thin client - Computer Definition
In a client/server network, client software or a client node that has little in the way of resources such as memory, disk space, and processing power and, therefore, relies on the server to provide those resources. A browser, for example, provides client access to server-hosted applications, data, and processing. A diskless workstation is an example of a thin client node. See also browser, client, client/server, dumb terminal, fat client, node, server, and software.
A client machine that relies on the server to perform the data processing. Either a dedicated thin client terminal or a regular PC with thin client software is used to send keyboard and mouse input to the server and receive screen output in return. The thin client does not process any data; it processes only the user interface (UI). The benefits are improved maintenance and security due to central administration of the hardware and software in the datacenter. The architecture harks back to the early days of centralized mainframes and minicomputers. In the 1970s and 1980s, a user's machine was a terminal that processed only input and output. All data processing was performed in a centralized server. There are three ways thin clients are used. The first two are traditional thin clients, processing only the user interface (UI), and the third is a variation that processes the data. #1 - Shared Services (UI Processing) Using shared terminal services software such as Windows Terminal Services, Windows Remote Desktop Services or Citrix XenApp, users share the operating system and applications in the server with all other users at thin client stations. Although presented with their own desktop, users do not have the same flexibility as they do with their own PC and are limited to running prescribed applications and simple tasks such as creating folders and shortcuts. See Terminal Services, Remote Desktop Services and Citrix XenApp. In the following illustrations, the lines show the conceptual flow of data between the clients and servers. In reality, all clients and servers are wired to a local network switch.