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I am having a project to work out the cost that my company will have if we are moving away from using Terminal Services, and start to use a normal desktop for every user. I have 3 Windows Server 2008 Standard to handle the Terminal Services (load balancing). The company employs about 120 workers, which about 80% of them are on Terminal Services. The other 15% - 20% users are on Windows 7 Professional.

I need help from everyone, thoughts, recommendation or suggestions, or even past experiences are really helpful to put everything into consideration. The consideration includes the time to manage and maintain, cost of hardware and software (includes the licensing cost) between Terminal Services and Desktop. Any other key features to consider are more than welcome.

I know that with Terminal Service, the amount of administration for applications is not as high as the normal desktop has.

UPDATE: Hardware details for Terminal Services: 3 Terminal Services running on Windows Server 2008 which is hosted in vmWare. Users Details: about 120 - 130 users. IT Team: 1 Senior System Admin, 2 System Admin and 1 Help Desk Technician.

Reason to Move Away from TS:

  • Looking for reasonable performance to support the users' workload. Therefore, I need to weigh the cost for upgrade the vmWare machine (such as increase RAM, etc), against the cost to have desktop set up. This involves the time and cost that will be spend to maintain and manager the full desktop set up.
  • Licensing: as we are currently running out of TS Licensing due to a lot of users are working remotely. The initial plan is to use desktop set up in the office, and let the TS handle the users who are working remotely.

The 2 main points above are the reason for this changes.

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one thing you'll need to consider is the mediocre rich media performance with session virtualization (Terminal/Desktop Services). You should look into RemoteFX. Also, you may want to also look into virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). –  gravyface Jun 14 '11 at 0:44
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There's also a nice middle ground with Hyper-V and RDS. I forget its name, but you RDP the same as you normally would, but you get connected to a Hyper-V guest instead of an RDS guest, so you can customise to your hearts delight. I don't know how its licensing/management costs compare to traditional services though. –  Mark Henderson Jun 14 '11 at 1:32
    
Thank you so much for your responses. In the mean time the considerations are needed whether we are staying with Terminal Services or moving away from it, so just use desktop on each desk. At this stage, I am not considering to use VDI or any virtualizations. –  Arief Jun 14 '11 at 1:40
    
You have 3 TS machines for 120+ users running on a single ESX host?! If one machine is acceptable, two is going to be darn good and cost less than 100+ PCs. –  Chris S Jun 15 '11 at 3:24

5 Answers 5

If you're speccing a lot of desktops, I strongly suggest you look into Intel v-Pro or the AMD equivalent.

One of its best features is Out-Of-Band management, so you can remotely access the console of the machine to power on/off, get into BIOS, press Ok at pesky OS prompts, etc. Sort of like the Console features of an iLO or iDRAC.

No more visiting peoples desks (this can be both good or bad, depending on your social skills)

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Thank you for the recommendation. At the moment, I need to weigh the Pro's and Con's between using Terminal Services and the normal desktop. Moving with other technology will depend on the decision of this consideration. –  Arief Jun 15 '11 at 2:03

I've found the tipping point is usually around 100 clients. If your clients all use a very standardized image that fits the TS environment, it's the way to go. This isn't common in smaller businesses, and smaller businesses usually already have desktop infrastructure; the combined cost of new hardware and training usually prohibits the switch.

You're likely in the opposite case, unless your clients need to diversify the software available to them (and solutions like Hyper-V VDI and App-V can't satisfy the requirement) you're likely facing prohibitive CapEx to switch.

I'd venture a wild guess that desktops for your organization will cost $500 each, 100 clients would mean about $50,000 CapEx. The machines should last about the same amount of time as server, so the per year depreciation should be roughly equivalent. Then you'll need staff to install 100 machines instead of 3 server; and I would estimate 1 more SysAdmin (depends on your situation, guessing without the details) to deal with the increased number of 'incidences' at $25k/yr for a part time guy to $60k/yr (more or less depending on your market; keep in mind pay is only ~75% of the cost of an employee).

