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11/6/2009
05:23 PM
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VDI And Netbooks: ROI Peanut Butter And Chocolate

Man, it's great talking to folks who are actually taking a chance on new ways of doing things instead of just speculating about doing it. I chatted with Mary Ann Buch today. She's the director of technology for a school district in upstate New York. They've actually been using Netbooks and VDI for a proof of concept project in the classroom. Kids and teachers like it, and she says the financial models are pretty compelling. "It's just a school district"? "That doesn't apply to my f

Man, it's great talking to folks who are actually taking a chance on new ways of doing things instead of just speculating about doing it. I chatted with Mary Ann Buch today. She's the director of technology for a school district in upstate New York. They've actually been using Netbooks and VDI for a proof of concept project in the classroom. Kids and teachers like it, and she says the financial models are pretty compelling. "It's just a school district"? "That doesn't apply to my for-profit enterprise"? Think again.Buch worked with a specialized school technology consultant to put together a series of research that led them to believe that netbooks plus virtualization would not only work well, but that it would save significant dollars.

For starters, Buch recognizes that a significant cost of a large fleet of fat PCs is the labor required to run around and fix them. Depot service of netbooks means that Buch can keep staffing costs down.

Next, Buch's research found that the power required to run VDI and a netbook versus multiple fat computers is greatly reduced, thus greatly affecting the energy budget of the system.

I think your CFO would want to know both of these things, no matter what industry you're in.

When I think VDI, I think about the typical thin client barrier of needing access even when offline. The offline issue (not being able to use the netbook without network access) doesn't really bother her. In her line of business, access to the Internet means access to instructional technology, so being offline, even with a fat client, presents issues with or without fat client or VDI in the picture. Maybe that's beginning to be true of many enterprises, particularly as IT continues to break down silo systems and integrate more and more into the enterprise information systems of the organization.

I have been a VDI curmudgeon, and I continue to be. One size does not fit all. But I am really intrigued by the netbook and VDI combo. It's probably not suitable for everybody, but it may be an appealing "peanut butter and chocolate" type of combination for others, where the combined outcome is greater than the individual outcomes.

Jonathan Feldman is an InformationWeek Analytics contributor who works with IT governance in North Carolina. Comment here, write to him at jf@feldman.org, or on Twitter at @_jfeldman.

For more on this topic, see our InformationWeek Analytics Report on netbooks , or our latest rolling review on VDI.

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