other advantages: since thin clients are much easier to build, deploy, maintain, and replace than regular PCs, companies could achieve a lower TCO and faster ROI.

Today the situation looks surprisingly familiar: pretty much every employee will at some point use a PC to get a job done as part of their daily routine. In most cases, this means they will work with a set of standardized office and enterprise applications. While these programs now have greater capabilities than before, the same is true for modern PCs: state-of-the-art CPUs and GPUs continue to be conspicuously "oversized." But browsers, mail clients and even word processors will easily run on devices with less CPU, GPU and RAM power, such as smartphones and tablets – and still deliver the desired results. And with networking equipment and technologies like VDI vastly improved, the business case for deploying thin clients is even stronger than it used to be.

Why Fujitsu and eLux™?
Fujitsu was among the earliest adopters of the thin client concept in the mid-to-late 1990s. Since then, we have continuously improved our product line, resulting in today's family of FUTRO Thin Clients (pictured below) that are equally well prepared for classic server-based computing (SBC) and flexible virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI). Consequently, members of the FUTRO family fit into almost any usage scenario, from serving as kiosk systems or desktop replacements with integrated Unified Communications to acting as front ends for demanding graphics applications. Other defining characteristics include high energy efficiency, increased robustness and longer lifecycles, simple rollout and maintenance, easy centralized management, maximum user comfort thanks to quiet or even silent operation and – last but not least – a significantly lower TCO over the product lifecycle.

The operating system of choice for many FUTRO thin clients is eLux™. eLux™ (short for: embedded Linux) is a hardware-independent operating system for cloud computing environments, developed and maintained by our subsidiary and former long-term partner Unicon Software. Founded in 1993, Unicon has focused on developing thin client solutions from the get-go. Its most successful products are eLux™, which runs on over a million devices in 45 countries and is particularly popular among financial institutions, and the class-leading management software Scout Enterprise.

The main reason for this success is that eLux™ comes with a number of core features that were there from the beginning and have not changed over the years. The most important of these is that it's practically tamper-proof: because the underlying file system is write-protected, viruses and other malware cannot alter or modify the way the OS behaves. As a result, eLux™ is protected against standard attacks and can be run safely without installing extra antivirus or security software. Fast provisioning of hotfixes for newly found vulnerabilities ensure secure operation over the lifetime. Add to that a very small footprint of just 500 MB and a simple, modular upgrade process, and you get an OS that's ideally suited for medium to very large infrastructures. Fujitsu's FUTRO Thin Clients run eLux™ RP, which has recently been upgraded to version 5 that brings the following improvements:

  • Update proxy – eLux™ RP selects one client per subnet to run "Dynamic Proxy Updates," i.e. act as a trusted update provider for downloading the required software packages and distributing them across the subnet.
  • Modern UI – users can now start applications directly from App Search and the eLux App Selector.
  • Simplified device relocation – additional parameters now allow for devices to be relocated to other Scout Servers without the need to transfer licenses.
  • Extended diagnostic capabilities – administrators will now find the logfiles of the Citrix HDX RealTime Media Engine as well as a content list of the update partition in diagnostic files.
  • Extended software support – eLux™ RP 5 is compatible with the recent versions of Citrix Receiver for Linux, VMware Horizon Client for Linux, Adobe Flash Player and Java SE8.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1: Fujitsu's FUTRO family of Thin Clients

Be Prepared with Scout Enterprise
Even with eLux™ installed, customers still need an adequate management solution for all devices that run the software. This is where the Scout Enterprise Management Suite comes into play: The toolset gives admins a comprehensive overview of all eLux™ clients within their reach. It allows for remote management, including problem diagnosis and repair, and enables IT departments to create customized eLux™ images and packages for entire companies as well as selected user groups. Moreover, the software excels in terms of scalability – many existing customers use it to administer tens or even hundreds of thousands of thin clients dispersed across thousands of branch offices. The suite runs on x86 servers equipped with Windows Server 2008 or later. The latest edition, Scout Enterprise Management Suite ® 14, includes the following features:

  • Optimized 4-level device management (firmware image definition, device configuration, application properties, remote operation)
  • Lean management (low bandwidth necessary, network traffic, small image size)
  • Modular OS deployment and updates for eLux
  • Firmware image definition per mouse click
  • Central license management
  • Helpdesk functionality

In addition, the software now comes with a technical preview of the new management interface – the Scout Enterprise Dashboard adds a web GUI that works with all standard browsers, enabling admins to control their fleet of eLux™ clients from virtually anywhere, even when they're on the go.

Conclusion
FUJITSU FUTRO Thin Clients with eLux™ RP and Scout Enterprise provide a highly efficient platform for organizations of all sizes that plan to implement desktop virtualization or to replace their existing installations. The combination of reliable x86-based hardware, tamper-proof OS and powerful, easy-to-use management tools ensures that companies no longer have to worry about downtimes, outages and other 'standard' IT troubles – instead, they can focus on their core business.

Konstantin Fritzenwallner

 

About the Author:

Konstantin Fritzenwallner

Product Manager, Fujitsu

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