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Thin Client Computing could save small businesses thousands in IT costs


Small businesses could save £200 per workstation each year by switching from PCs to thin clients

Reading, UK, 11 March 2010: Small businesses in the UK could be savings thousands of pounds in IT costs and management time by switching from their traditional computers to thin clients, according to research from IGEL Technology. A small company with five PC users could save £2,300 over the first three years and more than £6,000 over a 6 year period – the typical life of a thin client.

Annual costs per workstation below £600
Instead of conventional PCs with their own locally installed software (“fat clients”), employees would use small thin client devices, which look just like a small PC but run their software from a central server. This Virtual Desktop Infrastructure means that staff can still do all the same tasks as with their old PC but the running and maintenance costs are significantly reduced.

When distributed over six years, the costs for this kind of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) with five thin client workstations - including monitors, printer, keyboards and mice - comes to only £596 annually. In contrast, a comparable workstation in a conventional PC environment would cost around £800 per year. What’s more, in purely Linux-based systems (no cost for Windows® licenses), the annual per-workstation savings increase by almost another £100.

Additional costs start paying off in year two
In the first year, the costs of acquisition and the initial installation make the VDI/thin client solution £150 more expensive but the annual operating costs for this solution are 43 % less than those for a comparable PC-based environment, which means that these additional upfront costs are already recovered in year two and savings start to be made.

“Basically, the potential savings increase along with the number of workstations,” explains Dr. Frank Lampe, Marketing Director at IGEL, “One major reason for the savings is the consolidation of the desktops, applications and data all on to one central server that can be administered more efficiently. Additional savings come from the thin clients themselves, which have fewer parts, last longer and use less power than comparable PCs.”

In fact, thin clients take less than half the maintenance time of traditional PCs with computers requiring 35 minutes per PC, per month for operating system updates, software patches and repair time where thin clients require just 14.5 minutes.

“Thin clients only have to be set up once. After that, with the exception of intermittent firmware updates, which take just a few minutes, they can keep on running without interruption,” Lampe states. “In the unlikely event that a thin client fails, a replacement unit is easily hooked up. Once connected, it gets its particular configuration automatically from the server.”

Software and Hardware Features
Nowadays, the software for virtualizing PCs (hypervisor software) is offered by manufacturers as free downloads. For example, Citrix XenServer™ Standard or VMware ESXi™ both offer a broad range of features fully meeting the needs of smaller companies with fewer workstations. Since the hypervisor software runs directly on the server hardware (a “bare-metal” installation), there is no need for an additional server operating system. Professional-grade server hardware, designed to provide five virtual desktops, has a net cost of about £3,000 (e.g. the Dell PowerEdge 2900, 8 GB RAM, 2 x 1TB HDD). This system includes a redundant cooling fan, the power supply unit and hard-drive storage. Thin clients set up to access virtual desktops are available starting at about £250 (plus VAT) – including a locally installed Internet browser and Virtual Desktop Appliance Mode (e.g. the IGEL UD2 420 LX). This sample calculation also includes a network printer (around £400), a 19” TFT monitor for each thin client (£150) as well as a keyboard and mouse for each device (a combined cost of £40 per unit).

More users means more power savings
When it comes to power consumption, both scenarios are about equal. The power savings argument typically cited in favor of VDI and thin clients really starts to make a significant impact at larger companies with around 25 users. In this kind of scenario, the thin client solution requires 650 W (250 W for 25 thin clients and 400 W for 25 virtual desktops), compared to the higher power requirements of about 2,500 W for 25 PCs. Furthermore, when the operating and stand-by times are taken into account, the annual savings in power costs for 25 thin client workstations comes to just under £400.

Notes on this calculation:
This sample calculation is based on the following parameters: The hypervisor software used in the VDI scenario (e.g. Citrix XenServer™ Standard or VMware ESXi™) is available at no cost for small numbers of users. The hypervisor software used is "bare-metal" and does not require a Windows-based operating system to run in. The desktop operating system used is Windows XP (SP3, SB license). Any additional software licenses required and the costs for data backups are assumed equal for both models. Installation and maintenance costs are estimated to be 70 euros/hour. Energy usage calculation (operation/standby) - PC: 120 / 5 W, TC: 10 / 1 W; server: 150 W (average amounts); operating times for PCs and TCs: 9 h x 220 days; for server: 24 h x 365 days). The service life for a thin client, about 6 years, is double that of a PC because thin client hardware has no wear/consumable parts, such as hard disks or cooling fans. In addition, unlike PCs, TCs are not subject to increased hardware requirements necessitated by new applications and operating systems. Calculation for the central virtualization server is based on the following example: Dell Poweredge™ 2900 with 2x 2.0 GHz Quad Core Intel® Xeon® Processor, 8 GB RAM, 2 x 1 TB hard disk in RAID1 array, VDI support and a second power supply.

About IGEL Technology
IGEL Technology is the world’s third largest client vendor by revenue and is market leader in its home country of Germany (2009 IDC). The company produces one of the industry’s widest range of thin clients, based on Linux and Microsoft Windows, giving customers universal access to centralized IT infrastructures. This Universal Desktop strategy allows IGEL customers the greatest flexibility to deliver virtual desktops from VMware®, Citrix® Xen or Microsoft®, terminal services, legacy applications via Ericom® PowerTerm® terminal emulation, web, Java, SAP and VoIP. Form factors include traditional desktops, integrated LCD units and quad screens. Using software, IGEL also offers its Universal Desktop Converter (UDC) to transform older PCs, as well as thin clients and netbooks from selected third party companies, into devices that can use the latest IGEL Universal Desktop firmware. This “soft migration” offers companies an economical way to centralize their IT infrastructure and helps prevent the need to spend large amounts of money on investing in new end-user devices. All IGEL products come with the Universal Management Suite software bundled free. This powerful, yet easy to use, software package allows IGEL thin clients to be centrally managed, keeping support time and costs to a minimum.

UK Press Contact
Paul Smith
The Amber Group
Tel: +44 (0)7770 828525