February 5, 1996

Not just a 'dumb' terminal

Mark Stanczak


Wyse Winterm Model 2000 units edge into Internet terminal arena

Wyse Technology Inc.'s Winterm Model 2000 series gray-scale and color terminals with Citrix Systems Inc.'s WinFrame for Windows Terminals provide full 32-bit Windows computer power to telecommuters and small branch offices.

Winterm's simplicity, performance, and bargain-basement price make it a strong candidate for organizations looking for a value-added way to deploy remote connectivity. However, the Wyse terminal is missing some key components that would make it the turnkey Internet solution.

Poised to be first to market with what could be called an "Internet terminal," Wyse will ship Winterm next week for $500 and $750, respectively, for the gray-scale and color models. The Winterm technology eliminates the need for local disk storage and desktop processing power.

Instead, the Windows terminal provides a high-speed serial or an optional 10BaseT Ethernet port for connecting to Wyse's customized version of WinFrame for NT, a separate $1,495 multitasking Windows NT host application that runs on high-powered server hardware and handles the processing and data storage needs of attached Winterms.

In PC Week Labs tests, we configured our Winterm 2500 color unit to automatically attach to our WinFrame host upon power-up. Using the processing and storage capacity of the host system, we could easily load any 16- or 32-bit Windows applications and then access them using our Winterm 2500.

Remote-control computing using terminals is not new, but Wyse has modernized this age-old technology. Winterm sports a vastly improved dumb-terminal interface by adding a pointing device and the Microsoft Windows NT GUI. In addition, Wyse has dramatically increased the reliability and performance on the host side, implementing an enhanced version of Windows NT Advanced Server 3.51.

Though not particularly high-tech, dumb terminals in their foolproof design do offer a number of benefits over traditional remote networked PCs. For example, we were able to access any data from our Winterm without a floppy or hard drive. This not only eliminates improper configuration files and failed components but avoids the spread of viruses because data never leaves the network. These features alone could offer a substantial reduction in an organization's setup and maintenance costs.

Maintaining the computing power at a central site also has a number of advantages. Data security is an inherent feature of the Winterm/WinFrame system because data is never stored on our terminal, but rather displayed, a key benefit of remote-control technology. We could easily perform application updates to all users by merely updating the application on the WinFrame host.

No drop in the bucket

WinFrame has a real appetite for computing resources, requiring at least 16M bytes of base memory plus 4M bytes to 8M bytes of RAM for each user. A fully configured system supporting 60 simultaneous users will easily consume four Pentium processors and at least 256M bytes of RAM.

We installed the WinFrame for Windows Terminal operating system on a Panda Project Inc. Archistrat 4s server with 64M bytes of memory and a 166MHz Pentium processor. This installation was identical to setting up a typical Windows NT server, with an added step for licensing the Winterm clients. Using the optional 10BaseT Ethernet connection on our Winterm 2500, we attached the terminal to our Asante Technologies Inc. test hub, enabling us to use a 10M-bps connection between our terminal and the host.

One unique aspect that differentiates Winterm from plain vanilla VT100-type devices is the ability to use ICA3, a communications protocol that's highly optimized for remote-control environments. The Citrix Systems ICA client and application for setting communications parameters is based in flash ROM on a small circuit board.

Using this small application, we defined our IP addressing scheme, choosing to hard-code the Winterm address rather than use the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol option, which would have automatically assigned us an IP address from a pool of addresses. In specifying our screen resolution, we chose the highest possible setting--800 by 600 pixels.

The application's ability to store numerous configuration profiles allowed us to easily switch between multiple serial connections or dial in to other WinFrame servers.

Configuring our Winterm 2500 took only a couple of minutes. Once it was completed, we merely cycled the power on our Winterm and quickly established a connection to our WinFrame server, performing as if we were using a desktop PC.

Unfortunately, Winterm doesn't include embedded Internet browser technology, so access to the Internet first requires primary access to the WinFrame host and then the Internet (if available) at the host site.

Organizations implementing Winterm must add a WinFrame host to access the corporate network.

Hopefully, the next version of Winterm will include an embedded browser. This would enable users to get onto the Internet independent of the hosting resources offered by their preferred Internet service provider. Once on the Net, a terminal user could then access any WinFrame sessions when they required application access.

This solution makes application performance dependent on the Internet, which is a real concern. However, the Internet's back-end communications technology should advance and minimize this effect over the next two to three years.

Wyse Technology can be reached at (408) 473-1200 or at http://www.wyse.com.

Ties That Bind: Winterm doesn't include an embedded Internet browser, so users can't get on to the Internet independently of their Internet service provider.


PC Week Labs' review of Citrix WinFrame 1.5 can be found at http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/reviews/reviews.html.

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