Thin is in

Virtual desktops?PC lookalikes, but without memory, storage and computing power to run applications and perform tasks on their own?are seeing steady adoption by establishments in the education, IT-BPO, manufacturing and government sectors. This cost-effective technology is easy to deploy and manage, reduces desktop clutter and ensures that there are virtually no network failures

The sprawling campus of Aggarwal College is situated in the heart of the industrial township of Ballabgarh in Faridabad district, 37 km from the national capital, and currently provides higher education to over 5,000 students in various academic disciplines. There is no denying the fact that the quality of education in any institution is greatly influenced by its infrastructure. Considering this, two years back, when the college management made a critical inspection of the computing infrastructure, they found that its IT infrastructure required overhauling. The computer labs were equipped with traditional desktop systems with CRT monitors. The infrastructure was dated, consumed a lot of power and required maintenance and support on a regular basis. Besides, the number of computers in the college labs was insufficient to provide independent access and adequate lab time to students.

Cut to present. The institution has put all this behind by overhauling its entire IT set up and going green with low-cost shared computing technology. The management team of the school has deployed virtual desktops in six labs, libraries and administrative offices. ?It is a change that is rendering multiple benefits,? says the college principal Krishan Kant Gupta. ?Technology provided by Santa Clara, California-based NComputing is far better than the traditional PC set up that we had earlier. Power consumption of all six labs has

reduced by 90%. We have completely forgotten issues such as hard disk crashes, hardware obsolescence, virus threats, and so on. What?s more, our IT head is absolutely free now from lab support and maintenance tasks as NComputing labs are virtually maintenance free. We are using his skills now for other tasks such as deployment of CCTV cameras in the campus, establishing state-of the art auditorium in the campus and so on.?

Around 260 virtual desktop thin clients at the college premises run Microsoft Office, education applications and software as per higher education curriculum, and a customised ERP software for managing processes related to college administration and academics. ?Deployment in four more labs is in the pipeline,? says Amit Singhla, CEO, NextGen Computers, entrusted with the task of deploying virtual desktops which has reduced desktop clutter and wasted computing power.

For the less tech-savvy lot, a virtual desktop looks like a regular personal computer but lacks a hard drive, CD-ROM drive, fans and other moving parts. It weighs only 150 grams compared to 9.6 kg of a regular desktop machine and uses as little as 1 watt of electricity (compared to 110 watts for a regular PC) often saving more than 90% on electricity bills. An ordinary user working on a virtual desktop will find that his/her desktop environment (the icons, wallpaper, windows, folders, toolbars, widgets, etc) is stored remotely on a server, rather than on a local PC. Unlike a typical PC or ?fat client,? that has the memory, storage and computing power to run applications and perform tasks on its own, a thin client functions only as a virtual desktop, using the computing power residing on networked servers.

More on its deployment at a ground level. Recently, the Bhavasara Kshatriya Cooperative Bank, a leading cooperative bank based out of Bangalore put an end to its IT woes by getting rid of dated infrastructure and high maintenance costs by deploying such thin clients. The bank currently has its head office and three more branches situated in Bangalore that cater to over 150,000 customers. Owing to its traditional IT infrastructure that had gone obsolete overtime, the bank was facing problems like frequent downtime and wear and tear, slow machines resulting in slow operations, cumbersome management of individual PCs, virus threats and issues related to data security.

The deployment of 45 thin client access devices has ensured that there are no downtimes and network failures anymore. ?The solution is easy to deploy and manage. It is easy to monitor each user?s activity, control access to applications and ensure data security,? says the bank?s head of IT, Gopinath TK. ?NComputing devices have extremely low foot print when it comes to energy consumption. We are observing significant reduction in power consumption and backup costs. So much so, we have reduced UPS size from 6kVA to 3kVA at each branch. Other banks are amazed to see the quick and cost-effective manner in which we have successfully revamped our computing infrastructure by deploying this shared computing technology.?

Crux of the matter is that enterprises are increasingly looking at shifting their IT spends more towards transformational projects than the business as usual projects. Customers today spend a large percentage of their IT budgets on IT infrastructure and hence customers are looking at transformational IT infrastructure initiatives to optimise these spends. Desktop virtualisation is one technology which has seen rapid growth in adoption in the last four years across industry segments. The primary reason behind this growth is that desktop virtualisation offers customers an opportunity to transform their IT infrastructure and increase employee productivity while improving the information security and optimising cost.

Manish Sharma, vice-president for Asia Pacific region at NComputing gives a quick snapshot of this niche technology?s acceptance in Indian context. ?NComputing solutions are deployed across businesses including SMB organisations, banks and financial institutions, enterprises and call centres. The World Trade Organisation, Canon, Mahindra & Mahindra Financials, DHL, Pollmeier Sawmills, multiple dealerships of Maruti Suzuki India, ITW India Automotive, Pune are but a few names. Apart from this, NComputing has been adopted by hospitals, clinics, schools, and government facilities throughout India.?

Some of the large scale implementations made by NComputing in India include 60,000 seats in 6,000 plus government schools in Andhra Pradesh; 52,000 seats in 2,622 government schools of Haryana; 18,000 seats across 1,800 learning centres of Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Ltd (MKCL); and 31,000 seats in Employees? State Insurance Corporation of India (ESIC) across 2,210 locations in India and deployment of many lakh devices in over 40,000 educational institutions. ?What we have achieved is only tip of the ice-berg. With a country as large as India, there is a massive potential waiting to be tapped,? says Sharma.

Currently, desktop virtualisation is gaining ground across multiple verticals and customer segments starting from education, IT/ITeS, SMB to larger enterprises and government. With the proliferation of mobility and subsequent emergence of IT trends around bring-your-own-device (BYOD), enterprises the world over are finding themselves faced with the challenge to expand the scope and reach of their IT infrastructure to enable employees, partners and other stakeholders to access not just their own desktop or applications, but also their workspace, from the device of their choice, anytime, from anywhere. This is increasingly driving organisations to desktop virtualisation as a viable and secure alternative to traditional PC computing.

According to the NComputing VP, some of the many challenges faced by organisations of all types?not only in India but the world over?include: high cost of providing every user with a PC; frequent technological changes and resulting hardware and software obsolescence; costs associated with upgrade, replacement and management of the IT infrastructure; technical complexity associated with managing hybrid IT set ups; creating a robust and secure framework to enable and support high priority IT initiatives, including mobility, BYOD and migration to new versions of Windows operating environments, and so on.

?These challenges are increasingly driving key IT decision makers towards adopting a virtual desktop infrastructure that offers a viable and secure alternative to traditional PC computing. The key value proposition of virtual desktop infrastructure as compared to traditional desktops is it enables the expansion of computing access in the most hassle-free, cost-effective and energy-efficient manner while also enabling CIOs to support current IT trends such as mobility, BYOD, centralised and remote management of IT infrastructure, and so on, with agility,? says Sharma who is based in Singapore and has also worked at Wyse Technology, HCL-HP and Sony. ?From the user?s perspective there is no compromise in functionality and user experience in comparison to any other alternate IT architecture.? In short, IT can?t get any better!

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

First published on: 03-03-2014 at 04:16 IST