Facilities Management

Thin Clients Project
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What is a "Thin Client" or “Virtual Desktop Computer”?

A virtual desktop computer, also often called a “thin-client” configuration, separates the physical machine from the software, which is housed on a server. This means that the large “tower” usually under a desk, would be replaced with a much smaller device.

Traditional Computer versus the Virtual Desktop Computer (Thin Client) 

What are the Benefits of Desktop Virtualization?  

Virtual desktop benefits include:
(Source: http://searchvirtualdesktop.techtarget.com/definition/virtual-desktop)

  • More efficient use of resources and energy.
  • Cost savings, because resources can be shared and allocated on an as-needed basis.
  • Increased sustainability for the organization through energy efficiency and reduced waste streams.
  • Improved data integrity with centralized back-up.
  • Centralized administration, including the ability to remotely shut down desktops at night.
  • Fewer compatibility issues.
  • Faster “return to uptime” for workstations that need to be replaced because it takes less required time for the tech team to set up a virtual desktop.
  • Longer life span of the equipment/longer replacement cycle.
  • Helps the county move toward a more unified technology platform across all employees.

Why is Allegheny County Making this Change? 

The virtual desktop roll-out is just one component of many in Phase II of a large-scale energy/water efficiency project that the County started in 2009. You can read more about the entire project on the “Energy Conservation Measures” tab. Combined, Phase I and Phase II are guaranteed to generate $2.5 million in annual savings for 15 years. Those savings are guar¬anteed by the vendor, NORESCO, under a special arrangement called a Guaranteed Energy Savings Agreement (also called a Performance Contract). This means that if the annual savings are not met, NORESCO pays the County the difference between the contract and the savings. The virtual desktop portion of the project will replace approximately 2,500 desktop computers around the County with virtualized/thin-client set-ups. The virtual desktops will be installed with newer versions of Microsoft Windows® 8 Microsoft Office® software, which can be updated and repaired more efficiently due to the central administration. This thin-client set-up will provide significant energy and power savings and will increase efficiencies with administration of this equipment. By itself, the virtual desktop component of the Phase II Project is guaranteed to save $440,470 annually in reduced electricity costs to the County.

What are the Environmental Benefits of Thin Clients? 

These 2,500 virtual desktop computers will reduce the County’s electrical consumption by 4,445,136 kWh (that’s over four and a half million kilowatt hours) annually. Not only will this reduce costs, but in addition, these electricity reductions are equivalent to CO2 emissions from 40.4 tanker trucks worth of gasoline. The new thin-clients will allow the County to remotely shut down all virtual desktop computers each night and still handle the needed updates. Because of the longer life cycle of the equipment, we also anticipate reducing our electronic waste stream.
(Source: http://www.eia.gov/beta/state/ )

How is the County Paying for this Project?  

The desktop virtualization is just one component of a larger $16 million Phase II Energy 8 Water Conservation Project undertaken by the County with NORESCO. The Phase II Project is being paid for through a loan, which (like Phase I before it) will be paid off from the savings achieved. Those savings are guaranteed by the vendor, NORESCO, under a special arrangement called a Guaranteed Energy Savings Agreement. This means that if the annual savings are not met, NORESCO pays the County the difference between the contract and the savings. The approximately $440,470 annual electricity savings produced by the thin-clients will pay for the new equipment over several years.

Which Departments' Computers will be Replaced?  

The determination for which computers will be replaced is tied directly to one key factor: does the County pay the energy bill for the facility in which the office is housed? For all County-owned facilities, the answer is yes. Therefore, any department – or portion thereof – that is housed in a County-owned facility will be part of the virtual desktop roll-out. In addition, staff housed at the Lexington complex in Point Breeze and the Medical Examiner’s office will be part of this project.

What is the Project Roll-out Schedule? 

Since mid-summer of 2012, the Department of Computer Services has been working with the Department of Court Records, which voluntarily agreed to serve as the pilot department to work through various deployment considerations and to test the configuration. The installation testing continued through the final quarter of 2012. Official roll-out began in the first quarter of 2013, with a target for completion by the end of this year.