Desktop Virtualization Success Stories

Five IT organizations have reduced support time, stretched budgets, kept up with rapid growth and managed a geographically dispersed workforce.

Editor's note: This sidebar accompanies the mainbar "The Virtual Desktop Is Here."

Client/server computing, n-tier computing, thin clients, blades, streaming, virtualization. As different as these technologies are, they have one thing in common: All seek to place data, software, processing functions or hardware in just the right place to optimize something.

That something could be desktop support costs, network bandwidth, security, user mobility, software license fees, hardware costs, end-user freedoms, desktop performance and more. How the IT manager trades off those often-conflicting objectives when choosing a computing infrastructure varies with circumstances, as the mini-case histories in this story illustrate.

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Case No. 1: The school

Organization: Zion-Benton Township High School; Zion, Ill.

IT manager: Lee Steinsdoerfer, technology director

Challenge: To centralize and simplify desktop administration.

Solution concept: Replace fat clients and client/server computing with diskless desktops and software streaming.

Product chosen: Software-Streaming Platform from Ardence Inc., now part of Citrix Systems Inc. Five Ardence "I/O servers" stream content -- just what is actually needed for that session and user -- to desktops on demand. The operating system and applications run locally, while disk I/O remains server based.

Implementation: A bond issue allowed the school to perform a total rip-and-replace of old systems with new Dell desktops and servers. A six-month pilot led to the rollout of streaming to 700 diskless desktops in kiosks, labs, libraries, classrooms and offices.

Results: "There is nothing users can damage. You can trash the image, but when you reboot, you get a new image," Steinsdoerfer says. Labor for support and maintenance of desktops have plummeted. "You update one image, copy it to the I/O servers, and you are done."

Observations and advice: "We ordered all our new machines with 1GB of memory. The more memory you have, the longer you can go without having to reboot the machine," Steinsdoerfer says.

He reports a problem most companies would be happy to have: "In the past, our students did the bulk of desktop support and became very competent technicians. We feared that using Ardence would take a lot of that out of their hands. And that's exactly what happened. Students are now frustrated that they aren't doing and learning as much."

Case No. 2: The health care provider

Organization: Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice; Lewiston, Maine

IT manager: David Barter, CIO

Challenge: 1) To eliminate paper and streamline patient services by giving nurses access to a new electronic medical record (EMR) system from their homes and patients' homes, and 2) to reduce the cost of supporting geographically dispersed fat clients.

Solution concept: Phase I: thin clients. Phase II: application streaming.

Products chosen: Citrix Access Gateway and Presentation Server. Hewlett-Packard diskless desktops with 512MB of flash memory running a Linux kernel.

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