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End User Devices: The M&O Balance

I finished up a few months of research last week on an InformationWeek Analytics report about new paradigms that organizations can use for end user devices. Some of that research made its way into an article for InformationWeek, where one reader comme

I finished up a few months of research last week on an InformationWeek Analytics report about new paradigms that organizations can use for end user devices. Some of that research made its way into an article for InformationWeek, where one reader commented that she wouldn't want to work at a place where maintenance & operations were not a priority. Well, sure. But it's about balance, and neither M&O bloat nor M&O starvation is something to be proud of.

My Big Fat High Maintenance PC

Network Computing was covering topics like desktop management and thin client back in the 90s, when even then it was apparent that the costs of managing every-one-is-different fat PC clients was staggering. Entire industries have sprung up to try to remediate the fat PC's high maintenance nature. But it hasn't been enough. PCs still cost a lot to maintain, and more-and-more clever malware hasn't helped.

So, the question isn't, "how can we get rid of end user device M&O?" The question is, "how can we minimize end user device M&O?" Our research revealed that there are organizations out there that spend in excess of 21% of their budgets just on PC refresh. There are even organizations that spend more than 40% of their budgets on this.

How much do you want to bet that IT at these organizations complain that they don't have any money for projects? There's only so much money that any one organization is willing to spend on IT. If IT chooses a paradigm that requires a 40% operations spend on PCs, well, that's not the parent organization's problem.

The Green Scene

PCs also suck down a fair amount of power. One alternative is VDI, and we featured Randy George's ROI model in the report. (See his VDI rolling review for the nuts and bolts behind VDI.

From a pure capital standpoint, Randy & I both think that VDI and fat PC acquisition is normally just about a wash -- VDI ain't cheap. But, of course, VDI helps with the big fat PC maintenance equation.

VDI can also help with power costs. It's true, power costs of PCs aren't typically in IT's budget. But, just as fleet "carbon footprints" and energy costs are now allocated to business units in some organizations, I'm betting that something similar will happen with PCs, given C-level and shareholder attention to power consumption and rising energy costs.

VDI can't always help with power costs, but it can if you optimize what you put at user desktops. The equation, generally, is:

(Potential Savings) = (Collective Fat PC Power Draw) - ((Collective Thin Client Draw) + (VDI Infrastructure Power Draw))

Of course, leaving old PCs at a desktop instead of replacing them with more efficient units completely misses out on the power draw savings.

Out of curiousity, I asked Jeff McNaught from Wyse last night about how much his customers save from deploying high efficiency thin client units. His response: "On average our customers report that the energy used by the server, per person, is 30 watts (server energy/users supported), and the energy used by a thin client is around 7 watts (the same amount of energy used by a C7 Holiday light we're all putting on our roofs this week)." He said that a fat PC, by comparison, uses between 70 and 250 watts, and went on to say that Wyse customers have measured $45-$70 a year difference per client.

That's pretty strong. Your milage may vary, of course, but it's worth looking into. Particularly if you're one of those organizations spending 20% or more of your operational budget on PC refreshes.

Related posts:

Jonathan Feldman is is an IT executive and analyst working in North Carolina. He has 20 years of security and network infrastructure experience in government, military, healthcare, financial services, and law enforcement. Comment here, write to him at, or on Twitter at @_jfeldman.

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