A Desktop Strategy for the Future

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1 A Desktop Strategy for the Future

2 IT managers all have a common dream: a secure, economical and easy-to-administer standard desktop unit that can handle all user scenarios. But the reality often looks quite different as they need to cope with a varied assortment of PCs, thin clients, laptops, PDA and smart phones. So, the big question is: What desktop strategy comes as close to the ideal one imagined by users, security administrators and CIOs? If you give credence to the statistics compiled by market analysts, it looks like the traditional corporate PC could soon be on the way out. According to IDC, the standard PC is increasingly losing ground to laptops and thin clients. In fact, in 2007 both laptops and thin clients made up more than one half of all corporate end-unit procurements, and one in nine desktop units purchased in Western Europe was a thin client instead of a PC. This development is indicative of a major paradigm shift in the way IT workstations and applications are being made available to corporate employees. So, given all this rethinking, what strategy holds the most promise for the future? The answer to this question involves many competing priorities such as cost, security and fl exibility, with each of these factors being weighted differently depending on the specifi c technical, organizational and legal conditions encountered in each case (see Table 1). The changing face of enterprise IT More and more enterprises and government agencies are now moving their computing power from workstations back into the server room. The traditional client/server network with well-equipped PCs has essentially come to the end of the road, and there are many reasons for this trend. Compared to what they are actually used for, the costs for their maintenance, support and power have simply gotten too high. Beyond this, there is also the very high risk of losing valuable data through theft, viruses and other criminal attacks or by somehow simply ending up in the wrong hands. Of course, the idea of having centralized provision of data and applications is really nothing new. Back in the 70s, business information was routinely stored on centralized mainframes, and users accessed this data by means of text-based terminals. Then, starting in the mid-80s, PCs took companies by a storm. The reasons for this were clear; they let users work more easily with convenient graphical interfaces, and with locally installed applications they had almost unlimited potential. Today s renaissance in centralized computing (Server-Based Computing or SBC) is now combining the best features of both IT architectures: Centralized control and administration of desktop units usually thin clients with the familiar speed, ease-of-use and user-friendly interface of a PC. Table 1: Weighting the evaluation criteria for desktop devices Primary Criteria Overall Costs (TCO) Security Flexibility Major Factors: IT and Technology Factors: Frequent, fast changes in the IT system (new or changed applications, operating system, hardware), software (licensing and procurement model), costs for bandwidth Organizational Factors: Number of employees (number of branch offices, home-based workstations), frequency and rapidity of organizational changes (growth, mergers, takeovers) High level of requirements for data security and recovery, legal liability, malware and hacker attacks, multi-user desktops, freely accessible (unprotected) desktops, availability (max. downtime), crisis planning/readiness (emergency scenarios) IT and Technology Factors: A broad range of applications and transmission protocols, regular/recurring updates and adaptations, frequent changes in technology, broadband availability Organizational Factors: Rapid growth, mergers, takeovers, frequent moves, high number of mobile users 2/7

