Elusiva terminal services for Windows XP: Terminal Server Enterprise offers concurrent licensing (Part 2 of 2)
July 22, 2010 by Jeremy Pollard
In the previous column, we talked about the terminal services (TS) methodology, Elusiva’s Terminal Server Pro, and the concepts of terminal server services, RDP thin clients, and running applications in a TS environment.
Running applications and desktops in a TS environment has many advantages as previously described. Should you be using a remote desktop client, then you would log into the system as a user, and the full desktop for that user is presented. You have access to the resources that the administrator gave to you.
In any industrial environment, you may want to have local and remote applications. You may have over 50 users needing to use those applications, and you may need to have a 100 percent uptime production requirement. In this case, a normal TS environment may not be able to give you everything you need. Enter Terminal Server Enterprise.
This software is similar to Citrix, Microsoft, VMware and the like, but it is a very intriguing alternative. It runs in XP for one, and it uses concurrent licensing for another. So even if you had 50 users set up on the server, but only 10 typically connect at any one time, you can buy a 10-user license! That’s easy on the chequebook.
It can load balance on multiple servers, and allow for administrator maintenance, upgrades, and servicing to provide 100 percent uptime so it is very scalable and very IT friendly.
There is also an All-in-One setup that puts all of the features on a single XP machine except for load balancing since there is only one server. That’s where I focused my attention. According to the manual, "small organizations can deploy the All-In-One configuration on a single Windows server, taking advantage of on-demand computing without a big investment in hardware".
If you install an application on the server, you can publish that application using the TSE. Once published, the user can then select the application and run it from their location using various tools, including a web browser, or a downloadable client from Elusiva.
What this allows the administrator to do is configure applications for certain users and, when they log in, they see only what they are supposed to see.
Imagine being on a plant floor, and you log in as the "crusher" operator. Only those applications associated to you or to the operator would be made "public". Very cool. An administrator can log into the system as the "crusher" admin over the Internet using Elusiva-supplied certificates to view the process securely.
There is a level of comfort knowing that you can deliver the needed applications and data without having to jump through too many hoops or spending an exorbitant amount of money. Depending on the needs of the user, a full desktop can be delivered as long as terminal services are also installed.
Using the Web Portal in the TSE is a very useful tool. This means that you can publish applications to a host of users without having to install any software on those clients. This allows for very easy application deployment plant wide. While I only tested it with Internet Explorer, using Firefox and Chrome should not be any different.
Out of scope for this review is the use of the TSE in a VDI (Virtual Desktop) environment such as VMware and Hyper-V. My take on VDI is that if you are using VMware, then staying with a VMware solution is probably best.
The help file was/is non-existent, but when I talked to the company they were very helpful. One add-on to this product is an audit tool. This tool tracks users’ activities when they are attached to the server, and to their published programs. The keystrokes that one follows are logged so that a historical trail is present and, should an issue occur, the admin can go back in time to see what happened. This would be great for the developers too so they can re-create the operators path to reproduce a problem.
Privacy may be an issue, but this tool could be very useful in multi-operator environments.
Most of us do not have a network administration degree. Using Elusiva’s software on an XP platform can work really well, and it is somewhat easy to implement for anyone with admin experience. Running a clustered server environment with full load balancing, management tools, and server farm attributes is probably out of our scope. So employing a browser-based solution to application publishing is probably a good approach for us.
The fact that you can have local and remote access to "stuff" is very attractive, and for smaller companies who may not have the resources of a Proctor and Gamble may choose to investigate and test Elusiva’s TSE environment. It is very cool, and inexpensive.
Jeremy Pollard is a 25-year veteran of the industrial automation industry. He has worked as a systems integrator, consultant and educator in the field. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org