by May 1, 1999 0 comments

If Windows NT Terminal Server lets Windows clients run
applications right on the server, Citrix MetaFrame extends it by letting Unix, Mac, DOS,
Java and Windows CE clients do the same things. Users can access it over a LAN, or a
dial-up connect. ActiveX and Netscape plug-ins are built in, to let users access it and
work in a Web browser environment.

MetaFrame lets an organization deploy a comp-lex app across
a large network with all kinds of clients, while managing all the setup centrally on one
or more servers. This is cost-effective in the long run, for the following re-a-sons:

  • Application setup and mainte-nance be-com-es sim-p–ler and
    chea-per. All apps run on the server, so it beco-mes easier to manage them.
  • Administering users becomes simpler, and specific users can
    be res-tricted to specific reso-ur-ces.
  • You don’t need to replace or upgrade existing client
    hardware; all upgrades need to happen only at the server.

But, being dependent on one or a few servers brings in a
single point of failure as well. Of course, you need to put in a very reliable system
there, with careful power backup. And then, NT being resource hungry, the demands of a
system running NT Terminal Server and Citrix and supporting many users are dramatic.

The MetaFrame Application Server forms the server component
of this product. It works in tandem with NT Terminal Server, installing “on top”
of it. Terminal Server supports only Windows-based devices and IP; MetaFrame services a
large number of client OSs and network protocols running on a variety of hardware. You can
use a 286 running DOS…and still get the Win NT GUI interface with all the latest apps
running on it!

MetaFrame uses ICA (in-de-pendent computing ar-chi-tecture)
to communi-cate with clients. A client sends only keystrokes and mouse clicks, and the
server sends the screen updates across the network. All the computing is done at the
server end, and data-flow across the network is confined to the screen updates and
key/mouse click commands, reducing the demands on network bandwidth. Of course,
performance is heavily server-depen-dent. Upgrade the server, and you improve performance.
The Citrix clients can access the network resources like a normal client, and beyond that.
They can share and map network drives, share printers, and even share the COM ports on the
server.

Citrix MetaFrame v1.8

Thin-client server
software; extends NT Terminal Server to support DOS, Windows, Mac and Unix clients.
Rs 222,500 (15-user pack)
Features: Web browser environment on clients (with links to apps on the server).
Detailedapps/user-management admin tools. Low bandwidth needs.
Pros: Reduced cost of running a network (one-point management). Fast even on a
dial-up link. Speed limited mostly by server power. Single upgrade point for boosting
performance.
Cons: High dependence on a single NT server: a single point of failure; high
initial cost for software and hardware (15-user setup needs a PII/400 class server with
256 MB).
Source: Datapro Infoworld, 113/1 Koregaon Park, Pune 411001.
Tel: 212-638975, 630326, 635785
Fax: 634813

MetaFrame comes on a single CD containing the
Application Server, numerous ICA clients, and online documentation. We installed the
product on a PII/350 system with 64 MB, running Win NT Terminal Server.

We tested MetaFrame clients for DOS, Linux, and Mac OS.
Each client is small enough to fit a floppy (it can also be directly installed from CD)
and is very easy to set up. Logging on to the remote terminal server is also very easy.
The client scans the network for available Citrix servers, and presents you with a list.
Select one, choose the resolution and color depth, and connect. You can connect over
IPX/SPX, TCP/IP, or even NetBEUI protocols.

MetaFrame allows various remote connectivity options too.
You can set up the NT Remote Access Service on the Terminal Server and directly dial into
it. MetaFrame’s ActiveX and Net-scape plug-ins have to be added to IIS 4 on the
Terminal Server. These then let clients connect using a Web browser.

Another new feature in MetaFrame is the support for 16-bit
stereo sound on a client. Using this, the client can run different audio formats on his
machine from the server. The server streams the sound data to the client’s sound card
and speakers.

MetaFrame is a good add-on to the Terminal Server. But its
stiff price makes it feasible for very specialized appli-cations, or large heterogeneous
networks that need centralized manage-ment for a complex app, and want to reuse existing
hardware. You also have to add the cost of NT Terminal Server—and the stiff high-end
server hardware requirements.

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