By VARINDIA    2010-04-13

The cost of ownership of PCs might be coming down drastically, but the running and maintaining cost is becoming very high. Therefore, companies are seriously evaluating alternative opportunities to keep a control on their wallets. Concepts like thin clients, blade PCs, PC virtualization, etc. are gaining grounds in the enterprise computing. Out of these upcoming technologies, thin client appears, so far, to be cost effective. Unlike its sibling fat client (PC), thin client is also a desktop computer, but every bit of application, database and control comes from a central server. It does not carry any moving components, i.e. HDD, CD-R, FDD, etc. It even does not carry any software application. Therefore, the net result is no system crash, no virus attack and very little system cost. Added to this, manageability of the data becomes easier and cheaper. 

 
Some years ago, TCO was considered to be the overriding consideration for migrating from a PC estate to a thin-client architecture. However, in due course of time, it has been found that the adoption of thin client is gaining momentum, thanks to the factors like manageability and easier virus protection. Apart from the organizations, a geographically distributed company is most likely to gain from the uptake of thin client architecture. 
 
The initial cost of procurement of thin clients may not be too less compared to the PCs. Many clients are under the wrong notion that thin clients cost less than the PCs. “If you procure 100 PCs versus 100 thin clients with a server, the cost may be somewhat same. But four or five years down the line if you compare in terms of cost of ownership, thin client architecture will cost 40 per cent less than the PCs,” says Arun Rao, Business Manager, Client Virtualization, Hewlett-Packard India. “Apart from this, you don’t need separate UPS for each thin client which usually happens in the case of a PC,” adds Rao. 
 
However, what makes the thin client system architecture an attractive proposition is not just TCO. What endears thin clients to the CXOs is the prospect to remove valuable software and data from the desktop and relocate them in the server. This makes the data and software more secure and at the same time it becomes easier and cheaper to manage and maintain them. 
 
Another major factor in the adoption of thin client is the recognition of the benefits of centralized data and storage management. “With local PC hard drives, there is always a question whether the users are backing files up,” Rao says. “However, in thin client architecture we use our SAN technology and have central control and visibility.” 
 
According to Rao, “One of the beauties of thin-client computing is that if something goes wrong with the local desktop system, all the data is at the server, 100 per cent reliably backed up.””“Secondly, the thin client cuts energy consumption in half – this is very important, but where power is cheaper, it will be less significant. We are adapting our metrics country by country; what we are sure of is savings will be between 20 per cent and 50 per cent,” he adds.
 
Rao expects that organizations will initially adopt only a few of the units and they will wait for existing PCs reaching end-of-life. Thereafter, the time will be ripe for the wholesale adoption of the thin client system.
 
Manageability is one of the important benefits of a thin client computing. Thin client system offers centralized management, which enables faster deployment of new applications, easier and faster support for end-users and greater control over the use of systems.
 
Not surprisingly, organizations are taking a plunge in this direction. It has been found that the companies, which have opted for thin-client environment, enjoy 30 to 70 per cent reduction in the total cost of ownership. 
 
“Thin clients also allow IT managers to take control of security, integrity and reliability of data. “You have got safer and reliable data as all the data resides on the server. Clients are likely to witness fewer breakdowns, greater data integrity and better uptime,” says Rao. Many companies are embracing the thin client architecture. BPOs, Call Centres, companies across the verticals including healthcare and retail are the first movers in this direction.
 
Despite the benefits of thin client architecture, there are some impediments to the adoption of thin clients. Users shy away from giving up “Personal” tag from their PCs. Thin-client sales are soaring. Though we should not jump to the conclusion that the death of the traditional PC is inevitable. There is no doubt that thin client units are currently surging ahead of PC growth. In volume terms, thin clients still have a long way to go to catch up with the traditional PC. However, it will be hardly surprising if they do so. The research firm Gartner is of the opinion that as early as 2008, the traditional PC will be a standard feature on fewer than 50 per cent of corporate desktops. In India, IDC has predicted shipment of 1.4 lakh thin client units and are growing by 60 per cent year on year.
 
HP is trying to work on the consumer referral stories to make it popular among the enterprises. The mean time of HP thin client failure is 20 years and more. HP provides three years warranty on this technology. We are conducting internal training and training our channel partners as well. 
 
Channel and Challenge… 
As far as the channel strategy of HP with regard to thin clients is concerned, the company is well poised to showcase the product to the clients in a forceful manner. “The strength of HP is that we are a channel-oriented company. The reach of the HP is because of the presence of partners throughout the country. Across the country, what we are trying to do is to shortlist the partners,” notes Rao. These partners are internally called CLIC partners. “These are typically partners whom we call client consolidation partners, so we looking at a set of partners like this, these are typically partners with the profile of selling solutions,” adds Rao.
 
The challenge for the company is to scale up the base of partners. Today, the company has ten channel partners, but the company plans to increase it to fifty. So far, PSG was selling standalone client products, but now it will be selling the entire solution. So, the task in hand is how to enable the partners to sell solutions by honing the partners’ skill sets and architect the solutions for the customers. The company has also designed training programmes for partners, which will be conducted in a phase manner. And, Rao’s belief is that the company is working towards becoming the number one player in this space as well. 

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