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I have updated couple of details, so to let the others know the nature why I need inputs from everyone. –  Arief Jun 15 '11 at 2:33
    
A TS CAL is about $75 each; the "Microsoft Tax" built into the cost of a typical business PC is about $80 to $100, licensing is about the same, or marginally cheaper. –  Chris S Jun 15 '11 at 3:25
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+1 good write-up. but, don't forget power costs over time, and other management costs (aside from 'incidents', there are backups, updates, software deployment, etc.). –  Cypher Jun 15 '11 at 6:02

In addition to management costs there are a number of things to consider, not least of which is the hardware costs. Thin clients cost as much, and often more than full workstations, most probably due to the higher costs of manufacturing devices with a more limited market. If you're buying new machines you need to factor in a combination of hardware and license costs to get the total it's really going to cost you.

I've examined the option of using Terminal Services against normal workstations for the company I currently work for and after factoring what we have in the way of hardware have arrived at the following conclusions:

For office workers its preferable to have individual workstations. This allows more flexibility, including the option to take the machine home if it becomes necessary or desirable to work remotely. We currently have a few users doing just that for various reasons.

For the factory staff, where there is one PC per production machine, it is better to use Terminal Services. This is because they use only a single application and need to be tightly locked down. TS makes this much easier. Additionally, I'll be implementing this using Linux based client software (Thinstation), which eliminates a number of Windows licenses and anti-virus licenses. Additionally, because the factory gets all the hand-me-down machines they will perform benefit from running a light Linux distro, compared to a supported version of Windows, which runs like a dog on old hardware.

In my opinion, if you're running a full workstation OS on at least moderately recent hardware and then running everything on Terminal Services you're wasting a lot of resources and money. Unless of course it's your application and/or its licensing that dictates Terminal Services. Remember that in a Windows environment you can control most things via Group Policies, which greatly offsets some of the administrative advantages of TS.

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The thin clients we use are $250 each, and that's for models that support dual monitors. Definitely cheaper than a fat client. –  Chris S Jun 14 '11 at 2:57
    
@Chris, nothing I know of that cheap over here. –  John Gardeniers Jun 14 '11 at 5:44
    
I almost didn't believe you, just looked up the price of the model we use and it's $599 AUD (at the time of writing 1 USD = 1.06 AUD). That's crazy! –  Chris S Jun 14 '11 at 12:22
    
@Chris, that's life for us. Large land mass + small population + distance from everywhere = high prices. The fact that we have more limited choices or makes and models than most countries have doesn't do anything to keep the price down either. –  John Gardeniers Jun 14 '11 at 23:37
    
I agree with you about the office workers and factory workers. In my case, all the users require a reasonable hardware performance to support their workload. That is why I need weigh between upgrade my 3 Terminal Servers and moving to desktop set up. –  Arief Jun 15 '11 at 2:10

Key items you will need, or probably want to have to make your life more pleasant, and consider if you decide to go with a desktop setup.

  1. You will want to create a standardize image and figure out a way to deploy it. Ghost multi-cast, pay someone to run around with a USB stick and install it, etc.
  2. You will need to maintain the licensing. Setup a KMS environment, use MAK key, etc.
  3. You will have to maintain the patch level on these extra clients. Let it auto update, users update, use WSUS?
  4. Whats your AV solution?
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I have fully aware about the additional work load for moving to desktop set up for the users. We have a standard image for the desktop with Norton Ghost. What do you mean by AV Solution? –  Arief Jun 15 '11 at 2:06

I believe that Terminal Services environment will be a much better solution:

1. It will give you the option of centralized management.
2. It will cost you less per client.
3. Supporting TS environment is much easier than running around between desktops.
4. In terms of costs, If your users do not work with heavy processes, you can put about 25-30 users per terminal server and so you will save some amount of money.
  1. Tools like ControlUP

    1: http://www.smart-x.com/products/controlup/ will come very handy and will help you manage your network with the least administrative effort.

  2. Another option is VDI, i recommend you to read a little about it, it could be the solution you are looking for, you can watch this video in order to understand better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsM0FqFcxPM
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