Doubts over thin computing's green credentials

Experts are warning that virtualisation and thin computing simply move the energy problem from the desktop to the data centre

Desktop virtualisation is one means of addressing IT budgetary and environmental pressures — but data-centre experts are warning that the technologies can simply create similar problems elsewhere.

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has recommended businesses adopt desktop virtualisation in response to research that found desktop PCs are the fourth largest contributor to the eight million tonnes of CO2 produced by Australian enterprise ICT usage each year.

The ACS claims that "thin client computers consume up to 15 times less power than a conventional desktop".

However, Kris Kumar, director of data-centre design specialists 3i Group, said that virtualisation and thin computing simply move the energy problem from the desktop to the data centre.

Kumar said organisations risk "compiling the problem into one location and accelerating its effect".

"If you adopt a thin-computing approach and then realise the data centre cannot cope, you will use band-aid approaches to fixing that problem, which will never be optimum," he said.

The problem for many Australian organisations, according to Kumar, is "most don't have a strategy in place and it's causing major chaos in global markets in the data centre space."

However Ward Nash, from thin-computing vendor WYSE, said carbon emissions are only one environmental issue. Thin-client computers have twice the three-year lifespan of conventional desktops, he added.

"A thin client contains less lead, uses less power and doubles or triples the length of life [compared to conventional desktops]," Ward noted.

As desktop virtualisation spreads, businesses will choose thin computing to avoid the extra costs incurred when disposing of old hardware, while companies can also benefit from lower management costs and better security, Nash said.