Calculating thin client costs

Terminal Server or Citrix could save you some bucks, but that's not always the case. Find out how to properly evaluate TCO.

Calculating thin client costs

With Terminal Services included in Windows 2000 Server products, it's natural to wonder about the efficiency and cost of implementing thin clients for at least some of your enterprise's desktop users. This tip, excerpted from Windows 2000/NT Thin Client Solutions, by Todd W. Mathers, published by New Riders, discusses some of the costs of the thin-client way of life.

Calculating the hard costs for a project is usually fairly straightforward. You determine the hardware and software required and then total their cost. The total amount of hard cost savings in a [thin client] implementation will vary depending on the type and scope of the project and what other implementation options are available.

Because [Terminal Services] and MetaFrame [Citrix MetaFrame from Citrix Systems, Inc.] allow both Windows and non-Windows systems (UNIX, Macintosh, Java) to access the latest 32-bit software (as well as many older 16-bit and DOS applications), under most circumstances they can reduce or eliminate the need to purchase new client hardware. This can result in a reduction in the hard costs associated with the project and hence lower the TCO. Unfortunately, this leads many people to believe that TCO is related only to hard costs. This is not the correct way to evaluate the total cost of ownership.

Consider this example. Company C has 200 employees, 125 of whom have Pentium systems running Windows 95, while the other 75 have Pentium II systems running Windows NT Workstation 4.0. Company C wants to upgrade all employees to run Windows 2000 Professional, Office 2000, and a new 32-bit application being developed. In addition to this, the users need to be able to continue using any other business-related applications that they're using today. The company is trying to decide on one of two options:

  • Update all Pentium computers to support Windows 2000 Professional.
  • Provide access from the existing desktops to this new environment using Windows 2000 Terminal Services.

Assuming that the desktop computers cost $1,500 each to replace, Company C is looking at over $185,000 just in hardware to upgrade the 125 Pentium workstations.

On the other hand, out of the 200 employees, the maximum number of concurrent users at any one time is only 100. Based on this fact, Company C determines that they could purchase two servers at approximately $25,000 per server, each of which would be able to support approximately 125 users. These two servers would be used to provide load balancing and completely support the environment if one failed.

Based on the hardware costs alone, the traditional desktop upgrade would cost $135,000 more than the Terminal Server solution.

For more information on Windows 2000/NT Thin Client Solutions, or to buy this book, click here.


This was first published in October 2000

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