Back in 1997 at the first company where I worked after University, the IT Manager
was totally committed to the Internet, Intranet, Web, Unix and Web Browsers.

The company ran Unix servers and thin desktop clients, Tektronix Terminals.

There were no pc’s at that company.

The IT Manager was committed to thin desktop clients and the client/server
principles and minimal local processing or applications.

Even at that time, the company was experimenting with products promising online
office suites which ran through Web Browsers from remote servers.

The IT Manager always said,

          ‘in the future everything will be through the Web Browser’.

And to this day, I still do not get it, why, especially the large companies with
thousands of employees are not using thin clients and server based online office
suites applications running through Web Browsers.

SAP can be considered as a classical example of a pioneer of these principles,
looking back, the classical SAP Gui was a thin client to a backend server, if you
think of the Transaction bar in the SAP Gui as an address bar you can think of
the SAP Gui as a Browser.

Moving forward and still with SAP, the progression has moved to the SAP Portal, this
is classical thin client principles, with the SAP Portal, the door to the SAP Landscape
providing out of the box access to any SAP system from any connected device any time
any place any where, the Web Browser principle of client server is brought right up to
date.

Stick an Online Office Suite server next to the SAP Servers, and put the access to the
Online Office Suite behind the SAP Portal and voila, the puzzle is complete, all that
is required is a thin client to enable end User productivity.

The advantages of thins clients are easy to see:

. Cost           – low cost thin Unix clients running Web Browsers for all employees

. Security      – nothing stored locally on the client

                    – nothing transfered from the desk to the client
                    – less vulnerability to virus based intrusions

. Support – thin client means less to go wrong on the end User side / client end

The Return On Investment is easily calculatable, a company with for sake of argument

     100,000 employees buying the latest thick laptops every three years

     100,000 employees x 1000euros = 100,000,000euros every three years

     100,000 employees x 200 euros = 20,000,000euros every three years

    

     + backend software, hardware and support and licenses

I remember back in 2007, Craig Cmehil leading research style activity and blogging about  Zoho ,
I wonder what happened to that.

As already stated the beauty of the thin clients running everything through the Web Browser
is that the large companies can keep all access tidy through a single url, a single point
of access to IT….

          the SAP Portal, the single point of entry securing the company’s IT.

Perhaps this is a perfect opportunity for the SAP Hana Cloud Portal , an Online Office Suite is the

perfect cloud application and why not to secure it behind the SAP Hana Cloud Portal’s single url

encapsulated in the On-Premise SAP Portal strategy.

I wonder when the penny will drop and the large companies will move to thin clients
and reap the obvious rewards of client server applications running through Web Browsers
on thin clients for all of the employee’s IT needs ? And therefore saving millions of $ on thick

client  pc’s with the common desktop office application suites.

Looking forward to feedback and answers to these questions.

All the best.

Andy Silvey.

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  1. Rajendrakumar Gaikwad

    Wonderful thoughts.

    I sense that the day is not far when bandwidth issues will be gone (Faster connectivity and response time from any device) and we will see thin clients everwhere.

    Regards

    Rajendra

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  2. Tom Van Doorslaer

    Hi Andy,

    Nice idea, but I’m avidly opposed to thin clients.

    Modern businesses are all about flexibility and mobility. Work anytime, anywhere…

    If you take the idea of a thin client, you need constant access to broadband if you want to get some work done. Worse even, you need to be constantly connected to the corporate network (physically or via VPN).

    There’s nothing local anymore, so you can forget about editing your powerpoint presentation in the train, or even reading through some documentation while waiting at the reception desk of a customer.

    Often times, these thin clients are actually full-blown laptops, with a virtual desktop client installed. This means that you cut no costs whatsoever in terms of devices. On top of that, you need some decent server infrastructure and one hell of a network. (cost increase)

    Now suppose the virtual desktop server is in the UK, and you are working in an office in Germany. Can you imagine the lag you’ll experience?

    There are of course good examples of online office suites. Contradictory though, the companies thinking about thin clients, are not willing to store their data outside of the company (aka, in the cloud)

    because what they really want with the central desktop server, is that all information is stored on corporate servers, which they control. No more data on the laptops (that get stolen). No more data on dodgy websites, uploaded at night on private network access.

