Queen Margaret University - UK
Reduction in energy consumption was key to developing a sustainable campus, meaning the campus now has a biomass heating plant, natural ventilation and also a thin client IT.
Thin-client costs about the same in infrastructure as a standard PC, but the saving is in ongoing costs. Thin client devices should last up to eight years, whereas PCs are often refreshed after four years; a PC will typically use
around 60-100 watts when in use, compared to 8-15 watts for thin-clients. With over 1,250 devices at QMU, that adds up to annual savings on IT electricity consumption alone of £50,000. Obviously, there are the running costs of the servers too, and they need to be replaced every three or four years, but they are also very energy efficient, adding only 7 watts per thin-client to the total energy consumed. Steve Scott, Director of Estates and Facilities at QMU, says:
The integration of IT into the estate design process has enabled us to build one of the most sustainable campus developments in the UK. Thin-client produces little heat, which allowed the building to be predominantly naturally lit and ventilated. This allowed for more efficient room layouts and importantly, meant that we saved around £1 million in capital build costs for building services that were not required. As a result of this, annual building energy costs have been reduced by an estimated £60,000 and when this is combined with the lower energy costs of thin-client itself, the university is saving over £100,000 per annum.
The successful proof of concept, with 30 users migrating to a user interface designed to replicate Windows, thus making the change as smooth as possible, was implemented in the summer of 2005. By the summer of 2006, the team had made a successful major changeover of student PCs to thin-client and the remainder of staff PCs were migrated prior to the campus move in summer 2007. Persuading academics of the benefits of the new system
presented the hardest challenge. The IT team therefore ran thin-client ‘road shows’, where people could see how it would work. Fraser says:
The majority of our users did not notice the difference. If they did notice, it’s because their applications loaded and ran faster – not surprising, when they’re on a high-specification server instead of a PC
There are now some 1,250 thin-client terminals across the campus, with just over 600 on the student site and the remainder for staff. Some exceptions were made, as certain applications (such as audio-visual tools and those needing specialist hardware) are difficult to run over the current thin-client infrastructure, so there are open access PCs around the building for staff to go to, to use those tools. The areas taught at QMU make this a more feasible setup, as they specialise in subjects such as applied health sciences that do not need massive amounts of computing power or data analysis.