According to Wikipedia “A fat client (also called heavy, rich, or thick client) is a computer (client) in client–server architecture or networks that typically provides rich functionality independent of the central server. Originally known as just a ‘client’ or ‘thick client’, the name is contrasted to thin client, which describes a computer heavily dependent on a server’s applications.”
There are two main areas where classic thin and fat clients differ – manageability and performance. Fat clients are typically better performing, but less manageable than thin clients. The reasons are largely historical – back in a day client OS manageably was pretty poor and higher performing parts were less reliable and much more expensive. Over time the gap in these two areas was getting smaller. Nowadays some small, reliable and high performing client computers are widely available. With the advent of cheap APUs (CPU+GPU in one package) and very affordable storage the difference between fat and thin client on price, reliability and performance is fairly small. Client OS are automatically updateable and fully manageable. Applications no longer have to be installed, but could be streamed to client devices, providing full updateability and manageability. Even if streaming is not used, modern Windows Installer technology as well as one-click deployment packages provide similar benefits. In the end, two could become one with varying levels of service.
As the IT is moving away from client-server architecture to the cloud, it will also be moving away from the fat/thin clients to the cloud-augmenting devices. They’ll reside on the edge and dynamically shape the cloud. They should be able to work connected or disconnected and the transition should be seamless for the consumer. As many services as possible should be available regardless of connectivity.
As Citrix’s CEO Mark Templeton mentioned during his keynote at the recent Synergy conference, we are about to enter the era of 3Cs – public, private and personal clouds. Devices and services providing cohesive user experience in this era will be in high demand.
As an example, when CSPs (Cloud Service Providers) sign up new clients, they often encounter a large number of applications that must be migrated quickly or even some not public cloud deployable applications (might be because of performance, hardware, licensing requirements, etc.). To address this challenge, here at Citrix’s CADG (Cloud App Delivery Group) we are working on making locally executing applications an integral part of the cloud desktop experience. Paired with intelligent and properly configured cloud-augmenting devices our software will provide best user experience in the 3C environment.