3 The trend toward virtualization In terms of fl exibility, modern thin clients have now reached a level comparable to that of a PC. The secret behind this development lies in what are called digital services (local tools and clients), whose functions are contained in the thin-client fi rmware. Digital services provide a broad and varied range of ways to access centralized IT resources. These include the two currently most preferred methods of access. First, the wellestablished server-based computing (SBC) approach using terminal servers running Microsoft, Citrix or Linux as well as centralized IT infrastructures with virtual desktops. In the second case, virtualization software is used to simulate PC hardware on servers on which specifi c applications can be installed in the usual manner. This means that users work in a simulated or virtual PC environment. A thin client can be used as a neutral interface device that displays the user interface of the virtual PC and transmits all inputs to it. However, modern, universally applicable thin clients, can also provide direct access to legacy host applications located on earlier centralized systems such as IBM mainframes. To implement this function, the thin client fi rmware contains terminal emulation software that interacts with a mainframe just like a text-based terminal. This fi rmware also enables direct access to SAP systems, the Internet or multimedia fi les as well as thin client-based IP telephony using a Softphone. The need to evaluate various desktop devices In light of these recent developments, the standard desktop PC is really starting to feel the heat. Still, what alternatives are there to it and how can they be properly evaluated? Contrary to common practice, hardware is not a suffi cient basis for evaluation since it only has up to an 8% infl uence on the Cost of Ownership (TCO) (Source: Siemens Business Service, 2007). A more comprehensive study recently conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) compared the total cost incurred for desktop PCs and thin clients, including administration, support, license costs and their share of server hardware and software. The results are clear: When it comes to overall costs, thin clients come out on top. In fact, compared to a managed PC, over a fi ve-year period a thin client will yield TCO savings of 48%. Thin clients also do similarly well when it comes to security. That s because, unlike PCs and laptops, they do not provide any means of local data storage. Furthermore, because thin clients cannot be fully used as workstations without a server connection, there is no real incentive to steal them. However, it is also true that thin clients do have some limits when it comes to fl exibility. For instance, mobile users, such as sales representatives are usually very dependent on laptops since these can make all critical applications and data available offl ine without having to be constantly connected to a network. On the other hand, thin client notebooks use UMTS cards to establish a connection to their server. Furthermore, there are also those workstations running very specifi c applications, ones that may require virtual PCs. Summary: From today s standpoint, the recommended solution is a mixture of thin clients and a limited number of laptops. Thin clients are ideal for users with a continuous connection to the company network as well as for those users who handle very sensitive data requiring tight security. For power users, a suitable scenario involves a thin client along with a virtual PC. Supported by highperformance server hardware, very specific or demanding tasks requiring workstations with high levels of computing power and/or graphics capability can be handled by thin clients, including resource-intensive CAD applications. Strategy for providing applications With the boom in server-based computing, the development of a desktop strategy is closely linked to the question of the best way to provide applications. Table 3 provides an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of SBC through a terminal server compared to virtual PCs. It also shows typical application areas for both models. They are best evaluated regarding their TCO, security and fl exibility. In terms of costs, SBC clearly comes out ahead. Among other things, it requires fewer hardware resources. For instance, on a server with a dual-core processor and 4 GB RAM, 50 to 100 terminal sessions can run concurrently, depending on the application environment. Experience has shown that this same hardware confi guration can only support 15 to 20 virtual PCs running Windows XP. And, if these virtual machines are to run Windows Vista, which is much more resource-hungry than this confi guration, they will be able to handle even less capacity. Additionally, desktop virtualization 3/7

4 Table 2: Comparison of Laptop, Desktop and Thin Client Factor Individual criteria Laptop PC Desktop PC Thin Client 1 TCO Risk Flexibility Purchase Software licenses Bandwidth (e.g. for images) Power consumption Rollout Administration / support Theft Loss of data, including legal consequences and damage to company s image Security gaps Availability, downtimes Compliance with guidelines/regulations (e.g. Sarbanes-Oxley, emergency scenarios) Complete provision of data and applications IT changes (e.g. user migration) Future-proofi ng of technology over its entire service life cycle Organizational changes (e.g. mergers, growth) Mobility Environment Including production, assembly, materials, CO 2 footprint, recycling 1 in conjunction with digital services and virtual PC (-) can require the purchase of expensive licenses, especially for the necessary broker and hypervisor software, such as VMware, Microsoft or Citrix. Furthermore, each virtual PC must have anti-virus software installed and maintained on it. This means that system management will be more involved because a separate image has to be managed for each virtual PC system. In terms of security, both systems are about equal. In each case, data and applications are centrally provided and can be kept secure in the one location of origin. Even so, SBC can be regarded as more mature since this technology has been in use substantially longer. Despite all this, desktop virtualization does offer more fl exibility. It can handle complex high-end application scenarios or those applications that cannot be made available by terminal servers. Future-proofing thin client architecture Compared to PCs, a major advantage of thin clients is their longer service life. Nevertheless, to fully exploit this potential, the device provider and the model selected must be in a position to support promising future technologies right from the start. However, this will not be the case with an investment in thin clients that can only use a single protocol for terminal services or only support a specifi c brand of hypervisor and broker software. In the new, up-and-coming market segment of desktop visualization, it is particularly important to keep your options open when it comes to being able to accommodate future technology offering potentials for consolidation and cost savings. This more open strategy greatly speaks in favor of selecting a thin client provider whose models, regardless of their design, offer the greatest 4/7

