Raspberry Pi as a Viable Thin Client Alternative

28 June 2016 | By David Baird

Raspberry Pi has continued to evolve from its roots of promoting computer science basics and the realm of home projects, and as of early 2016, more than 8,000,000 devices have been shipped.

With so many of these devices now in use, the question as to whether Raspberry Pi could be used as a suitable thin client device has arisen. We have been following developments in the Raspberry Pi ecosphere for a while now and believe that some of these devices are now approaching a level of maturity that makes them a viable product for clients looking to undertake a workstation refresh as part of a VDI / Hosted Application initiative.

Although Citrix have released "community" Citrix Receiver clients for the Raspberry Pi since March 2014, it's only recently that officially supported products with the Citrix-Ready approval have been available. HDX Ready Pi thin clients were previewed during the Synergy sessions in Las Vegas this year and initial products from ViewSonic and Micro Center are now available.

These new HDX Ready devices are based on Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and incorporate a Citrix HDX System-on-Chip (SoC) to provide optimal Citrix Receiver connectivity with GPU offloading. Both devices are sold ready to deploy and operate. Initial indicative pricing is around USD $80-100 per device, with discounts available at volume.

At this price point, Raspberry Pi is starting to look like it could be a serious challenger to traditional thin client vendors such as Dell (Wyse) and IGEL which have typically taken the market share of deployments in the APAC region.

The ThinLinX Operating System (TLXOS) from ThinLinX forms the core of Micro Center’s HDX Ready Pi offering and is a feature rich, optimised operating system for thin client environments, incorporating support for H.264 and HDX optimisations specific to the needs of Citrix environments.

Although the ThinLinX OS can be obtained for USD $10 per device as a standalone purchase, and a thin client assembled from one of the many Raspberry Pi kits on the market, we see that the key to widespread adoption in the targeted thin client verticals of Healthcare, Legal, and Education, is the ability for a standardised product to be available that is ready for ‘out of the box’ use.

As with traditional thin client devices, primary support for the Citrix HDX Ready thin clients is obtained through the hardware vendor. Interestingly, the ViewSonic and ThinLinX based devices include systems management components, providing the ability to perform firmware and software updates, key functions which are often overlooked or sacrificed when looking to lower the overall cost of the solution.

We anticipate that additional vendors will bring to market Citrix HDX Ready Pi thin clients and that these will offer viable alternatives to the traditional thin client products.

If you would like to know more about how desktop and application virtualisation may benefit your business, please drop us a line.

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