NSW Traffic Authority eyes open source thin clients

In an effort to reduce its desktop TCO by at least 25 percent, the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority will start implementing open source thin clients as early as June this year.

According to documents obtained by Computerworld, the project aims to achieve the "maximum degree of open standards [and] open source" with an eye on cost reduction.

However, the "Centralised Desktop Project" should maintain current functionality and interoperability" with Microsoft desktops for as many features as possible in the long term, the documents say.

The move is consistent with CIO Greg Carvouni's vision of standards-based computing at the RTA, which has already seen the migration of part of core messaging infrastructure from Microsoft's Windows to Sun's SunOne environment, as announced in mid-2004.

While no specific reference to Linux was made in the document, one source familiar with the RTA's plans said Linux vendor Novell is "most likely" to win the contract. If so, it will tie in with the RTA's existing installations of Novell identity and client management products such as Zenworks.

With around 5500 office PCs and notebooks running Windows 2000 Professional and 1200 Apple iMacs in motor registries, the move to thin clients is earmarked for the office environment.

"The RTA would like to review the market for centralized desktop systems prior to deciding on the long term desktop strategy for non-registry users," the document stated. "Within ICT, desktops are seen as commodity items with significant potential for cost reduction due to emerging technology and dated existing systems."

The document described the new thin client centralized desktop as a "more radical approach" with "stretch targets that will only be achieved over some time". These targets include centralizing all servers, minimizing server count as the RTA's Fujitsu-managed data centre costs are "essentially server-driven", comprehensive remote management, and software that conforms to open standards and "preferably be open sourced and supported by the proponent".

Additional technical objectives include a desktop interface "as rich as" and "similar to" the existing Microsoft environment, and that no data be stored locally on the desktop but in the data centre. It is anticipated that user profile and site-related data will be downloaded when the user logs on.

An RTA spokesperson told Computerworld that by June this year the RTA will have deployed thin client open standards on about 1500 Apple iMacs, up from 1200 now.

"It is anticipated another 1500 to 2000 Windows desktops [will] be converted to thin clients with the solution, bringing thin client desktops to about 3000 to 3500 representing half of the RTA total of 7000," the spokesperson said.

In line with the centralized desktop project, the RTA is also implementing a centralized backup and archival solution which is leading to a removal of backup devices from local offices and about 40 to 60 percent of data in the distributed environment. This data is being moved to EMC Centra storage systems in the data centre.

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