5 possible portfolio of continuously developed digital services (local tools and clients). A good example of this kind of strategy is provided by the thin client manufacturer IGEL Technology. Its Universal Desktop approach features a diverse range of versatile digital services for all leading SBC and virtual desktop environments augmented by VoIP, multimedia, Java and host access. This additional feature not only supports the consolidation of diverse IT workstations, but also print servers, IP telephones and server middleware. Ecology and management Having the right desktop and resource-provision strategies in place will put a company on a clear path toward safeguarding its technological and organizational future. With a consistent centralization of IT resources, deployment of fl exible thin clients and an easily managed, straightforward pool of mobile end devices, a company can minimize its TCO and risks in a targeted manner without having to make any concessions in fl exibility. In view of the long-term savings, greater data security and increased crisis resilience of such a system environment, it is certainly worthwhile to thoroughly evaluate its potential. In doing so, yet another aspect that can be considered is its reduced impact on the environment. A recent study completed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) demonstrates that thin clients use far fewer resources and have less impact on the environment over their service life than PCs or laptops. And fi nally, here is some information on how to optimize the administration of mixed thin client/laptop environments. For each group of these end devices there are special management solutions that are best suited to their purposes. It is a good idea to apply these specifi c solutions, especially if both groups are able to access a common profi le database such as through Active Directory. Creating such a common basis for system management would be another key step in achieving sustained optimization of a centralized IT infrastructure. Summary: The use of improved terminal services (SBC) or virtual desktops depends largely on the application environment in place at the company concerned. For standard applications like Microsoft Office, Internet browsers, etc., SBC has definite cost advantages. However, when it comes down to flexibility, virtual desktops are the better choice. In both cases, security strength is about the same. On average, SBC is suitable for 80% to 90% of IT workstations. The remaining 10% to 20% of user scenarios are better served by virtual desktops. 5/7

6 Table 3: Comparison of desktop virtualization and server-based computing Strengths Desktop virtualization Performance: from a user s perspective, greater computing and graphics performance, more settings to make Availability: Possible software problems affect only one or individual users (e.g. compatibility problems, defective software, no DLL sharing) Flexibility: Easy movement of desktop sessions from server to server. Sessions can be moved to different locations (offl ine work). Software: Workstation version is suffi cient. Server-based computing Management: Minimum management time and effort (no images) Effi ciency: Better utilization of server hardware (5 times more users) Mature technology (in use since the 1990s) Lower license costs in certain cases High stability and availability Weaknesses Typical uses Management: Time and effort to manage desktop images (security/antivirus software on every virtual PC) Software costs: Connection broker/hypervisor software needed Use of non-terminal-server compatible or unstable/ defective software (e.g. important for program mers) User scenarios with variable/high hardware requirements User scenarios with several desktop operating systems on one end device Numerous redundant licenses for Windows XP or Windows Vista Applications must be terminal-sever compatible Limited performance from a user s perspective (CAD applications) Standard workstations with typical Windows applications Predictable hardware utilization Stable-running software Relevance -> Affects 10 to 20% of users -> Affects 80 to 90% of users Germany (HQ) United Kingdom United States Singapore Hong Kong IGEL Technology GmbH Schlachte 39/ Bremen Germany Tel +49 (0) Fax +49 (0) IGEL Technology Ltd 1210 Parkview Arlington Business Park Theale Reading Berkshire RG7 4TY UK Tel +44 (0) Fax +44 (0) IGEL Technology Inc NW 35th Avenue Fort Lauderdale FL USA Tel Fax Toll Free (US only): GET IGEL IGEL Technology Care of: C. Melchers GmbH & Co. Singapore Branch 101 Thomson Road # 24-01/05 United Square Singapore Tel Fax IGEL Technology Care of: Melchers (H.K.) Ltd Shun Tak Centre West Tower Connaught Road C. Hong Kong Tel Fax IGEL Technology A member of the Melchers group. 98-EN-20-1

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