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Emerging Enterprise Forum

Large business

Linux can solve desktop management woes

Shivani Shinde says that organisations need to look at Linux as a desktop solution to solve desktop management issues and bring down associated costs

Rajiv Ranjan

A recent survey by IMRB for Network Magazine’s Infrastructure Strategies 2005 found that many enterprises have already made considerable investments in open source. Linux is widely used for messaging and databases, to name just two applications. According to the survey, almost 39 percent of the enterprises that participated had their servers on Linux.

At Technology Senate 2005, under the Effective Desktop Management Strategy track, Novell promoted an alternative to Microsoft for desktop management that could possibly help in reducing the desktop investment part of the IT budget of an organisation.

Rajiv Ranjan, Sales Manager, Indian Subcontinent, Onward Novell, explained the need for an alternative. According to Ranjan, the largest contributor to any IT budget is the cost associated with desktops. This includes acquisition and management of desktops or mobile access devices such as notebooks.

The cost of acquisition of a desktop goes up by at least 20 percent over time due to the cost of management, including patch management, helpdesk services and so on. In the management segment, 67 percent of the total IT budget is spent on desktop management. “But though we realise this fact and acknowledge it, we also agree that it is a very sensitive area,” accepts Ranjan.

An Effective Desktop Solution

According to Novell, there cannot be a single policy regarding a new option for desktop management. Change management remains the primary concern, and the system has to be user-friendly.

The common corporate mantra remains ‘do more with less’ without affecting the delivery of services. Ranjan considers that desktop usage has to be understood with respect to the criticality of processes.

With costs being a major concern, Linux is considered by many organisations as a possible solution. However, it has yet to make a mark on the enterprise desktop. One of the biggest advantages of having Linux desktops is that the OS is less prone to virus attacks. An earlier complaint was that documents did not open smoothly in Linux. “There were some font issues with Linux which we have been able to solve,” clarifies Ranjan.

Smart Strategy

Ranjan feels that while Windows has its advantages, integrating it with Linux could possibly reduce desktop management costs.

Thus, while deciding on a strategy, understanding the user profile, uptime and criticality of the department is most important, especially for organisations where cost is the criterion. Novell recommends segregation of users.

The presentation also highlighted the fact that Linux and Windows would have to move in tandem rather than compete with each other. Thus, the issue is to decide which functions in an organisation should be shifted to Linux. According to Ranjan, “Every application can be imported. The issue is whether it is worth the time and money spent in importing it.”

Change Will Help

Though Linux has been spreading in recent years, the desktop management market remains a hard nut to crack. One thing that could help the technology is a recent change of strategy by the company. The other is that many PC vendors prefer providing a Linux-based OS as it lowers the cost. Two vendors that are actually doing this are HP and LG.

According to IDC, Linux usage reduces downtime by 73 percent, increases efficiency among the IT staff by 42 percent, and has a return on investment of 12 to 13 percent over a three-year period

The biggest change is the ability to open a Word file in Linux. As most users in offices use their PCs primarily for creating documents or accessing e-mail, Linux vendors are hoping that a Linux desktop can fulfill the requirements of a basic user.

According to IDC, Linux usage reduces downtime by 73 percent, increases efficiency among the IT staff by 42 percent, and has a return on investment of 12 to 13 percent over a three-year period. To corroborate his stand Ranjan points out,

“Gartner has encouraged organisations to fight the temptation to make Linux desktops an all-or-none decision, and to select the right users to migrate”

“Gartner has encouraged organisations to fight the temptation to make Linux desktops an all-or-none decision, and to select the right users to migrate. This is the strategy that we have been promoting.”

The biggest draw for Linux by any organisation is the lower total cost of ownership. Now that Novell has the capability to run .Net programs, perhaps organisations would look at this option too for managing their desktops better.

An Example From Hughes Escorts

Damodar Vaidya

Here’s a classic example from Hughes Escorts Communications of an effective desktop management solution from Novell that helped them save desktop management costs. With a policy of providing a desktop to every employee, the organisation has 200 desktops and 100 notebooks. For Hughes, the main concern was availability of services and the management cost of these desktop and notebook PCs. “There are newer requirements in terms of application availability, and keeping up with these was the main challenge. If backbone applications and IT services needed to be up all the time, desktop availability comprised the last milestone challenge and was thus critical for the processes,” explains Damodar Vaidya, the company’s Vice-president, Corporate.

With their HQ at Gurgaon, 10 regional offices and 10 service offices, cost-effective solutions become generic requirements. As Vaidya says, there was a cost problem, and regular virus attacks required regular patch management. With a desktop management strategy from Novell, Hughes Escorts is now looking at a reduction in desktop management cost. “The patch deployments are faster from the LAN network. Earlier, half the employees would forget to load the patches, but since it has been centralised, we have no problem. Due to standardisation of desktops, remote control is a big benefit,” explains Vaidya.

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