    I’m a big supporter of Cloud applications, online services and all what you want, but I want to be able to work without being connected to the web and without being connected to the corporate VPN.

    (which is why you have offline clients for office 365, Google suite etc… But those don’t work on a thin client, they work on your virtual desktop, which runs somewhere else)

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    1. Richard Yarde

      Hello Tom,

      There is accelerated delivery devices. Such as Steelhead, SAPs ACCAD etc.

      In regards to network connectivity, the mobile apps have offline access and sycnhronisation when connected.

      Thanks

      Richad

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    2. Andy Silvey Post author

      Hi Tom,

      thank you for taking the time to give such a detailed response, this is precisely the discussion I want to motivate. 

      I don’t know all of the answers or even the right answer, but deep down, I have the feeling we’re doing something wrong in this day and age running all of these expensive notebooks in every company, and I have a doubt that we can do this better and cheaper.

      Our jobs, in this IT business, is to enable end user productivity, and to increase shareholder value.

      Thin clients would be a big step towards doing our part of increasing shareholder value.

      Everything in life has a price and sometimes in life we have to change our methods of working to achieve our goals and sometimes we are happier after.

      In our SAP world a lot of us must have seen the conversations at client sites where the client’s business processes are being compared to the SAP standard and the gap fit analysis and the question of whether to change SAP or change the customer’s business processes.  I have the feeling moving to thin clients is one of those questions.

      You’ve raised some very interesting points and I will give my feedback to your points in italics.

      ——————————————————————————————————

      Hi Andy,

      Nice idea, but I’m avidly opposed to thin clients.

      Modern businesses are all about flexibility and mobility. Work anytime, anywhere…

      If you take the idea of a thin client, you need constant access to broadband if you want to get some work done. Worse even, you need to be constantly connected to the corporate network (physically or via VPN).

      >>>>  is that strictly correct, have we analysed all of the online office suites on the market and how they work regarding connectivity and accessibility ?

      I know with my gmail, once I have synched fom from phone to gmail, the gmail emails stay on my phone, so I can read them offline, which is nice, although I have not examined the products on the market I would imagine that the online office suites would have this elementary functionality

      There’s nothing local anymore, so you can forget about editing your powerpoint presentation in the train, or even reading through some documentation while waiting at the reception desk of a customer.

      >>>>>>  same response as above

      Often times, these thin clients are actually full-blown laptops, with a virtual desktop client installed. This means that you cut no costs whatsoever in terms of devices. On top of that, you need some decent server infrastructure and one hell of a network. (cost increase)

      >>>>>> no, I am really talking about thin clients, you know, linux laptops, basically running a web browser and not much else.

      What has really got me thinking about this subject is since I have owned my Samsung Galaxy phone, and a Tablet, because the Tablets are really changing how we look at PC technology, with the Tablets we are mainly surfing, but isn’t that because we don’t yet have online office suites ?  If there were more common online office suites with offline persistence would we switch from large tablet to notebook ?

      So regarding cost I am talking about thin laptops running linux and not much else and Browser applications designed for retaining some form of offline persistence as does the gmail.

      Now suppose the virtual desktop server is in the UK, and you are working in an office in Germany. Can you imagine the lag you’ll experience?

      >>>>>>>  If we use this as an argument to rule out any activity in this area, then we are ruling out all cloud activity and I guess any remote connections in our IT infrastructure, so I don’t accept this one as an argument. Elsewhere on this site the Hana Cloud is being discussed, and the Hana Cloud Portal, cloud would not be feasible if networks were a problem

      There are of course good examples of online office suites. Contradictory though, the companies thinking about thin clients, are not willing to store their data outside of the company (aka, in the cloud)

      >>>>>> That remains to be seen and I am not necessarily advocating using a public cloud like gmail, I am thinking about a private cloud, ie, buying the online office suite software, hosting it on your company’s  servers and accessing it through your company’s

      SAP Portal as you do your SAP data which is accessible through your Intranet

      because what they really want with the central desktop server, is that all information is stored on corporate servers, which they control. No more data on the laptops (that get stolen). No more data on dodgy websites, uploaded at night on private network access.

      >>>>>>  same answer as above

      I’m a big supporter of Cloud applications, online services and all what you want, but I want to be able to work without being connected to the web and without being connected to the corporate VPN.

