Another key benefit of desktop virtualization is the prospect of extending the life of old computers. Most districts have a computer refresh cycle of three to five years. Desktop virtualization can provide the same computing experience with just a monitor, keyboard, and mouse or an old computer used as a thin client.
NComputing CEO Stephen Dukker calls the need to replace obsolete equipment “the biggest unrecognized cost of buying computers.”
“We’re making computing pretty much a utility,” adds Dave Podwojski, director of government, education, and health care for Citrix Systems. “We’re letting people focus on the applications they need to use, not the device.”
He notes that the Campbell Union High School District in San Jose, Calif., was able to pull 10-year-old Toshibas out of the closet and repurpose them as thin clients with XenDesktop.
All you need is half a gigabyte of memory, a motherboard, a network interface card, and an internet connection, says Campbell IT Director Charles Kanavel. “Basically, you need a box that connects to the internet,” and you don’t need a hard drive.
“The trend of using low-cost devices changes the whole economic climate,” says Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking. “This is huge. Things are shifting fast. As we switch to a cloud-computing environment, chief technology officers will need to shift their thinking.”
Krueger suggests districts can even accept donated computers, a move not advisable in the past. “For a long time, we’ve warned districts about accepting donated equipment” not up to current standards, he says. “That often ends up costing more than if you purchased [new machines] in the first place.”
Kanavel draws the line on donated machines, however, because it takes a lot of staff time to check them out and see what works. “It’s still not worth the effort,” he says.