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My take on ‘The Post PC Era’

April 4, 2012

So we’re calling this new thing “the post PC era”.  Dell bought Wyse for thin clients.  HP has made thin clients for seemingly ever.  Where are we headed here:

  • VDI is here to stay
  • Even cheap PCs are too expensive to run

Let’s start with the first point:  VDI is here to stay.  VDI is an odd duck in that it transfers cost from OpEx (support) into CapEx (data center hardware).  NetApp/EMC (and to a degree Dell and HP) are committing borderline assult with regards to hard disks (much less a shelf – go price a NetApp shelf as an add on and you will cry).  Even assuming you can put 4-12 users on a single spindle, the drive costs 4-12x as much excluding the expensive storage array you have to slam behind it.  Servers may save you a bit of money assuming the VM host licensing doesn’t take it all back:  assuming a single server processor core is ‘enough’, a single 4 way 12 core box can handle 60 users at a sub-30k cost.  Less power draw in total (since you are only running two big 1100 watt power supplies instead of 60 250 watt power supplies).  Networks have to be beefed up (10G ethernet to the server, 8G fibre, and converged networks) to support this kind of data load.

But if we are tying so much in server expense, where are we saving money: ongoing operations.  Instead of 10 desktop support technicians to support a campus, you have two or three.  The help desk can resolve issues from their location: be it restoring a ‘golden’ image, or freeing resources up.  This saves real money over time.

Even with the capex talk, there are vendors ready to take VDI into the ‘cloud’, making this an OpEx investment for smaller (I’d say anyone under 150 desktops should consider a cloud solution if their network connectivity supports it).  These have a bit of difference thanks to Microsoft licensing restrictions (have to use Windows Server instead of native Windows 7 desktops), but should be able to meet most lower end needs especially for users that require mobility.  Give a sales guy a tablet and a thin client for his desk.  His ‘desktop’ is always with him, and if he loses the tablet, just kill it over the air.  More secure, better end user experience.

So what do we lose?  End users may feel they’ve stepped ‘back’, especially the users who are old enough to remember terminals.  They lose the feeling of seeing things boot up.  But who cares about those things?  Users.  But the gains probably will outweigh the losses.

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From → On IT

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