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HP guns for reduced desktop management costs

Dec 08, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

* HP launches Consolidated Client Infrastructure for desktop environments

The architecture of PC-based computing has been largely unchanged in the two decades since personal computers infiltrated the office environment.  It’s about to change now.

HP recently announced it’s reinventing the architecture of PC-based computing in the enterprise.  Called the Consolidated Client Infrastructure, or CCI, the primary intent of this new architecture is to reduce the high cost of maintenance and support over the lifetime of the PCs, and to increase the reliability and security of the computing platform.  HP claims it can help a company achieve between 50% and 70% reduction in annual support and service costs with a CCI solution.  Eye-popping numbers like those will catch your CIO’s attention, so you’d better bone up on what CCI offers.

You’ve seen the Gartner Group studies that show the acquisition cost of a PC today is roughly 20% of the total cost to own that PC for a couple of years.  Assuming you keep the PC on your company network for three years, the other 80% of your costs will go toward installation, help desk, technical support, training, asset management, systems management and user self-support.  HP’s CCI architecture attacks those costs head-on by eliminating many of them.  Here’s how:

In the current model of PC-based computing, almost everything takes places within the device on your desk.  That PC has a means for input and display – the interface to the person.  There’s also the compute layer, with the CPU and memory, and the applications that run there.  Then there’s a resource layer, where you have access to file storage, printing and your network and Internet.  A single PC user has complete and exclusive access to the various resources within the PC, but this yields significant unused computing capacity.  What’s more, the flexibility of a user controlling his own configuration is nice, but that’s what causes most of those massive support costs.

HP plans to divide up the layers of PC computing into an access tier, a compute tier, and a resource tier, and to put most of the resources in the data center.  This new architecture is designed to completely replace the functionality of traditional desktop PCs across an enterprise.

At the access tier, the traditional (intelligent) PC is replaced with a thin client – a device with no processing capability of its own.  The processing, or the compute tier, has been moved into the data center, where all the thin clients connect to a blade PC box, which provides shared computing resources similar to a server.  This blade PC runs an industry-standard version of Windows, like a desktop PC today.  That means that virtually any application that runs on Windows today can run on the blade PC.  (Some graphic applications that interface directly with the CPU are excluded; these are mostly games, which wouldn’t be found in an enterprise anyway.)  The resource tier is also in the data center, where PC users now share storage, network printers, application servers and such.

From a user perspective, not much has changed.  He still has complete access to his usual applications, data, printers, network, etc.  The difference is that he has a “dumb terminal” type of device on his desk instead of a complex and cantankerous PC. 

From the IT perspective, the computing resources are centralized and shared, making them easier to manage and more cost effective.  Support and maintenance costs can be vastly reduced, and this is where the 50% savings comes in.  For starters, the desktop device is a thin client, so there’s no configuration needed.  There’s no need to download or maintain applications on the desktop – they stay on the blade device in the data center.  Viruses on the desktop?  They’re a thing of the past.  Help desk calls?  Greatly reduced, since many calls today deal with configuration issues.

HP has had customer pilot programs running the CCI architecture for several months.  A financial institution ran a pilot with 1,000 users, and it will roll out the architecture to 27,000 users soon.  This company expects  breakeven ROI in 11 months, and a 46% cost savings over five years.  It also has enhanced data security and improved IT service levels.  A regional healthcare provider implemented a CCI pilot to comply with HIPAA laws.  This company, too, expects breakeven ROI in 11 months, and a savings of 53% over five years.  With thousands of users, the savings run into seven figures.

The CCI architecture isn’t for everyone.  It doesn’t address the needs of mobile or disconnected users, and it’s not a replacement for server-based computing.  But for a “lock down” enterprise environment, CCI might be the ticket to very significant savings for PC-based computing.

Linda Musthaler is vice president of Currid & Company.  You can write to her at