Indian Schools Adopt Virtual Desktops From NComputing

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Schools in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh are deploying virtual desktop technology that lets several users share the computing capacity of a single PC.

Each of 5,000 secondary schools in the state will have a 10-seat computing lab equipped with two desktop PCs and desktop virtualization software from vendor NComputing, the company said Monday.

NComputing's virtualization software runs on a desktop PC, said Stephen Dukker, chairman and CEO of NComputing. That PC is connected through an access terminal with the "virtual" PCs, which consist of a monitor, keyboard and mice, also known as "thin clients."

The thin client does not have any storage. All of the computing is done on the main PC. NComputing software works with Microsoft's Windows and Linux operating systems.

A single PC has more than enough processing power to be shared by several users, Dukker said. A typical person running productivity, multimedia, e-mail and Web browsing applications uses on average just 1 to 2 percent of the capacity of standalone PCs, with occasional peaks using 10 to 20 percent of a computer's processing power, he added.

The virtual PCs linked to the main PC use less power, contributing to a cheaper overall computing cost, Dukker said.

NComputing is positioning its virtualization technology as a cheaper alternative to equipping school kids with low-cost laptops, Dukker said.

A number of technology companies, including Intel with its Classmate PC, are targeting the price-sensitive education sector in India with low-cost computing offers. The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) association is also trialing its XO laptop in the country.

Andhra Pradesh chose the NComputing X300 package, which connects the virtual PCs to the main PCs using PCI cards and cables. NComputing also sells its L-Series which uses a local area network to link computers to the virtual PCs, he added.

NComputing charges US$70 per seat for the X-series, which includes its virtualization software and access terminal hardware. The full cost per user is typically closer to $200, including cost of a shared PC plus monitors, keyboards and peripherals, according to Dukker.

NComputing said it has sold more than 1 million seats of its virtual desktop software worldwide through September, with most of seats in the education sector. The company has also started getting volume orders from other businesses, Dukker said.

The computing labs in the schools in Andhra Pradesh will be used to teach computer skills and office productivity, as well as subjects like reading and math. The systems will run on Microsoft's Windows Server operating system and use Microsoft's Office Suite, NComputing said.

NComputing is working with the state governments of Assam and Tamil Nadu on pilots for the deployment of its virtual desktop technology on Linux PCs, according to Dukker.

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