back to article Desktop virtualisation: Yes, it's cheaper

Yes, a virtualised desktop environment can save you money - and trouble - if you do it right. Get it wrong and it can cost you more, so it's worth planning properly before jumping in feet-first. A PC can burn its way through $5,867 a year, according to Gartner. You don't have to be a genius to reduce that headline figure a …


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  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

    depreciation vs cost, etc

    IR rules currently depreciate computer equipment to damned near zero over 3.5 years (which a company can claim back on tax) and accountants get decidedly twitchy about having zero-value gear still in use.

    In any case, I don't want my staff using windows (or crApples). This removes a large amount of the support load from haiving to remove the malware de jour or showing staff how to find the "Any" key (hint, it's the one by the door which releases the electronic lock. Please take your coat & potplant, leave your ID badge, don't bother coming in tomorrow, or the next day or the rest of the millenium.)

    1. cloudgazer
      Thumb Down

      Erm no

      There's no problem continuing to use gear that is depreciated all the way down to zero. The problem is when you scrap gear that still has a book value.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Replacing PCs with....

    Generally other PCs running remote desktop.

    Or simple hardware that just runs Remote Desktop? Except because of economies of scale they cost more than a PC. And somehow the company only ever stays in business a year so you end up with a dozen different models from different vendors because you can't get the old ones fixed. Or they only run 1024x768 screens, or they don't do HDMI.

    Or remote desktop gets updated on the server end and the old model can't handle the new security so you have to buy new ones.

    Funny, X-terminals seemed to work perfectly well 20years ago.

    1. Simon Bramfitt


      I'm not sure where you're getting your data from, but it is seriously wrong. Entry-level thin client devices can be had for as little as USD100, about one third of the price of and entry-level PC.

      There are a number of thin client vendors that have gone out of business, but their are many more that have been in business very successfully for many years - surely you have heard of Wyse? No? what about Dell and HP, IBM perhaps.

      For the most part, thin clients tend to match the capabilities of PCs when it comes to display output. Almost all thin clients will support a dual monitor configuration, and some can accommodate as many as eight screens. Few today ship with HDMI interfaces, but at the same time how many enterprise PCs (Note: Enterprise PCs, not laptops and not Home PCs) ship today with HDMI interfaces. More to the point how many PCs do not have a VGA port? When HDMI is a requirement y thin client vendors will adopt it en masse.

      And your understanding of remote display protocol operation and the ability to update the firmware on thin clients is I'm afraid equally inaccurate.

  3. Asgard

    These figures don't add up

    Step 1: Getting the PC

    Buy or build a PC, whichever, its still only around £300 per PC for most users PC's. (A few companies I've worked for have built their own PC's, where they can create a good spec desktop PC for less than £300).

    Step 2: Buying the software needed.

    Gartner quote 250 applications per PC. WTF! even programmers don't buy that many applications.

    Step 3: Long term software maintenance.

    "Gartner applied its updated methodology to a hypothetical organization with central IT and 2,500 desktops"

    Ok 2500 PCs being maintained does cost money for support staff. But $5867 per PC with 2500 PC's WTF! (and per year!) ... that's $5867 * 2500 = $14667500 ... so $14.6M per year!

    Lets assume a support engineer costs (on average) say $40k, then a company with even a small army of 25 support engineers would still only cost $1M! … Plus that's assuming 1 engineer per 100 PC's, which is much more generous than 200-400 quoted in the article as typical for a PC desktop. So say 200 PC's per engineer and pay them all double, its still only at most $1M however you look at it and very likely a lot less.

    I don't see how they even come close to this figure of $5867 (and per year!)... Unless Gartner are making some very bad assessments such as assuming 250 applications across the entire company and then assuming everyone needs every application and so then ignorantly just multiplying by 2500 PC's which would be insane. But even then they would require them to have to re-buy all that every year to justify this insane figure?!

    So either we are talking about outsourcing support for the PC's in which case the outsourcing support company is leaching a fortune out of the 2500 PC's per year or Gartner have messed up with their estimates.

