The green IT stars of 2010

InfoWorld's 2010 Green 15 Awards: Green-tech projects coupled with innovation and collaboration yield bountiful rewards

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Andhra Pradesh overcomes resource limitations with virtual desktops

Watt-sipping virtual PCs give students in India 5,000 school computer labs and a new start

For some organizations, embracing sustainability is something of a luxury. They have an ample supply of electricity, for example, and plenty of cash on hand, so they can gradually deploy waste-reducing projects that pay for themselves over time. For other organizations, however, sustainable efforts are driven by real, immediate needs.

Such was the case for the government of Andhra Pradesh in India, which needed to supply 1.8 million students across 5,000 public schools with access to state-of-the-art computing facilities. Standard desktop PCs wouldn't cut it, due to limited funding and limited electricity resources -- but virtual PCs proved a perfect alternative.

The school district chose a virtual desktop solution from NComputing. Students are equipped with their own monitor, keyboard, mouse, and NComputing X-series devices. (The devices come in kits that also include vSpace virtualization software and a PCI card.) The devices are connected to individual desktop computers, at a ratio of around 4 to 1, which perform the bulk of the processing work for the connected systems. In all, 40,000 NComputing devices were deployed, along with 10,000 full PCs provided by various OEMs, including HP and Acer.

The eco-magic of the NComputing access devices is that they require just a single watt of power to run, compared to a typical desktop that draws between 65 and 250 watts. Thus, the Andhra Pradesh government uses 90 percent less electricity than it would to power labs running traditional PCs. The virtual machines' watt-sipping nature was particularly significant given the limited infrastructure in the region.

"Certain locations where the installations occurred had very weak or no electricity infrastructure. For example, certain areas only received a few hours of electricity in the day. With a project of this scale, big generators would have been needed to support the setup of each lab in all of the 5,000 schools," said Stephen Dukker, CEO at NComputing.  "However, because of the low electricity consumption, the Andhra Pradesh government purchased smaller generators that are generally used in homes."

In terms of cost, the government estimates that taking the virtual desktop route conserved a whopping $20 million when factoring in savings on larger generators, fuel, electricity, and the like. From a green perspective, the virtual devices are also eco-friendlier than traditional PCs in that they last longer and contain fewer materials.

Thanks to the power of green technology, the students of Andhra Pradesh will be far better prepared for the future. "Earlier students did not even have an idea of how to switch on and off the computer," said Bhavani, a teacher at Zila Parishad School at Medak, India. "After four months, they are operating [the machines] themselves."

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