Enjoying Lower TCO
Huntsville Hospital, a not-for-profit hospital in Huntsville, Ala., has deployed 2,200 virtual desktops, mostly in clinical areas, such as nursing stations and patient rooms, and on mobile carts. The hospital also uses virtual desktops to enable doctors' offices to access hospital applications remotely, says network specialist Tony Wilburn.
Huntsville uses VDI and thin-client devices from Wyse Technology in place of traditional desktop computers. Among the key benefits of desktop virtualization is lower total cost of ownership compared with traditional desktop devices.
"We have found that in power and cooling [costs] alone we save an average of 72 percent per year," Wilburn says. The lifespan of the thin clients far exceeds that of traditional PCs, he says, and memory and CPU can be increased at the server, lowering maintenance and hardware costs on the clients.
Other benefits are improved desktop manageability, ease of distribution of software and a reduction in calls to the help desk.
"Using VMware's ability to create templates, we are able to use one image for all our desktops, keeping the desktops uniform and therefore easier to manage," Wilburn says. He adds that the IT staff can deploy a desktop from a template in less than five minutes, compared with the 20 minutes or more needed to build a physical desktop--even when using imaging software.
Improved manageability of desktops is especially important to Huntsville because the hospital is growing quickly: It currently services 900 beds in two hospitals on a single campus, with a third planned for a separate location.
Given that it's in a highly regulated industry, the hospital needed a better way to manage compliance in its desktop computing infrastructure. Sensitive information governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is maintained on virtual desktops hosted in a secure host data center.
"The idea of a virtual desktop is still relatively new in the industry," Wilburn says, adding that there are some implementation challenges. "There has been some push back from vendors about supporting their applications in a virtual environment, whether it is virtual desktops or virtual servers. Over the past year or so, we are seeing the virtual environment becoming more accepted."
One drawback of desktop virtualization is that storage now resides on a storage area network (instead of on a physical hard drive. "[Desktop storage on SANs] may be more secure and have more failsafes, but it is more costly," Wilburn says. "Our desktops alone are taking up more than 12 [terabytes] of SAN space."