Userful announced yesterday that it was, in concert with Brazil's ThinNetworks, rolling out over 350,000 Linux workstations in Brazil's schools. Userful employs unique desktop virtualization software to turn a single desktop PC into as many as 10 workstations. Like solutions from ThinComputing, users can simply add VGA cards and USB hubs to an existing tower and share the computing power of the single computer.
Userful, however, supports more workstations (10 total for a given PC with dual video outputs) and full desktop virtualization. It is also built around Linux, currently supporting 10 different distributions, enabling an open computing environment with lower system requirements than those of Vista.
As the Userful press release reads,
Desktop computers sit idle while we check our e-mail, surf the web, or type a document. Userful's PC sharing and virtualization technology leverages this unused computing power to create an environmentally efficient alternative to traditional desktop computing. Up to 10 users can work on a single computer by simply attaching extra monitors, mice and keyboards. "This deployment alone saves more than 170,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually, the same as taking 28,000 cars off the road, or planting 41,000 acres of trees”, said Sean Rousseau, Marketing Manager at Userful. Turning 1 computer into 10 reduces computer hardware waste “e-waste” by up to 80%, further decreasing its environmental footprint.
In addition to the environmental impact, the cost savings allowed the Brazilian government to deploy many more workstations than it could have otherwise, even with a traditional thin client setup.
While Userful and their Brazilian partner, Thinnetworks, have had success deploying these computers in extremely rugged situations, this represents a very nice solution for classroom deployments in mature markets as well. The software even provides a web-based management interface for all of the workstations and virtual machines, enabling very simple setup of in-class labs at a fraction of the cost of traditional deployments and without the complexity of a full server-based thin client setup.