Virtualization | News

California District Tests Mac-Based Thin Clients

Campbell Union School District (CUSD) of San Jose, CA has completed the implementation of environmentally friendly thin client terminal stations at the Monroe Middle School (MMS). With help from Aqua Connect, which provided the desktop virtualization software, and 10ZiG, which supplied the thin client stations, MMS now has a heat- and energy-efficient network of 20 Macintosh terminal stations at various locations throughout the school facility.

Last year, Aqua Connect held its "Green Campaign Giveaway," in which it chose a district at random from more than 300 entrants. CUSD supervisor of technology Derek Moore said the district is very happy with the new Mac virtualized desktop system. "It has enabled us to put more machines in classrooms. We're obviously facing a big budget deficit in California, and money is so tight, so this has definitely helped with getting machines into the classrooms." He added that the district is "doing a number of energy-saving measures at this point: network-controlled thermostats, better lighting management, different projects that are all just coming together this year."

With thin client workstations, multiple users have access to the operating system and software on a server without each user requiring a CPU. This reportedly reduces energy consumption substantially, with estimates ranging from 50 percent to 90 percent.

However, while desktop virtualization of Windows systems has been available for many years, the option to run thin client terminal stations on Mac OS X servers was not available commercially until 2007, when Aqua Connect introduced its Terminal Server for Mac OS X. "People have wanted to use the Mac platform [in education], but for schools deploying Macs can be prohibitively expensive," explained Ronnie Exley, director of business development for Aqua Connect.

With desktop virtualization for Macs, a school or district can now have its desired Mac environment and still realize the cost savings of a thin client system. Exley pointed out that initial costs, energy costs, and replacement are all cheaper, and the server of a software application will often be less expensive than user licenses for 20 or 100 machines, or especially an entire school.

The results at MMS have been mostly favorable, Moore noted, but he said there have been a few drawbacks. The new system "works great for all the common applications, but for some of the Web-based items, and Flash apps, it's something where we'd have to beef up our back-end server." Overall, he said, "I think it has been a really good demo situation. I think desktop virtualization is something well worth looking at. It works as part of the solution for client computing infrastructure, if not the entire solution." And, he added, the new system "has been fantastic for reducing energy usage, especially when we're talking about replacing computers that are eight to 10 years old and definitely energy hogs."

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.