SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. — Customers in the education and library sector are attending BrainShare to explore virtualization and the new SUSE Linux Enterprise Thin Client, both of which they said could offer cash-strapped public sector organizations a chance to cut costs.

Marc Pillon, the IT manager for the Windsor Public Library in Windsor, Ont., said that Novell technologies are at the core of its network. The library uses ZENworks Desktop Management (along with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server), and has recently implemented ZENworks Patch Management and ZENworks Asset Management.

Pillon said he will be taking advantage of the virtualization features offered by OES 2 and the new SUSE Linux Enterprise10 Service Pack 1. “We’re trying to consolidate our hardware costs for servers and utilize the servers we have to full capacity,” said Pillon.

The Windsor Unified School District in Windsor, Calif. is also interested on virtualization, due to its potential to save on cooling costs and reduce the amount of space taken up by hardware in the small area designated to IT operations, both of which are help advance of the District’s green mandate.

Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton, Alta., has already virtualized a lot of its servers with VMware, and plans to take “a good long look” at Novell’s virtualization offerings.

“When I looked around the data centre, and we’d have servers we got to run a couple of little applications and they’re running at five per cent. So we took ten of these (single-application) servers and virtualized them onto one, which resulted in significant cost reductions,” said Darren Fankhanel, senior manager of IT operations.

Cost reductions are also at the heart of the education sector and non-profit’s small-but-steady surge toward open source solutions, including Novell’s Linux products, according to Pillon. “We like (Novell’s) commitment to Linux — it’s where the growth is and where the industry is going to go,” he said.

According to Pillon, an open source library cataloging system, called Evergreen, developed by the Georgia Public Library Service, is set to change the library world: “There’s going to be huge migrations to that,” he said.

Licence fees are usually a deciding factor in platform choice. Novell, for instance, offers a full learning equivalent program that gives significant discounts for access to its suites. Grant MacEwan College only pays about $8 per student. “The cost of ownership is huge. But we did our entire district with Novell products for $2500,” said Heather Carver, the district technology and information services director for the Windsor Unified School District (WUSD).

The District is ahead of yesterday’s announcement of Novell’s new SUSE Linux Enterprise Thin Client—it has been using thin client desktops  running SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, reducing hardware costs by 75 per cent, and software costs by 95 per cent.

Pillon hopes to adopt Novell’s thin client, which, he said, would offer easier management: “you can just do everything on the server,” said Pillon. This benefits the small IT department common in the education and library setting, as they can often manage the network centrally, which is how the WUSD operates, courtesy of ZENworks. He also pointed out that a lot of the library’s staff only uses computers for simple things or a single purpose, like checking out books, using e-mail, and generating documents, making it unnecessary for a full computer set-up.

The thin clients also fit well within the public computing model – especially where children are involved.  “Deep Freeze (from Vancouver, B.C.-based Faronics) and (Congleton, England’s) SurfControl just doesn’t work,” Pillon said. The security features of the thin client would allow him to lock down the settings, so that the children couldn’t access anything inappropriate. 

“That way, they can’t load new software or change the settings for the next person,” said Carver. “We can also lock down the Web browser and make sure they’re not downloading proxies to get around it.”

Children and the young adults of today may be the real drivers of open source technologies. Migrating to a Linux environment can often be easier at the grade-school level, as, said Carver, it’s just a new look for the children, rather than being a major paradigm shift from the Windows environment someone might have used since they first began using a computer. This, combined with the greater adoption of Linux and open source software in schools will definitely drive adoption of it in the future, according to K.C. Green, a technology systems specialist with the WUSD.

Chris Beckett, senior network officer at England’s Manchester Metropolitan University, has seen the start of this movement first-hand. In a BrainShare session titled, “Novell’s Linux Strategy: A Customer Perspective,” he said, “Our students are becoming OS-agnostics, owing to Web delivery or applications and content. The actual platform doesn’t much make a difference to them.”

BrainShare continues on Wednesday.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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