Thin client computing could save millions

28 Sep 2007

Irish businesses could save €8.6m in electricity bills and slash CO2 emissions by 36,000 tonnes a year if they switched from PCs to thin client network computers, according to new research.

Researchers from the prestigious Fraunhofer Institute in Germany conducted a study on an estimate of 750,000 business desktop PCs in operation around Ireland and compared their performance with thin client devices from IGEL Technology.

“Energy consumption when in operation was up to 50pc lower than for conventional PCs,” concluded Dr Hartmut Pflaum, the Fraunhofer researcher.

“While PCs consume about 85 watts on average, thin clients including their server get by with 40 to 50 watts. In view of climate change and the need to reduce Co2 emissions, this is an important factor.”

A thin client computer depends primarily on the central server for processing activities, and mainly focuses on conveying input and output between the user and the remote server. In this way, companies can hold on to the same PC for years while updating the server architecture to boost computing power.

Stephen Yeo, strategy director of worldwide marketing at IGEL said that saving 36,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions would remove the equivalent impact of almost 6,500 average households each year.

“Add to this the typical 25pc total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of buying and running a thin client compared to a PC and there can be no doubt that server-based computing is the economic and eco-friendly way forward,” said Yeo.

Yeo pointed to Gartner research earlier this year that estimated that commercial IT usage accounts for 2pc of global CO2 emissions. “This is more than the aviation industry. A quarter of this is produced by PCs.”

He said that organisations are spending more and more on electricity to power data centres — more than on the servers themselves — and if this continues electricity could eventually become 50pc of total IT budgets.

“The move to thin client could cut this drastically because a thin client PC versus a standard PC uses 10 watts rather than 100 watts. Also the move to server-based computing and virtualisation through 64bit computing will significantly decrease the amount of watts consumes.”

Yeo said that at present thin client computing represents 6 to 7pc of replaced desktops in the market. “The full ability of thin client computing is not being harnessed. Imaging being in a position where a single device that uses only 10 watts of power can be a telephone, PC, web browser and access applications like SAP and not a single hard disk in site.

“We would urge businesses to consider moving to thin client as cogent way of cutting costs but also helping the environment. The nice thing is that most CO2 reduction measures require a change in lifestyle. This doesn’t, and most users can’t tell the difference between a thin client and standard PC in terms of performance,” Yeo said.

By John Kennedy