Monday, July 30, 2007

Thin Is In: Interview With Stephen Yeo of IGEL

Thin is in, and in this interview Mr. Yeo proves it.

Can you explain what IGEL does?

IGEL Technology is one of the world’s top 5 thin client vendors and is market leader in its home country of Germany (2006 IDC). We have offices in Augsburg (Germany), Fort Lauderdale (USA) and Reading (UK). We produce the industry’s widest range of thin clients, based on Linux and Microsoft Windows, giving our customers access to the broadest range of thin client devices and the richest set of digital services on the market today. Our hardware is supported by the IGEL Remote Management Suite, giving customers maximum remote control with minimum cost and hassle. IGEL’s range of thin clients includes thin client conversion cards for PCs, traditional form factors, ultra-mobile tablets, LCD integrated terminals and multi-screen units. Our company puts security at the heart of its design principles and offers smartcard support across all of its products.

What is your sales volume? How many customers do you have? How long have you been in business?

IGEL Technology GmbH has been developing and selling thin clients since 1988. Founded in Augsburg, IGEL is a subsidiary of Bremen-based C. Melchers GmbH & Co. Melchers is a 201 year old trading company with worldwide trading activities and branches in many countries.

We currently have about 9500 customers including some of the biggest companies in the world – DaimlerChrysler, United Rentals, Ethicon Inc., US Cold Storage, Summit Polymers, Scania, and Akzo Nobel.

Can you explain what a thin client is for the audience?

Generally speaking, a thin client is a centrally-managed computer without a hard disk drive in which the bulk of the data processing occurs on the server. The application software, data, and CPU power resides on a network server rather than on the client computer. As a result, thin clients are not as vulnerable to malware attacks, have a longer life cycle, use less power and are less expensive to purchase.

What is the average replacement cycle for your thin clients? How does this compare to a PC? Do you have any plans to extend it?

Generally, thin clients demonstrate lower breakdown rates and a longer service life than PCs because of the fan-free design, which makes them less susceptible to malfunctions especially in more dusty environments. Thin clients are also small, taking up little space, and all components subject to wear and tear can be dispensed with. Consequently, they offer a maximum length of service life, which can be many years.

We cannot quote reliability numbers versus PCs since each manufacturer uses different MTBF criteria and methods of calculation.

Thin clients last longer than PCs since all the necessary hardware upgrades needed for new operating systems, applications and storage are all done in the data center. As long as the thin client has an adequate screen resolution and software client needed to access your infrastructure, such as the latest version of Citrix ICA client or a JVM, then a thin client remains useful for many years. Some customers have successfully used the same thin clients for 6-7 years.

How long is the warranty for your equipment? How does this compare to the typical PC?

The standard warranty on IGEL thin client terminals is two years. We also offer a Buyer Plan that extends all the benefits that customers receive during the first and second year of ownership from the Manufacturer’s warranty, through the third year of ownership. The Buyer Plan is free, however, customers need to register their product within 90 days from the date of purchase. Once we receive the IGEL Warranty Registration, we will send a confirmation and customers will be covered for three years. The warranty extension is not associated with any further costs.

The warranty period for IGEL thin clients is similar to PCs.

Is there anything that you need a PC to do that a thin client cannot do?

Playing games, since they need a powerful DirectX graphics card for screen generation.

What is the average energy use of your equipment? How does this compare to the thin client industry standard?

The average energy consumption of our thin clients is between 40-50 watts and that’s including server and data room cooling. This is half the energy consumption of traditional PCs, which consume about 85 watts.

Stand alone, IGEL thin clients consume on average 10-20 watts of power. This is similar to other manufacturers, although IGEL is the first vendor to have conducted scientific studies into the green benefits of using such technology.

The TCO numbers for thin clients are well known, and have consistently been shown to be much lower than a PC infrastructure. Why then aren't IT departments moving to thin clients? What will be the tipping point for them?

The thin client market has been steadily growing year on year at about 25% and last year represented more than 2.75M units WW. Since almost all these units were replacing desktop PCs in the business sector, this represents a significant slice of this market place.

For static workers, the thin client will become more and more prevalent, especially as IT departments look to become more energy efficient and in industries where security and compliance issues are crucial. However, those workers who need to bring their computers with them will continue to use laptop PCs.

From an environmental perspective, what are the advantages of going with thin clients? Any disadvantages?

There are an array of environmental advantages for using thin clients versus traditional PCs from lower material use to reduced energy costs and less carbon emission. In fact, IGEL thin clients were used in a recent study conducted by the world-renowned Fraunhofer Institute in Germany – the study is an environmental comparison of thin clients versus comparable PCs. In this study, thin clients were found to have significant power, environmental and financial savings. In fact, by switching from a PC to a thin client environment, U.S. businesses could save about $354.7 million in electricity bills and slash CO2 emissions by about 2.45 billion pounds a year. The full report can be found at by following this link.

Not only do thin clients reduce CO2 emissions and energy during use, they also save energy and waste during manufacture and transport – compared with PCs they have 35%-40% of the weight and 19%-30% of the volume. They are also easier to recycle since they have far less materials and are simpler.

What is your take on free software? Do your thin clients support it? Overall, do you think the TCO of using free software is less or more than commercial packages? If so, for which ones?

IGEL has been a pioneer in using Linux as a thin client operating system (we were the second largest supplier of Linux thin clients in 2005) and our customers benefit from using open source code within our units. Because many of our thin clients are based on Linux and we have so much experience with it, we can give organizations easy access to Linux-based infrastructures using the X-Windows or NX protocols.

Gartner predicts that energy will account for 50 percent of the typical IT budget by 2012. Do you agree with this number? How do thin client initiatives help to reduce this number?

All the evidence points to energy taking an increasing amount of the IT budget and 50% by 2012 is perfectly possible. This is especially true if the cost of air conditioning is taken into account for the data center and work place. This is often missed out in calculations. For every watt generated by a piece of IT equipment, 1W-3W of air conditioning power is needed to remove it depending on the efficiency and location of the air conditioner.

As noted above, thin clients have been found to be more energy efficient than comparable PCs by about 51% -- and that includes the energy costs of servers and data room cooling. By switching to thin clients, businesses could save $354.7 million in electricity bills alone.

Organizations will be able to make significant reductions in CO2 and energy from IT using a combination of thin clients, virtualization, and 64 bit computing.

What is the future of thin clients? Any exciting upcoming technologies?

Our vision for the future of thin client computing is to have a single device with many functions – we see thin clients as a platform for digital service and device consolidation. Just like electricity, you’ll be able to plug into a network and access all the digital services you need: your email, office productivity suites, enterprise applications, voice, or streaming images. All of these digital services would be hosted elsewhere on the network, but you could have easy access to them from a single, easy-to-manage, secure device. Thin clients will grow to be more expandable, simple, flexible and scalable.

In regards to our own products, we are certainly making strides toward these digital service goals and plan to introduce new features to our devices later this year.

Will we see more or less of these things, and what are the biggest drivers for these changes?

The thin client market is certainly growing and will continue to grow – especially as businesses face more security and compliance issues. Thin clients, because they are innately less susceptible to viruses and malware and because they have little internal memory, are ideal for companies that need to meet strict security and compliance regulations.

The growth of new forms of server-based computing, such as VoIP, will accelerate the use of multi-use thin clients that help device consolidation and reduce complexity on the desktop.

In addition, as environmental concerns continue to grow and as businesses look to become more green, the energy and other environmental savings offered by thin clients will become increasingly important and lead many companies to reconsider their use of traditional PCs to reap the cost and energy savings of thin clients.

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