With patient records scattered across 1500 Windows PCs in 16 states, keeping the data secure is a job that never ends, Courier says. Instead of replacing the machines, however, Mosaic is sending teams of techies to its 50 agency offices to convert them into thin clients running off a Novell Suse Linux secure server farm across the Internet.
“We’re taking all the hard disks out, confiscating all the floppies and thumb drives,” Courier says. “We don’t want anything out there that’s not HIPPA compliant. That way, if somebody steals a computer, all they get is a piece of hardware."
Going thin also greatly simplifies IT administration for not-for-profit organizations like Mosaic, where Federal funding cuts have sliced budgets razor thin. Because nearly everything can be done at the server, there’s no need for IT staff to travel to remote locations.
Such benefits, though, apply equally to nationwide companies such as Con-Way Transportation Services, a $2.6 billion freight transportation firm based in Palo Alto, Calif.
In 2000, Con-Way began rolling out some 4,500 Citrix-based thin clients to its 443 call center locations, allowing Con-Way employees to process orders and track shipments throughout the country using the company’s homegrown freight management applications.
“We manage 60,000 shipments a day,” says Jackie Barretta, CIO of Con-Way’s parent company, CNF. “Our freight control app is the lifeblood of our operation. Everything depends on it.”
In a company like Con-Way, with widely distributed office, Barretta explains, centralized deployment with thin clients on the edge makes the most sense. “We do software updates on a daily basis.
Trying to manage 400 different versions of this immense application in 400 locations would be crazy, a maintenance nightmare. It really makes sense to run the app centrally in our datacenter.”
For a Few Dollars Less
Lowering TCO was once the meat and potatoes of choosing a thin client solution. Now with the security advantages as the main course, it’s more like gravy. Across disparate enterprises, there’s no standardized way to measure the cost savings from going thin, but the anecdotal evidence is compelling.
Back in 2002, Keystone Automotive saved a cool $2 million in hardware outlays simply by choosing Neoware clients over Windows PCs, says Jesus Arriaga, CIO for the $560 million auto parts supplier in Pomona, Calif. Although the price differential between desktops and TCs has narrowed, thin machines save money in myriad other ways.
For example, Bill Hill, IT director of the City of Dayton, Ohio, figures he saves $60,000 on electricity for every 1,000 thin clients he deploys. With no moving parts and no fans, his Wyse nodes suck down far less juice than your average desktop.
Buddy Gillespie, CIO of Wellspan Health in York, Penn., estimates that moving to a Citrix-based solution saved his hospital management firm $500,000 in fees it no longer had to pay for licensing Windows on the desktop (though it still pays to license Microsoft Office on the server).