Thin computing: Low-fat but is it green?

Desktop virtualisation can address IT budgetary and environmental pressures but datacentre experts warn that the technologies can simply create similar problems elsewhere.

Desktop virtualisation is one means of addressing IT budgetary and environmental pressures -- but datacentre 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 which 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 datacentre.

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 datacentre 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 datacentre 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.

IBRS analyst Rob Mackinnon said green disposal policies have been introduced by some government departments, such as the NSW State Government, to ensure suppliers dispose legacy equipment in an environmentally sound manner. The Queensland Government has also introduced a similar procurement policy.


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