Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Saving Money

  • Jun 06 / 2011
  • 13
Linux in Education, technology

Saving Money

I like to save money. It lets me buy more stuff sooner or later… ;-)

I have long saved money in education by using GNU/Linux on PCs and on thin clients with zero licensing costs. I always chuckle when I read the anguish of some people trying to eke out similar savings with that other OS. Yes you can save money by using thin clients with that other OS because thin clients are cheaper and CALs are cheaper than full licences (just barely) but the maths is really simple with GNU/Linux. $0 beats all other licensing regimes of that other OS. No need to agonize over four plans each with negotiated prices to work things out. Install GNU/Linux and go.

The latest article I read on this topic suggests it can cost $thousands per PC to run that other OS and the price can be cut down to $hundreds by using RDP and thin clients. You save power and maintenance at the same time. In the table below, the black numbers are from the article using that other OS (adding capital cost, power and maintenance) and the green numbers are for the same hardware using GNU/Linux.

Costs for 1K PCs per annum

1K PCs + M$ 1K TCs + M$ 1K TCs + GNU/Linux
£189,000 £48,000 £22,000

I would also argue that, going with a terminal server setup, there is no need for £300 thin clients but more like £100 or less so the last number comes down to £11,000. Whatever, you save a lot per annum, per PC with GNU/Linux. TFA gets many other things right, though. Thin clients last longer, use less power and are easier to maintain by far. The numbers above do not reflect the costs of the server but a GNU/Linux server is much cheaper than one burdened with a licensing fee and a mess of CALs as well.

The part about full virtualization being pricey is true, too. A virtual machine per user is a terrible waste of resources compared to a GNU/Linux terminal server sharing memory and cached files amongst users. That other OS needs that extra layer of complexity to keep the whole thing from falling down.

Read The Register – Desktop virtualisation: Yes, it’s cheaper

13 Comments

  1. Contrarian

    “The “I” in ISV is supposed to be “Independent”. “Its” is possessive. Makes a mockery of independence.”

    “Independent” means separate from a financial point of view, I think. They are not owned by Microsoft and are free to decide what to do with their time and money. Companies like Intuit and Adobe offer Windows products but also offer much the same thing for Apple Mackintosh and its OS platform.

    They are partners with Microsoft in the sense that they mutually benefit from the association and the business that is derived from each other’s endeavors.

  2. Robert Pogson

    As computers become smaller and cheaper the price of that other OS will have to fall, reducing M$’s strength or eliminating the monopoly entirely.

  3. oldman

    “M$ needs them to run that other OS in order to continue to support M$ in the manner to which it has become accustomed.”

    Whether one is running the Citrix client application on an existing system or on a thin client appliance, the result is the same. If the virtual machine being connected to is a windows based system running windows based applications. Microsoft and its ISV’s still make their money.

    “The “I” in ISV is supposed to be “Independent”. “Its” is possessive. Makes a mockery of independence.”

    And what would you have them do Pog? Throw away the market that they can make money in for some (from their view) pie in the sky based on marketing to a community that doesn’t want their products anyway?

    Give me a break, its bu$ine$$, not religion.

  4. Contrarian

    I did say that clients could run almost any OS and the server, too. My point is that CALs are not particulary pertinent to the equation and only seem to apply to legacy installations and architectures. The costs of continuing the legacy design are motivations to move to the web-centric solutions of SaaS or web serviced apps. These costs may be motivation to move to a less expensive but more conventional client-server design using Linux as well, but I think it is more likely to result in the former.

    I think that the near fture, say next 10 years, is going to be a lot like the situation with television sets. Almost all TVs come with a tuner and antenna connection that is almost never used in this cable and satellite TV age. The ability to run old Windows programs will be provided long after most people have moved on and suppliers of computers will be loath to offer any models that are “deficient” in that regard.

  5. Robert Pogson

    No, but you fail to mention that the client does not need to run that other OS, which is my point. There are many more client PCs than servers in the world and M$ needs them to run that other OS in order to continue to support M$ in the manner to which it has become accustomed.

  6. Contrarian

    It seems to me that all this fuss and bother with CALs and such is rather old school. Today’s client/server architectures take the form of a web service (that can be either HTTP or TCP connected) and local apps that consume the web service. Alternately, there are the web apps that run entirely on the web server. Neither of these schemes require the CALs that you describe.

    A web service consuming app can run under Windows with a Windows server or Linux or Unix server, or under Android or iOS or FreeBSD. All you have to do is provide a client suitable to the platform you are targeting.

    The cloud doesn’t need a CAL, I believe. Am I misssing something?

  7. Robert Pogson

    oldman wrote “Microsoft and its ISV’s do not care what hardware their apps execute on so long as they are executing.”

    The “I” in ISV is supposed to be “Independent”. “Its” is possessive. Makes a mockery of independence.

    People do care about the price of thin clients. That other OS is a conspicuous bump in the price of the thin client. M$ wants about $50 for the privilege of running that other OS on the thin client. It’s hard to hide that in clients, good clients, that are now below $100 in delivered price. CALs tend to cost a bit less than licences for the OS so M$ loses a bit for every GNU/Linux thin client. Many businesses find they have a large number of tasks not requiring that other OS and they do save a bundle running GNU/Linux on the terminal server as well. Banks and other financial institutions are big that way followed by governments and schools.

  8. oldman

    “That matters to M$. M$ wants to tax the client, the server, the network to the server. Every client using GNU/Linux is another cut for M$.”

    Nope. I had mentioned earlier, nobody cares what microcode is being run where. The citrix client is in most cases doing the heavy lifting, and the user is still running their windows applications on top of windows OS. Microsoft and its ISV’s do not care what hardware their apps execute on so long as they are executing.

  9. Robert Pogson

    For many that will be true, but the client does not have to run that other OS for the old-fashioned thin client option which is growing too. Keeping binaries off the network keeps the cost of upgrading networks down as well. Even when that other OS is running on the terminal server, the OS on the thin client can be GNU/Linux. That matters to M$. M$ wants to tax the client, the server, the network to the server. Every client using GNU/Linux is another cut for M$.

  10. oldman

    “VDI usually involves a virtual machine on the client or server.

    I added the various costs mentioned in TFA.”

    Nonetheless Pog, it is VDI for windows based VM’s that are taking off these days. It gives the best mix of preserving current function with great savings.

    What you need to keep in mind is that while your solution may be cheap, it also doesnt solve many use cases. People using VDI need to keep running their current application set and are not going to do a forklift upgrade to a FOSS only enviropnment.

  11. ChrisTX

    “The part about full virtualization being pricey is true, too. A virtual machine per user is a terrible waste of resources compared to a GNU/Linux terminal server sharing memory and cached files amongst users. That other OS needs that extra layer of complexity to keep the whole thing from falling down.”

    Why would you need to run a virtual machine per user? Oo

    Also, how did you calculate these figures?

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