Updates, patches, and configurations for Microsoft Windows PCs throw businesses for a loop, and slowly the IT departments of these businesses are responding. And they’re not jumping on the Windows Vista bandwagon.
Bottom line, if a business outfits hundreds of Windows PCs to workers who run basically the same set of applications, it is wasting money on hundreds of little nightmares happening now or waiting to happen. If they deploy thousands, the potential for these nightmares to lead to costly disasters is exponentially higher.
What to do? For some companies, especially large ones that can test solutions in pilot programs, the answer is to replace the PCs with ultra-thin clients that run, well, nothing. Almost nothing. No need for a hard drive, no Windows, no applications, which run from a central server. Administrative costs are lower, thanks to centralized administration and control. New applications, upgrades and patches are much simpler to deploy, since they only have to be installed on the servers, not on each individual desktop.
This is how Sparkasse Haslach-Zell, a savings bank headquartered in Zell, Germany, solved this problem. Saddled with aging equipment — 166 MHz Pentium-based PCs — and a complex mixture of Windows desktop applications, the bank needed to integrate and simplify IT administration in order to increase the effectiveness of its staff. The company replaced them with Sun Ray ultra-thin clients linked via broadband connections to Sun V20z servers. Rather than change the applications or adopt new systems, the company chose to make use of its Windows and Linux applications by running Sun Ray clients with Java Desktop System software, Solaris on the Sun server, Citrix MetaFrame to manage Windows-based applications, and RayMote W*Admin software from Slovakia-based UNIT to manage Solaris and Linux applications.
Not only did the bank increase productivity, it also turned a bit greener by reducing its power consumption by 94% — a Sun Ray ultra-thin client consumes just 11 watts versus 150 for a typical PC. Sun Ray clients also have fewer components, so both acquisition and repair costs are reduced.
Following this notion, Valparaiso University put more than 120 Sun Rays across its campus — in labs, in the library facility, in its administrative offices, and in dormitories — in order to eliminate the complex, costly and time-consuming administration of Windows PCs. As a result, the university reduced IT maintenance by 97% — eight hours per week to one hour per month.
What about high-performance applications? If you dig down in the weeds of Valparaiso’s story, you find that one of the issues, in one part of the university, was the cost of outfitting Geography and Meteorology departments with high-performance Windows PCs running graphics applications. It would have cost as much as $6,000 per Windows PC and would have required a significant time commitment from IT. By contrast, the Sun Ray, at half the size and consuming only 5% of the power of a traditional PC, offered a smaller footprint, dramatically lower power consumption and the ability to run both UNIX and Windows environments from a single desktop — all at prices significantly lower than comparable Windows PCs.
Reliability, it turns out, is crucial to some of these students who are out in the field tracking hurricanes. The team needs to monitor weather reports and satellite data — A PC freezing up at the wrong moment can put their lives at risk — but with the Sun Rays, according to the university’s senior systems administrator, system lockups are a thing of the past.
Want to give your workers something simple and easy to use? Consider this tale of two Windows PC replacements. If you still think it would be better to outfit them with Windows XP or Vista PCs, good luck with that.