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LIMS Users May Benefit from Thin Client Computing
Many LIMS users with multi-user licenses run the system using traditional client/server architecture. That is, the LIMS front end software is installed locally on each LIMS workstation, while sharing the back end database from a shared folder on a file server. Application processing is distributed to each LIMS workstation and the data sharing and concurrency issues are handled by the file server. This architecture is simple, proven, and economical.
“Thin client computing” is an alternative architecture well suited for applications such as LIMS. The phrase describes a computing architecture where both the application software processing and data access are performed by a central server system.
The clients are “thin” since they do not perform any application processing – their only task is to exchange user input and output such as screen images, keystrokes, and mouse clicks. All application processing and data access is performed by the server. Since only user input and output communication occurs between client and server in thin client architecture, the communication can occur over relatively slow interfaces including the Internet, widearea networks (WAN) and even dial-up networks.
Examples of commercial thin client solutions include Citrix Presentation Server and Microsoft’s Terminal Services. Terminal Services is available with all recent Microsoft Windows server operating systems.
Thin client computing is an alternative architecture well suited for applications such as LIMS. You should consider thin client architecture under any of the following conditions:
- You have more than five LIMS workstations.
- The size of your production LimsData database exceeds 100 MB.
- You have noticed degradation in performance as the number of concurrent users increases or the size of your LimsData database increases.
- You need to provide LIMS access from multiple sites while sharing the same LimsData database.
- You need to provide remote access to LIMS, for example while users travel or work from home.
- You are frequently troubleshooting workstation software problems.
There are numerous benefits to running LIMS with thin clients.
First, consider that the LIMS software is installed only once on the server. With only one installation there is only one machine to troubleshoot should an incompatibility surface. Although each LIMS user runs a separate instance of the software, each is an instance of the same single installation. Installation, updates, and maintenance occur on a single server and you do not have to wrestle with multiple workstation installations and their associated problems.
Second, with thin clients, database access is immediately faster since both the LIMS software and database reside on the same machine yielding performance comparable to a standalone installation. With the traditional client/server architecture, an LIMS workstation querying data, for example, must itself retrieve portions of the database across the network. With even the fastest network, noticeable delays will occur with larger databases. With thin clients, no LIMS data travels across the network since all database access is local. Thin clients also eliminate the problem of LIMS database corruption that can occur with a rogue workstation.
Finally, an added benefit of thin client computing with LIMS is concurrent licensing instead of the traditional workstation licensing. The LIMS software license agreement limits the number of workstations on which the software can be installed. If you have a 10-user license, you may install LIMS on up to 10 workstations – no more.
There is no license metering available within the MSCLIMS software. With Citrix or Terminal Services installations, you can control the number of concurrent instances of the LIMS software. This allows the software to be accessible to more users while restricting the number of concurrent users to the license limit. LIMS can be accessible from any thin client within your organization but the number of concurrent users is limited by Citrix or Terminal Services to maintain license compliance.
If you are looking to streamline LIMS installation and administration or you want a significant performance boost in a sluggish network environment, consider deploying LIMS under Citrix or Terminal Services. For more information about thin client computing see Windows Server Terminal Services.