Limits of Wide-Area Thin-Client Computing

Albert Lai, Jason Nieh

Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Measurement and Modeling of Computer Systems (SIGMETRICS 2002), Marina del Rey, CA, June 15-19, 2002, pp. 228-239


While many application service providers have proposed using thin-client computing to deliver computational services over the Internet, little work has been done to evaluate the effectiveness of thin-client computing in a wide-area network. To assess the po- tential of thin-client computing in the context of future commodity high-bandwidth Internet access, we have used a novel, non-invasive slow-motion benchmarking technique to evaluate the performance of several popular thin-client computing platforms in delivering computational services cross-country over Internet2. Our results show that using thin-client computing in a wide-area network en- vironment can deliver acceptable performance over Internet2, even when client and server are located thousands of miles apart on op- posite ends of the country. However, performance varies widely among thin-client platforms and not all platforms are suitable for this environment. While many thin-client systems are touted as be- ing bandwidth efficient, we show that network latency is often the key factor in limiting wide-area thin-client performance. Further- more, we show that the same techniques used to improve band- width efficiency often result in worse overall performance in wide- area networks. We characterize and analyze the different design choices in the various thin-client platforms and explain which of these choices should be selected for supporting wide-area comput- ing services.



Columbia University Department of Computer Science