Microsoft’s announcement that it has set up a joint venture with Citrix Systems to provide multi-user features to NT Server 4.0 this year is “music to the ears” of Housing New Zealand information technology manager Steve Bain, who has driven the corporation down the network computer route.
“I’ll be surprised if all the corporates don’t go down this path,” he says.
The announcement means it will be feasible to support very low-cost terminal emulation attached to a Windows NT server.
Housing went to request for proposal last October to implement Microsoft Office across the enterprise.
Respondents were invited to propose thin-client solutions as well as tradtional PC-based solutions.
“Our systems had been frozen in time for four-and-a-half years,” Bain says. “We’d put up with old hardware and software.”
Housing had been running Word-Perfect and Lotus 1-2-3 for eight years, along with Hewlett-Packard New Wave PCs. HP no longer supports New Wave on recent versions of Windows.
“The question was: how could we get into the mainstream? It was either a big spend on the desktop or a more innovative approach off servers, so that when Office ‘98’ or whatever turns up, we are not looking at a new hardware rollout.”
Housing selected an Eagle-Software Spectrum consortium to set up a laboratory environment to develop a thin-client solution. The technology chosen was NCD Wincenter application server software (an expanded version of Citrix’s WinFrame) running on HP Netserver Intel-based servers and utilising the existing 386SX PCs as clients.
A pilot project was held in Housing’s central region in February and March, successfully scaling to support 79 users. The enterprise rollout of 430 users began this month, and is scheduled for completion in mid August.
The cost of the project is more than $3 million.
“We proved the cost of ownership [for NCs] is less than for the standard desktop, though there’s not a lot in it,” Bain says. “But you then have to take the future into account in terms of staying current, and also the advantages of central management.
“We’ve not doing this in isolation. We’ve completely re-engineered our wide area network and installed a stacked wide band.”
This is a new service from Telecom, which allows the user to add 64Kb on an as-needed basis. Accident Compensation and Social Welfare are other government departments also using the service.
“We’ll roll that out over the next few weeks,” Bain says.
Anite Networks is doing LAN upgrades.
Eagle managing director Trevor Eagle has quantified some of the savings to be achieved by Housing. He says there is a capital saving of more than $500,000 by eliminating the need to purchase new “thick” desktop PCs, and savings in cost of ownership, ranging from 26% to 59%.
“The Housing NZ solution is the first large-scale, state-of-the-art thin client implementation in New Zealand,” he says.