    So is this article really about the outsourcing costs? ... but then, let me guess, having a "virtualised desktop environment" is the silver bullet which will kill this mythical $14.6M per year money monster. Oh what a surprise, I didn't see that punchline coming. ;)

    This whole article reads like a sales pitch for virtualization, using a straw man argument of $5867 per PC as the thing to then attack (i.e. $14.6M across 2500 PC's), when in reality it should be no where near that much for any intelligently managed company.

    Perhaps a better outlet for this kind of story is websites without so many technically minded readers. ;) … try somewhere like ... just a thought. :)

    1. Chris 155
      Paris Hilton

      And of course

      Even if you had 250 applications per machine the math doesn't work.

      Any serious software company isn't going to let you reduce your 2500 licenses to 1 just because you ran it on one machine. Maybe some dinky little outfit might let themselves get screwed that way, but none of the big boys are. You want to run 2500 instances of Office off one RDP server(which is insane to begin with) you'll pay for 2500 licenses as well as the 2500 CALs for the RDP. Want to run em in a virtual desktop, you'll pay all that plus the 2500 windows licenses.

      You will never find a long term solution wherin you can drastically reduce your software licensing requirements unless you didn't actually need that software in the first place or you get a deal from the vendor. You might get away with it for a little while, but vendors who don't close those loopholes go bankrupt.

    2. Simon Bramfitt

      You really don't get it do you?

      That $5867 per year is the total cost of ownership of a desktop.


      Operating system and application software license maintenance\renewal.

      Support agreements for the operating system and application software, perhaps also and on-site hardware maintenance agreement.

      Power and cooling for all those PCs, yes even PCs in the office need cooling as well.

      Network infrastructure costs, switches, routers DNS and DHCP servers AD etc.

      The full cost of the salary, health care, 401K (or whatever), vacation, training, office space, car perhaps, cell phones, perhaps over time for extended hours support, lab equipment, and let's not forget their manager or managers if it is a large organization.

      It's starting to add up now is in it?

      Now if you wanted to poke holes in the position taken put forth in the article, you could point out that the the USD5,867 figure was Gartner's estimate for an unmanaged environment. Gartner estimated that a better managed environment would cost only USD3,413 per year. Oh yes, the Gartner document is three years old, and that it has revised its numbers downward since then, and that staffing document, that was 20 years old.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Gartner TCO

    Divide anything gartner says by 5 to 10 espcially when it comes to TCO - those guys have been industry m/puppets for years.

    Common sense and good advice on the other topics though - it is so much easier to manage these things centrally - however html 5 is really going to hurt running the browser remotely (as much as flash does now) with resultant unhappy users.

  5. ijustwantaneasylife


    " ...who just needs word processing, email and web" should read " ...who just needs email and web". In my experience the vast bulk of things that people do on a word processor can be just as effectively handled via email. The only real exception to this would be letters to clients/customers and these should really be handled in a decent CRM system. Also, as there are many perfectly good webmail solutions, there really is no need for much more than a browser for most users (NB: CRM systems usually operate through a browser).

  6. McVirtual

    What a load of B$ !!

    Really!... I leav my laptop (and my wifes and the family PC) on most days every day for more than 8hours... and no way do I receive an electricity bill for 16k per year!..

    Do the sniff test before you open your mouth next time.... now bare in mind the average FULLY managed virtual desktop is circa $40 per user per month (enterprise)... the credibility just goes down the pan....

    1. Oz

      Re: What a load of B$ !!

      I think the article refers to the cost of a whole office of devices, not a single unit. It's pretty obvious that a single device won't use 14K electricity a year...

      1. system

        RE: Re: What a load of B$ !!

        Yep. "our experience of systems around the 1,000 PC scale"

  7. Charles Smith

    Support costs vary

    PC support costs vary between organisations. Back in 1998 I was working with a financial products broker. We used to charge for PC support at £35 a month That included PC maintenance, help desk support visits, loan PCs on major failure. server and LAN connection. Our response time to problems was targeted to be at desk side within 10 minutes or less if a visit was necessary. We made a "profit" on that service charge to 1000 users.