      >>>>>>  what you say here is one step further than what I discussing, I am simply at the first stage, discussing the possibility of a company buying an online office suite software, hosting it in their datacenter and operating it through their IT Team and therefore being able to get rid of expensive pc laptops and replace them with thin clients and all of the benefits as overviewed above

      Your point here, is a step further, that is, the next level

      (which is why you have offline clients for office 365, Google suite etc… But those don’t work on a thin client, they work on your virtual desktop, which runs somewhere else)

      ——————————————————————————————————

      Thank you again for your feedback, yours and everyone else’s is welcomed here, it will be interesting and fun in this blog to gather all points of view and discuss them all in detail and see what conclusion and concensus we come to.

      It would be great if somebody could join us who is from a company where they are using online office products or selling them, and share the information on that software.

      Maybe when operating thin clients we might have to change the way we work a little, we might have to change our personal processes a little, but I have the feeling that considering increasing shareholder value the savings which could be achieved from thin clients would justify the change in our ways of working, the whole process might even open new opportunities for us !

      All the best,

      Andy.

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      1. Tom Van Doorslaer

        Aha, From your response I can see that you’re not actually talking about a thin client. You’re more thinking along the lines of something like a Chromebook.

        You see, my interpretation of a thin client is that it’s nothing more than a terminal. Nothing runs in it. The only thing it does is connect to a remote desktop. If it can’t connect, it doesn’t do anything.

        If you’re talking about the Chromebook-principle, than you still have local installations on your ultra-portable (not just a browser). You can still work offline, because of the local installation. you have synchronization of your local data, with cloud data. You can still store data locally, it just gets synchronized afterwards.

        That is an idea to which I can give full support.

        Terminals: no

        Enterprise-“Chromebooks”: yes

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        1. Andy Silvey Post author

          Hi Tom,

          then as the next logical step in the exercise why don’t we do a fantasy football BigCo IT return on investment and business case calculation for switching to chromebooks – for sake of argument in the absence of alternatives at this stage.

          So, our BigCo has 100,000 employees currently using the latest high spec branded laptops, 8gb ram, 250gb ssd and the common office suite, word processer, spreadsheet, project manager, presentations, design drawings and the unit cost is 1000eur per head, that is excluding local IT support etc.

          For this exercise we explore, Is it possible to offer similar tools in the cloud on a ChromeBook and what will the cost be per head ?

          My motivation and curiosity for this exercise is, in the year 2013 should big companies really be forced to invest so much, simply to enable their employees to send emails, write documents and plan and manage projects and give presentations ?  Do these requirements really need 8gb ram, 250 ssd, high processor etc ? Shouldn’t it be possible to do these tasks with lower spec’d equipment, and significantly cheaper ?

          All the best,

          Andy.

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          1. Tom Van Doorslaer

            Well, chromebooks come at a price ranging from 250$ upto 1200$ (for the flagship)

            A google apps subscription, including mail, calendar, IM, office suite, management console, collaboration room, storage, and a couple of dozen other things, comes at a fee of 120$/year for the most elaborate subscription type.

            I’d say that’s a pretty interesting business case.

            I’m also a bit of a fanboy for Ubuntu Linux.

            Keeping ye’olde laptop, but replacing all those expensive software packages by free open source software can yield a nice cost savings as well.

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  3. Richard Yarde

    Hello Andy,

    Fully agree, I am under the impression that humans are lagging behind the IT innovations that are released to the general public.

    All it takes is a little understanding  to see how the IT innovations around us can make companies more productive.

    Sorry to repeat myself but since the release of the Portal, it has adapted and changed to accomodate the major innovations in IT. But yet very few companies have to take advantage of using the portal. But would rather spend large amounts of money doing the thing that the portal will do.

    I read an article about how companies can secure data on mobile devices. With the portal that data is secure. Most of your apps/data are via a web browser. So most of those apps are not visible on the device. So if the device is lost there is not much data to be cleaned from the device. Please see how to set up Portal On Device (POD) for further details.

    To this day I cannot understand how the real weaver in Netweaver is not the go to software for companies with disperate systems, who wish to integrate into productive environment, helping the user work.

    The Portal has Internet, Mobile, HANA, Cloud, Enterprise Workspaces etc, it seems we are ignoring the 800lb gorilla in the room.

    Good blog Andy

    Thanks

    Richard

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