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How do you do....it? Thread, Hardware replacement in Technical; Hi, We have about 400 desktops and 100 laptops with a backend of 7 servers. We want to try and ...
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    Hardware replacement

    Hi,

    We have about 400 desktops and 100 laptops with a backend of 7 servers. We want to try and replace the machines over a 4-5 year rolling program. The problem with this is it will cost approx 3x the whole IT budget each year to do that. We also need to spend some money on developing systems, etc.

    I'm sure this is a problem in most schools, but I wondered if anyone had any magical solution.

    I am looking into things like thin clients and VDI, but the terminals don't seem to be much cheaper than desktops, and we then have to add on server, storage, licensing, etc.

    Any advice is much appreciated.

    Regards,

    David

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    matt40k's Avatar
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    How big is the school (no students), is it private school or whatever?

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
    How big is the school (no students), is it private school or whatever?
    We are a federated state secondary school+ 6th form; the girls school is about 1500 students 200 staff, the boys school is about 700 students 100 staff.

    The problem is relevent for both.

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    DMcCoy's Avatar
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    While you can reduce the costs there's not going to be any magical fix. There are only two options

    1) More money
    2) Less machines

    You get to pick one of those.

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    As an alternative, you could always source the new computers by leasing.

    Purchase the computers, with a 5 year warranty and lease over 5 years. (No big initial outlay, as spread over 5 years).
    Eventually all your computers within the school would be covered by the lease, so as long as you don't purchase additional computers the school will continue to pay the same fixed amount each year. You will have the added assurance of knowing that the computers will only be a maximum of 5 years old and having 5 Years Next Business Day Warranty will free you up to do endless other jobs )

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    Quote Originally Posted by dyoung5 View Post
    We have about 400 desktops and 100 laptops with a backend of 7 servers. We want to try and replace the machines over a 4-5 year rolling program. The problem with this is it will cost approx 3x the whole IT budget each year to do that.
    You can re-use old machines as thin client terminals, so in one year you would just have to buy a bunch of servers and could maybe get snazzy terminals the next year. If you used Linux LTSP (i.e. Edubuntu) to run your servers you wouldn't have any licensing costs, either. I'm keen on NComputing's hardware as a cheap way to do thin clients - a couple of 300 PCI add-on cards get you up to 11 workstations from one half-decent PC, you just need some screens, keyboards and mice (which you'll probably already have).

    The Cutter Project are very good at this kind of thing, and could sell you a thin-client system (and support) that could re-use your existing workstations. The other option is to accept that in five years time everything will be web-based anyway and concentrate on upgrading your central servers to offer as many web-based services as you can think of, then all your workstations have to run is a Linux boot CD that loads up the school homepage into Firefox, you don't even need to worry about harddrives.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    A thin client based system would reduce costs I'd say. Ok, the terminals aren't magically cheap, but they last longer than a normal machine. Or you can make use of existing machines and use them as thin clients. We will have 70 thin clients within the next term or so, up from our current 45. Half are specific thin client units, half are old machines being reused.

    If you use 64 bit servers for the backend, you can get a significant number of users on each server, or if you go with 32 bit, you're going to hit about 25 per server really. So, it's also a case of modernising and cutting loose the old 16bit and poorly written 32 bit software...

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    First let me admit to a vested interest I work for a IT reseller in Hampton. If your primary goal is to provide a good level of performance for a constrained budget then your idea of deploying thin client technology is a good one.

    You do not need to replace your existing desktop estate, you can effectively just convert them into terminals that run the Citrix client which means they can be of very low spec and so do not need to be upgraded as part of your rolling replacement programme. Then you can decide whether the cost savings of terminals make it economic to switch away from desktops because of the reduced management and power costs but that is a self-funding potential bonus. One option would be to not renew your support contracts for out of warranty PCs and replace any broken ones with a terminal.

    For the servers you implement virtualization again maximizing the bang for your buck. Normally the biggest costs of adopting this low budget strategy are the Citrix and Microsoft licensing costs, but both of those vendors give huge educational discounts. Further money could be saved by implementing it all yourself the product sets are mainstream now with a host of wizards and utilities and deploying it will buy you time from other areas.

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    Thanks for all the advice.

    I should have mentioned in my first post that one major problem we would have with any thin client system, is that our ICT courses rely heavily on things like Adobe Flash Pro, and Windows Movie Maker; as far as I know thin clients can't run these (please correct me if I'm wrong). If anyone has any experiance running these types of programs successfully on thin clients please let me know.

    I have also looked at leasing, most companies seem to work on a 3 year rotation which is quite expensive. Can anyone suggest a good supplier?

    Thanks,

    David

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dyoung5 View Post
    our ICT courses rely heavily on things like Adobe Flash Pro, and Windows Movie Maker
    So you keep a couple of suites of "fat" clients to do the multimedia stuff with, no problem. That's the approach we're going for here - XP workstations in the snazzy multimedia suite and senior ICT room, then we can have thin clients everywhere else.

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    @MYK-IT
    Leasing doesn't actually reduce the cost long term if you are on a 5 year rolling program, as after 5 years you will have 5 leases running. In fact it will increase the cost, as you pay interest on a lease, plus most school budgets aren't allowed to be used for leasing now.

    You have several options:
    1. Increase budget.
    2. Decrease number of PC's.
    3. Run with old PC's until they are unusable. This can cause problems as you've no real idea of when the PC's will break, so lifecycle costs will be unpredictable.
    4. If you have any large companies in your area, see if they would be willing to donate any machines they are getting rid of which would still be of use. This can be done, but is hard work as you have to keep moving machines around so that new machines go in areas that need them and old machines are moved to low use areas.
    5. Get in touch with the second hand PC merchants and see what they can offer.

    We had the exact same problem here and after discussion with SLT and then Governors we managed to get a budget increase.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    We are going for a mixed environment here to deal with those situations where thin clients won't fit (multimedia work, music production etc...).

    But that leaves roughly 70% of our ICT equipment that can be thin clients... That's a lot of savings for us.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Also, I meant to ask, what sort of budget are you talking about?

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    Also, I meant to ask, what sort of budget are you talking about?
    I think we have the budget to replace one ICT suite and install a new staff suite. Total budget around 30,000 for these.

    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    We are going for a mixed environment here to deal with those situations where thin clients won't fit (multimedia work, music production etc...).

    But that leaves roughly 70% of our ICT equipment that can be thin clients... That's a lot of savings for us.
    Multimedia work is not just done by the music/media/art departments (besides they have their own mac suites; another problem in themselves); our ICT department uses it in all yeargroups I think. This would make room booking and timetabling a bit of a nightmare if we had different suites with different capabilities. That said, if this can really help us, we could just live with the logistics.

    How are you doing thin clients? i.e. what clients, what software, what servers, etc.

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dyoung5 View Post
    I think we have the budget to replace one ICT suite and install a new staff suite. Total budget around 30,000 for these.
    It depends on just how much "multimedia" you want to do, but most 5-year old PCs will still handle movie editing and so on if you shove a gigabyte of RAM (30 each?) and maybe an extra harddrive (50 each) or a new gigabit network card (10 each) in them. You can buy second hand LCD screens in bulk starting at around 40 each - when teachers say "upgrade" they often mean "make it look like what we see in promotional pictures", which can often be accomplished for a lot less that chucking your computers out and replacing them. The great thing about 5-year-old, out-of-warrenty computers is that only cost 50 to replace - if one breaks you can get a new one off eBay in a couple of days.

    If you're still planning to chuck out your old IT suite, what are you going to do with the old PCs?

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