By using SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server running on an IBM System x server to power 110 thin-client machines, Asia Innovatory Management School created a classroom environment at a fraction of the expected cost. The IBM and SUSE solution saved an estimated US$20,000 in year one, and will save the school a further US$4,000 annually in electricity costs.
The mission of AiMS is to enhance the competitiveness of Singapore’s workforce by fostering a climate of innovation and preparing individuals for the demands of the knowledge-based economy. Naturally, information technology has a key role to play, and AiMS actively promotes innovative IT solutions to its existing and potential clients.
When AiMS was contracted by the Ministry of Defense (Singapore) to provide training on LibreOffice productivity software and other open source tools, the organization wanted to simultaneously promote a green computing ethos. Rather than investing in more than 100 new desktop PCs to meet the Ministry’s training requirements, AiMS wanted to find a way to re-use older hardware—both to reduce its carbon footprint and to save money.
Working closely with IBM Singapore, AiMS selected the IBM Virtual Workstation Solution to power the new classroom environment for the Ministry of Defense. The IBM Virtual Workstation Solution is a thin-client environment in which diskless desktop PCs are networked to an IBM System x server running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Upon start-up, each PC boots from a standard Linux image managed on the central server, complete with applications and user storage space.
Avnet Technology Solutions, an IBM Business Partner, helped with the design, implementation and rollout phases, and the three organizations now promote it as a packaged offering for businesses in Singapore. Also involved in the creation and promotion of the solution was the Infocomm Local Industry Upgrading Programme (iLIUP)—a government-sponsored initiative designed to incentivize technology providers to help small and midsized businesses to sharpen their competitive edge. Lightspeed Technologies Pte., Ltd. worked as the iLIUP partner for SUSE, implementing SUSE Linux Enterprise Server at AiMS.
“The IBM Virtual Workstation Solution, powered by SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, enabled us to give a new lease of life to outdated hardware—saving money and reducing our environmental impact,” said Charles Wai, Technical Support Executive, AiMS. “This innovative solution is an ideal way for businesses to increase flexibility and reduce costs.”
AiMS has 110 thin-client machines, all based on Intel Pentium 3 processors that were first released in 1999. With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server providing a lightweight desktop environment, these outdated PCs can rival relatively high-specification modern hardware for office applications such as LibreOffice. They also take just 30 seconds to boot from the network, and the lack of a local hard disk means fewer mechanical parts, significantly increasing reliability.
“The thin-client concept is not only greener and more cost-effective, but also more secure and easier to manage,” said Eric Poh, Business Development Manager, AiMS. “All application and user data is stored centrally on the IBM System x server, which automatically backs everything up. Zero local storage translates into lower support requirements and reduced security risks around data, and because we control which applications are installed centrally, we can ensure that users do not install unauthorized software.”
The deployment of a thin-client solution based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and IBM System x paid immediate dividends. Taking into account the cost of the thinclient solution, AiMS estimates that it has saved US$20,000 in the first year alone by avoiding the need to buy new desktop PCs. Further acquisition savings will accrue over the coming years: AiMS typically replaces PCs on a 1.5-year cycle, but those used in the thin-client environment are already at least six years old, and still running well.
“We also expect to make savings of approximately US$4,000 each year in electricity costs, because the thin-client environment consumes far less power and requires far less cooling,” said Eric Poh. “SUSE Linux Enterprise Server makes it simple to manage the thin-client environment: now that we have full control over the installed software, we are saving—at a conservative estimate—20 hours per week in IT support time.”
Using SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to set up a new thin-client desktop—complete with the LibreOffice software—now takes around 15 minutes, compared to several hours and significant manual effort for a standard desktop PC.
“Our successful deployment of Linux to power a thin-client environment demonstrates the benefits that other businesses in Singapore can achieve,” said Alan Poh, Managing Director, AiMS. “We believe that open source technology can be an important driver for business innovation, combining increased IT flexibility with lower costs.”