While plans to resolve South Africa's energy crisis in the short-term remain unclear, a computing solution is available to organisations right now that will radically reduce their energy consumption. A solution by leading international terminal computer supplier, Revnetek, where a personal computer (PC) is replaced by a terminal linked to a server, can save an organisation with 50 workstations close to 3000 kilowatts of energy per month, translating into a significant cost saving.
Because the terminal-based workstations (including LCD monitor) do not generate heat, nor do they have moving parts, they consume 25 watts of energy, compared with 350-500 watts required for a normal desktop computer. According to Trevor Joseph, SA CEO of Revnetek, a company with 50 workstations can save over R30 000 - or 90% - on its electricity bill over a three year period.
"IT trends are focusing on moving all applications to the back-end anyway, so terminal computing makes sense for organisations on a number of levels," he says. "In an environment where IT functionality is server-driven, PCs are obsolete. Terminals are more effective because they provide all the necessary functionality of a PC, and offer a long list of additional benefits."
Many corporates are waking up to the fact that their desktop PCs do not require a high degree of functionality. Some have begun implementing 'thin clients' ie, normal PCs with disabled hard drives to lower costs and ease computing complexity. However, these 'thin clients' still have moving parts, generate heat and require maintenance.
Terminals, on the other hand, are network devices that access all the data and applications from the server. In a corporate environment, terminals have the same level of functionality as desktop PCs. They give IT managers an easy-to-manage platform that can provide higher return on investment in terms of money saved through decreased IT support costs, licensing and faster application deployment than desktop PCs.
"The move to terminals is an international trend that is gaining significant momentum," says Joseph. "Major organisations globally are switching to terminals because they save costs without impacting on their day-to-day operations. Their investment in terminals also has a long lifespan - 10 years versus three years for an average PC - making it attractive for businesses."
According to Joseph, Revnetek has been a pioneer in terminal computing since 2001 and its own development team have refined the solution.
Clients include the military, medical, education, government, and corporate sectors. The fourth generation model of Revnetek's R-Box terminal is currently being tested and will be released in the first quarter of 2008.
How it works
Any organisation with 20 or more workstations stands to benefit from terminal computing. Terminals linked to a server network replace PCs at workstations. They have no hard drives, and therefore do not store or process any data. Workstations process and store all data on the network server.
All application software or programmes are also hosted on the server, and not on the local terminal at the workstation. Data files and applications are not downloaded to the workstation, but reside and get processed on the server only. The terminal consists of a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse and a processor that connects it to the server. It cannot perform any tasks on its own without being connected to a network server.
Terminals are suitable for low-end users ie, users who usually work on a stationary desktop computer doing repetitive tasks using common applications. Terminal users have the same level of functionality as desktop PC users. For power users, or senior executives in an organisation who need to be mobile, PCs or notebooks would still be recommended.