Businesses are facing many challenges in these times of economic uncertainty, when training budgets are tight and performance is increasingly crucial. How can ICT strategies be designed and implemented in order to enhance workplace performance without breaking the bank? Tarkan Maner, President and CEO of Wyse Technology Inc., discusses the nature of thin computing and his belief that it presents a highly customisable and cost-effective solution with significant advantages for the corporate sector.
OEB: Mr Maner, could you please explain exactly what “thin computing” is and to what the term “thin” refers?
Tarkan Maner: In a thin-computing environment, all data and applications are provided by a central server in a data centre to a thin client used as a desktop computer. The thin client provides the users, e.g. the learners, with access to all the information and applications they need. As all applications and data are stored in a well-secured data centre, a thin-computing architecture improves security, reduces complexity and enhances manageability. So maintaining a thousand thin clients is as simple as maintaining just one. Thin clients are diskless computers with powerful processors, meaning they use approximately ninety per cent less energy than a comparable PC. Additionally – as far as Wyse thin clients are concerned – they come with efficient software extensions that can provide students with a multimedia user experience that is as good as with a traditional PC.
OEB: Is there an increase in the adoption of thin solutions, perhaps as a result of the current economic situation or for other reasons?
Tarkan Maner: Yes, in fact Wyse’s business often runs counter to prevailing economic winds. The global economic situation has emphasised both cost savings and energy savings, both of which are key differentiators of thin computing as opposed to PCs. Research firm Gartner recently compared the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for PCs versus what they term as server-based computing and found that the TCO for PCs was approximately fifty per cent higher.
OEB: What can thin-computing solutions offer to e-learning, and in particular to workplace e-learning?
Tarkan Maner: Public and private schools, universities, as well as other education and training institutions throughout the world may have very different priorities and requirements regarding their IT environment and its functionality, total cost of ownership, manageability, energy consumption, etc. The good news is that thin computing today delivers flexible options to create precisely the architecture that an education institution needs.
It is called ‘thin’ computing, but the reality provides a rich variety of scenarios. One might be a classic classroom set-up, with several thin clients as desktop computers connected by a LAN (e.g. for single or multiple classrooms and even for multiple sites). Other variants include a Wireless-LAN architecture working with mobile thin clients, the use of simple thin Web clients, or an advanced scenario with zero clients using modern provisioning technology with rich peripheral and multimedia support. Furthermore, as all applications and information are provided by a server and allow remote access from anywhere, thin-computing environments enable and support e-learning in various deployment modalities, both remote and onsite.
Teaching and learning, and perhaps especially e-learning, are already challenging enough for teachers and students – even without distractions caused by unreliable PCs. Thin computing is a concept that has proven its value in various education scenarios at universities and both private and public schools in a wide range of countries. And for institutions all over the world, it is important to have an IT environment that meets their individual demands and that is reliable, secure, reasonably priced, easy to manage, and, last but not least, fun to work with.
OEB: What do you identify as the major trends in technology and e-learning?
Tarkan Maner: I see falling budgets driving a move to simpler devices. From schools to libraries, the need for a lower cost, e-learning-capable desktop is on the rise. Devices need to be capable of displaying rich video and animation, be uninteresting to steal, and generate little heat, noise and energy usage. Thin clients fit the bill on all fronts, and as a result, they are becoming a mainstream approach.
I also believe that mobility is on the rise. E-Learning benefits when the user or the e-learning lab can be anywhere. New, lower-cost netbooks and thin clients are providing a way to offer e-learning whenever and wherever students are found. Thin devices add the benefit of resilience to harsh environments as well.
We’ll also see increased use of video and multimedia in learning desktops. Technology, like virtualisation, makes it easier to offer a single CD or a properly licensed information stream to a large group of students more easily. Modern thin-client desktops and mobile units now include the ability to display this rich content with full quality, reducing the cost and increasing the quality of the student experience.
OEB: Thank you very much for your time, Mr Maner!
Tarkan Maner will speak at the plenary session “Responding to the Changing World of Work” taking place on Friday, December 4th, 09:15 – 11:00.