I had planned for my next post to be a followup to my interview with Sun's Joe Hartley, but it's going to have to take a back seat to a story about small-scale virtualization in the 1:1 computing market. Maybe, though, this particular story suggests that Sun is headed in exactly the right direction. For sure, more on that tomorrow.
For now, however, BetaNews, among other outlets, is reporting on NComputing's successful bid to provide computing solutions for the Indian province of Andhra Pradesh. Up to 1.8 million school children could be affected by this deal that essentially provides computers at the cost of about $70 per workstation.
For those of you unfamiliar with NComputing, the company provides a hardware and software solution to connect a single vanilla desktop computer with up to 6 monitor/keyboard/mouse combinations, creating 7 workstations with each user simultaneously able to access their own virtual desktop. More details on their basic system can be downloaded here; a more expensive system allowing more extensive virtualization can also be seen on their website.
What does this tell us? A few things. First, virtualization doesn't require a data center. In a classroom or library, all it takes is one reasonably powerful desktop, some extra monitors and keyboards, and a bit of third-party kit. Second, cheap and energy efficient are good qualities, whether you are in rural India or the middle of Massachusetts. The cheapest (and arguably the simplest to manage) solution won out over two 1:1 laptop solutions (both Intel and OLPC were competing for this deal).
Don't worry...netbooks aren't dead or irrelevant in the face of cheap virtualization. However, nobody is locked into laptops or netbooks as they examine ways to get more kids on a computer.
Anyone else used NComputing's products on a large scale? Talk back below.