Emory Report

January 11, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 15

Technology Source:

Citrix servers offer best of both mainframe and PC worlds

Ever-increasing maintenance and upgrade costs are compelling some large organizations to investigate alternatives to personal desktop computers. Citrix thin client-server computing is one option that boasts a number of benefits, including significant cost savings.

The Citrix thin client server was born in the mid-'90s to combine the cost effectiveness of a mainframe environment with the user-friendly PC interface. In the mainframe environment, one central server houses all software and applications and users work from remote terminals; with PCs, all applications are stored locally on the desktop. Mainframes are more cost effective, but PCs are more user-friendly.

Citrix uses a Windows-based terminal (WBT), basically a viewing device for the data on the server. Fleets of WBTs are connected via client software that runs on top of the Windows NT desktop.

Organizations such as the University of California at Los Angeles, AT&T and the U.S. Navy are using Citrix, which provides access to virtually any application across any type of network connection to any type of client.


As we all know, desktop computers require upgrades that render them difficult and expensive to maintain. With Citrix, all data, applications and significant computing functions are stored and take place on a powerful server, so that computing is centrally managed. All one needs is a WBT to function as a mere window to the server.

Due to Citrix's surprisingly low hardware and bandwidth requirements, old equipment can be re-used. WBTs need a minimum of 4MB of memory and can run on a last-generation computer; with Citrix, an old DOS or Macintosh computer turns into a highly productive and fast terminal. This dramatically reduces the costs of upgrades. In addition, it becomes unnecessary to purchase software licenses for every user. An organization has to purchase only a few software copies to reside on the server because the number of people accessing a particular application at one time is limited and can be metered.

WBTs are targeted at organizations with large numbers of task workers who only need to access a limited number of applications. The cost advantage comes in administration and product lifespan. Terminals are easier to administer from a central location, further reducing system management costs. Because the central processor performs few tasks, terminals only need to be replaced every three or four years. When it's time to upgrade, just the server, not the desktop computer, is upgraded.


All files are stored on the server and automatically backed up--this is arguably more secure than local storage because it is centrally maintained--and password and user ID verification can be added.

Remote Access

One of the most exciting features of Citrix is its remote access abilities. As long as a dial-up connection exists, users can access all applications and files they need within a few seconds from any location. Another advantage is that, even from an old computer, connections run at the speed of the network.

Citrix at Emory

In 1997 Woodruff Library began the migration from Windows 3.1 to NT for staff and public infrastructure. Due to its many advantages, Citrix thin client systems were selected for the second stage of this project. The cost for the thin client option was $80,000 (the cost for three new servers), while 90 new PCs would cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars. New software and hardware became unnecessary for all individual users, and the old Windows 3.1 machines functioned extremely well in the new Citrix environment.

This spring the library will undertake a pilot project to convert the popular Information Commons infrastructure to a thin client architecture. Upon completion, Emory users will have remote access to Information Commons.

Citrix Founder Recognized

Citrix Systems chairman, founder and chief technology officer Edward Iacobucci is the 1998 recipient of the National Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. You can obtain more information about Citrix at <www.citrix.com> or by calling Martin Halbert with University Libraries at 404-727-0030.


Shannon O'Daniel is multimedia developer for the Information Technology Division.

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