Virtualization Can Ax PCs for SMBs

An enterprise with a data center can skip having PCs, and cut power consumption, thanks to virtualized desktops, demonstrates Pano Logic.
An enterprise with a data center can skip having PCs, and cut power consumption, thanks to virtualized desktops, demonstrates Pano Logic.You can struggle with the issue of getting each PC in your enterprise backed up in the face of disk crashes, and secured in the face of malware. But if you have a data center running VMware, you can get rid of the PCs entirely and provide the users with much the same experience, at much the same price, using virtual desktops.

At least that's the message from Parmeet Chaddha, executive vice president at four-year-old Pano Logic in Redwood City, CA. He explained that the Pano System resides atop an existing VMware server installation, with a LAN connection. Each user gets a two-inch cube he called the Zero Client, which has connections for the LAN, keyboard, monitor, mouse and a USB port. These connect back to a virtual machine on the server, providing a desktop experience-but there is no desktop storage to backup, and no desktop CPU to risk infection. (The Zero Client, in fact, has no processor.)

A virtualized server can support 8 to 20 users per core, he said, depending on what those users are doing, but he said that common office productivity tasks pose no problems.

The cost (counting all the software licenses) compares favorably to the cost of getting a desktop PC, which runs $600 to $800, Chaddha noted. But aside from the advantages of central management and security, the big advantage lies in power consumption-the cube draws 3.5 watts, or about 1/40th of what a PC draws. You still need the monitor, but he said users report power savings of more than 70 percent.

Tony Lux, head of IT at Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City, MO, said he wasn't even thinking about power consumption when he decided to go with Pano desktops. Basically, the new German-made brewery system his firm had installed was controlled through a graphical interface running on PCs with touch screens, and he winced at the idea of one of those PCs going down, as it would interrupt beer production-and revenue.

Also, his firm was in the process of virtualizing its servers using VMware, from 20 down to three. He heard about Pano, which runs on VMware, and gave it a try, having previously wrestled with high-end thin clients to replace PCs. Two Pano cubes installed and ran without difficulty, and after two weeks he began installing others throughout the brewery.

Lately he has 42 virtual PCs running off three dual quad-core servers with 48 megabytes of RAM each. CPU utilization averages 20 percent, and memory utilization average 50 percent, he noted.

Pano is currently offering, among other things, a 50-user system with a packaged quad-core server, for $24,450, or $489 per user, Chaddha added.