    I moved to a major investment bank. The PC support charge was £300 a month. The business paid extra for Help Desk, LAN, Server, loan PCs. The PC support response time was errm slow. The applications were similar to my previous employer who was geographically located less than 300 metres distant.

    In the first company we had negotiated fees personally, face to face with the business Directors. In the bank there were layers of administrators and loads of wooly cost allocations.

    Gartner's reports rarely seem to reflect reality. Take no notice guys.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    And where do those "thin" clients run on? ;-)

    Funny thing is that I'm a netadmin by heart (and work) and recently jumped a little heavier onto the Windows environment. Partly because I had to, but also because I wanted to; I think its refreshing to keep up and see how the "other end" has worked its stuff out. Some of it feels underwhelming (administering a 2k3 server from Win7 using Powershell for example) while some other parts look pretty slick to me (MMC and the ability to make your own consoles for example; which can also be used to administer remote servers).

    First.. How convenient that this article surfaces right before MS is said to deliver their "Windows thin PC". Coincidence no doubt ;-)

    This Thin PC thingie is a "trimmed down" Windows 7 environment meant to "re-purpose existing PC's as thin clients". However what this article and much others seem to be ignoring is the question as to "so where do the CPU cycles come from?".

    By default you get a nice 2-connection Admin license for a default Windows 2k3 server. IOW; you can use up to 2 concurrent remote connections to the server at the same time. So first you'd need to either purchase a terminal service license or look into upgrading to 2k8 which comes with CAL's by default. However, it would appear that this only runs on 64bit, see this link:

    So now I not only need to upgrade my OS but my 32bit server hardware as well. Granted; that would be required anyway in order to address the question "where do the cycles come from?". But this is even ignoring the very important and often forgotten step of "research and preparation", also mentioned in the article. While it doesn't appear this way from an employee point of view; all that invested time in research should be added to the total costs as well.

    Then we have the very important issue of Single Point of Failure. So what if my server suddenly goes haywire? Instead of having a few people who (for example) can't send e-mail and can't save their work on the server (but luckily we can sent out someone informing the lot that they should save their work locally after which it'll be allright during the next time they logon). No, instead we now have several people who suddenly lost their work and worse: who most likely won't be able to perform any production until that server is back up.

    Having PC's around isn't merely a cost for a company, it can also be a very robust and solid fallback in case there's some bigger issues going wrong.

    Those costs? Its what I'd call a form of insurance. Sure; you can save money when you cancel it; but when looking at it in the longer run....

  9. Alan Brown Silver badge


    I never had any trouble writing off kit which still had residual book value.

    Accountants get twitchy about retaining stuff with no residual value because you can't use depreciation to offset taxable income. Do it right and you can run at a (paper) loss or low net income for years.

    It's not tax evasion. Perfectly above-board and a good accountant will make things simple as long as you don't show up with all your paperwork in a shoebox (Mine setup everything in Quickbooks so that all I had to do was keep things straight and all he had to do was audit the output. End result was an accountancy bill under 200 quid/year)

    Using thin clients is attractive for a number of reasons (lower hardware costs, harder for endusers to futz with, easier support) but I'll bet that the replacement cycles remain as-is, simply because of accounting structures which make best use of depreciation allowances provided by the Inland Revenue.

    Mine's the one with the texts on double-entry book keeping in the back pocket.

  10. Tim #3


    Having had experience of both types, I feel that virtualised desktops are quite remarkably shite. From a user point of view they are even worse. So only ideal if you really wish to lose any good relations with your business areas.

  11. a_d_jackson

    One size doesn't fit all

    In my experience one size doesn't fit all. You absolutely need to know what you have installed vs what is being used and when it's being used before you can make any decisions around what to virtualize and to whom. This is likely to identify where savings can be made, especially now Microsoft allows true-downs. Take a look at Centrix Software's iQ product -

  12. GamePiglet

    Nice try, but history will repeat.

    People have been saying the same things about Citrix/Terminal Services for years. However, their main points of cost savings and manageability are continually refuted by research that indicates a well managed PC fleet costs about the same to run.

    As I've been saying to customers for years, if this is the only tool in your kitbag, it restricts you. You are far better off having this as one of the tools you have available rather than the only one you have.

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