Fleecing the flock?

Fleecing the flock?

Summary: A friend emailed me today with some questions about a thin client deployment he was considering for a local school. A bit of time on the phone with his Dell rep and he was convinced that he just didn't have the budget to roll out a terminal server and a lab of thin clients.


A friend emailed me today with some questions about a thin client deployment he was considering for a local school. A bit of time on the phone with his Dell rep and he was convinced that he just didn't have the budget to roll out a terminal server and a lab of thin clients. The server running the show was simply too expensive.

The rep quoted him just north of $6000 for a Server 2008 rig to handle a 30-seat lab. While $6000 isn't a crazy price to pay for a server designed to deliver an optimal desktop experience on thin clients, the Dells and HPs of the world need to remember that the difference between a $4000 and $6000 purchase can make or break a project in K-12 education.

Public education is a land of compromises. Is it worth trading acceptable performance (versus optimal performance) to actually make a project happen that adds a new computer lab to a media center? Particularly when that computer lab would have the easy management associated with a thin client environment? Most likely.

Often, the salespeople with whom we work look at the numbers, punch them into a spreadsheet or application provided by their engineers or Microsoft, and spit out the specs we need. This works fine for a corporation with a large IT budget. For schools that measure their IT budgets in the thousands of dollars rather than the hundreds of thousands of dollars, a better approach is needed. My best purchasing experiences have come from an hour spent meeting with a systems engineer and really discussing requirements and expectations. In all cases, we were able to save quite a bit of money and achieve very usable results.

How many emails or phone solicitations have you received from vendors suggesting you spend your ARRA stimulus funds on their products? Guess what, folks? We're not exactly flush with cash just because we received some stimulus money. Sure, it's helped and our district, for example, has been able to institute a comprehensive professional development program that teachers don't dread like standard PD. It doesn't mean we can just start buying tech for the sake of tech, though.

Come on folks...the stimulus funds aren't a blank check and they go away in a year. Every purchase we make in technology needs to be sustainable and needs to stretch those dollars as far as possible. We'll spend money, but we aren't corporate customers. Our vendor partners need to remember the compromises we make every day just to keep our schools afloat; the key word in all of this is "partner" and a true partnership needs to drive our purchasing decisions.

Topics: Servers, Dell, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Linux, KVM and SPICE mops floor with WS 2008

    <a href="http://www.redhat.com/promo/qumranet/">kvm</a> is a type 1 hypervisor found in every copy of the Linux kernel and <a href="http://www.redhat.com/virtualization/rhev/desktop/spice/">spice</a> was recently open sourced by Red Hat.

    Looking for baseline comparisons of Citrix ICA, RDP, and SPICE? Check out the videos <a href="http://www.brianmadden.com/blogs/gabeknuth/archive/2009/06/18/redhat-spice-vs-rdp-vs-ica-performance-video.aspx">here</a>.

    The price will fall way south of the cost mentioned for the Microsoft solution and just north of $0.00.

    The Linux solution will also do quite well utilizing repurposed older PCs as Thin Client stations.

    Go see what you have in your dumpster Chris.

    When you do the math Folks, Linux is the winner.
    D T Schmitz
    • Sweet

      I would say a Linux solution with Open Office.
  • RE: Fleecing the flock?

    Take the man's advice. Stop upping the antes. Linux works, it's cheap, and saves us from computer waste. It's not that hard to learn/work and there is sure to be a LUG (Linux User Group) in your area to help. Your students will appreciate the break from MS servitude. The next generation should all become power users, not just gamers.
    • In Schools, should not the right to Literacy include Linux?

      D T Schmitz
      • Good idea...

        I think that an introduction to Linux would be quite a good thing, as well as MS Windows and Mac OS. Tough call for an administrator who has to budget the IT support, though.
  • Dell = Junk

    Go somewhere else and get a better box for less $$ upfront and less maintenance as the hardware is not garbage like Dell.
  • To fleece the flock one needs sheep...

    THAT Follow the M$ lead.
    I have had students from grade 9 upwards that appreciated the ubuntu look and feel, kpdf, open office. It didn't take them long to adapt, and they were the average student from disadvantaged background.
    • The machines were

      Seanix machines that finally had become bloated out on XP, SPxx, constant downgrades to the other bloatware like Adobe Reader, and so on. The students even enjoyed the installation exercise.
  • RE: Fleecing the flock?

    I had purchased a Dell maxed out to learn Vista. Realized I
    didn't need to learn Vista. Repurposed it as a Linux Terminal
    Server, set up some nine-year-old Celeron Dells with pxe-
    boot cds and voila, a new lab! Press the power button and
    within two minutes you are logged in and working on a
    Ubuntu desktop with Firefox, OO.o, and a variety of other
    free software. The kids love it because they don't have to
    wait long and the programs are easy to operate. The old Dells
    don't even have or need working hard drives!