Refresher Clientserver computing model

Popularity of the client/server computing model is probably best exemplified by the phenomenon of the Internet. Clients connect to it and request information and services, typically in the form of news, e-mail, or files. Web servers handle almost all the data processing; the clients handle the rendering of the images and the user interface. By placing the majority of the workload on a server, the client does not require any significant amount of processing power, services, memory, or storage. In fact, the browser can be installed into a very "thin" client device, such as small mobile phones.

Notice, however, that although servers have been getting bigger, faster, and fancier, so, too, have the clients. The average workstation on the market probably carries a more powerful processor and a faster motherboard than the servers that have been faithfully plugging away 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the past five or more years. Is anything wrong with that? Yes, in an enterprise-computing environment, something is wrong there.

Although computer prices are coming down all the time, the cost of administration has been going up. Any business that employs more than a handful of computer users and deploys fancy workstations for its people has another cost. This cost is called total cost of ownership (TCO), and it is not merely a buzzword. The number of times it is used throughout this book is not coincidental.

The total cost of a computer is more than the total cost of the CPU, monitor, and input devices. It also includes the cost of maintaining that equipment so that the users get the best possible service from it and that the company derives the maximum benefit from its investment. Each workstation also requires software, and a cost is involved in distributing that software to each workstation and in keeping the software current, configured, and in service. You need to lock down your workstations so that users cannot change settings, fiddle with hardware, save rubbish to the hard disk, or do anything that would put the computer out of commission and pile on your workload. The larger the enterprise and the more remote offices that it has, the harder it is providing any manner of attention to each workstation. In addition, shortly after new workstations are rolled out at considerable cost, they become obsolete.

This is what we call the true cost of ownership (TCO); the cost of the technology and your effort to get the most mileage for your investment.

Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Professional were designed with the goal of reducing total cost of ownership. They provide a very tightly integrated, homogenous C/S environment, in which clients and servers cooperate in a well-defined partnership, but for a lot of companies with huge investments in legacy and homogenous networking environments, upgrading all clients to Windows XP Professional may be impractical and very expensive.

What is the solution? What can be done to reduce the cost of technology and of ownership? To find the answer, we had to look to our past . . . to the mainframe computing model.

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