Virtualisation is flavour of the month these days. Riding that wave is HP, which released a virtualisation ROI calculator at an EMEA virtualisation summit held in London in April. The tool, currently available to HP staff only, aims to assist companies to work out how much money they will save should they invest in HP's client virtualisation solutions.
"There are several emerging client virtualisation models," says Jeff Groudan, marketing vice president for desktops at HP Personal Systems Group (PSG).
"Today, the most prevalent is 'remoting' with a thin client on the desktop, and the compute power and data at a remote location. Emerging models include operating system streaming, where the OS is streamed to a diskless PC, or the Web 2.0 model, where a local device accesses applications and data situated remotely."
The benefits to customers of using virtual solutions, he says, include improved security because the data never leaves the data centre; availability, because applications and data can be accessed anytime, anywhere; manageability, as hardware and software management are simplified; and flexibility, allowing users to merely log in from any device rather than being tied to a physical workplace. Virtualisation is also environmentally friendly as it dramatically reduces desktop power usage and reduces the overall carbon footprint per user.
What is virtualisation?
"[Virtualisation is] a technique for applying the physical characteristics of computing resources from the way in which other systems, applications, or end users interact with those resources.
This includes making a single physical resource (such as a server, an operating system, an application or storage device) appear to function as multiple logical resources; or it can include making multiple physical resources (such as storage devices or servers) appear as a single logical resource."
Source: Andi Mann, Enterprise Management Associates, Virtualisation 101 whitepaper.
The sharp edge
The company says it has a full range of client virtualisation solutions, ranging from data centre hardware to management tools, the HP Session Allocation Manager (SAM), Remote Graphics Software (RGS) and access devices.
HP released its first blade workstation in 2006. It currently offers thin clients, PCs, blade PCs and blade workstations to the market.
Charl Snyman, vice president and GM for commercial products at HP PSG EMEA, says the company's strategy in the region is to take the product through the technology adoption cycle and "onto main street" in the next 18 months. In order to get there, he notes, the company needs to invest.
"We're focussing on dedicated sales resources, technical resources, marketing and business development to lead this [faster] adoption cycle."
In addition to investing in resources, HP is also developing additional routes to market, both through selling direct and looking at investing further in its channel, to enable it to deliver to a broader base.
"We're going to leverage the HP ecosystem," he adds. "HP's Technology Solutions Group (TSG) is extremely experienced in server virtualisation." HP TSG is the company's largest division, contributing 36 percent to revenue in 2007. IDC's EMEA thin client unit sales forecast for 2007 to 2011 indicates that sales will increase from around 1.4 million units to just under two million. "If we do a good job, I believe that's conservative," Snyman says. "In 2007, we delivered in excess of 500 000 units."
The most noteworthy case study presented by HP is Lloyds TSB, which has implemented 400 280 HP ProLiant xw25p blade workstations on its trading floor for use by traders in the derivatives, foreign exchange, credit trading and debt capital markets. Lloyds had traders using an average of three desktops and eight monitors each. Aside from the power requirements, heating and cooling the trading floor was becoming problematic, as was the noise. Since implementing its new solution, Lloyds, according to HP, is tracking to 380 percent ROI over five years and a 17-month payback period on its investment in HP remote client solutions. Savings have been realised because fewer support staff are needed, component failures have been reduced, as has cooling and power consumption. These savings have been realised despite the fact that the initial investment in blade workstations is higher than the equivalent investment in desktops. That these calculations can be quite complex is why HP has developed the ROI calculator, which it says it will be making available to partners with the necessary expertise, and thereafter, making a version available for clients to download and use.
Any thin client solution - terminal server, diskless PC or blade device - is dependent on the client being able to access the data and applications in the data centre. In bandwidth-strapped regions like South Africa, this is a problem.
Says Snyman: "While our [primary] focus will be in Western Europe, where we do not see such challenges, it doesn't mean we won't focus on other areas [at all]. We've seen several opportunities already, including a 14 000 to 15 000 seat opportunity in South Africa."
Says Eric Jeanmougin, manager of the Workstation Business Unit for HP EMEA: "We had a workshop with our South African clients and we will definitely be able to help from a power and reduced carbon footprint point of view."
Companies with the resources to maintain a data centre probably have the resources for the associated bandwidth, which dictates that the solutions will see some success at the high end. Companies a little lower down the chain will have to wait on Icasa's pleasure, however, before investing in such solutions becomes feasible, no matter how many associated benefits there may be.