Welsh NHS health board reaps time and energy benefits of thin clients

A Welsh health board says it has "radically cut" management time and energy costs with 2,500 thin clients.


A Welsh health board says it has "radically cut" management time and energy costs with 2,500 thin clients.

Cwm Taf University Health Board says the thin clients have delivered a smaller footprint, are faster to deploy, quicker to boot and easier to manage.

Cwm Taf University Health Board covers the local authority areas of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taff. It is a health board responsible for the second most densely populated area in Wales, covering 290,000 people.

The health board has deployed 2,500 IGEL thin clients across its hospitals, clinics, GP surgeries and administration offices.

“We had oscillated between buying new and second hand PCs to use as Citrix terminals but had never been entirely satisfied with this solution,” said John Probert, senior server manager at the health board.

“In places like the hospital theatres, the PCs were just too bulky and we required a more integrated solution to match the flat screen displays we were installing throughout the organisation,” he said.

“The IGEL units use 30W of power compared to our old PC’s that were using 300W. On top of this, the IGEL Universal Management Suite software was very persuasive. It makes the devices simple to deploy and manage.”

Today, the health board has 2,500 IGEL thin clients in use out of a total of 4,500 desktops, and is slowly moving across to other thin clients as old PCs are replaced.

The health board has IGEL UD3 and UD5 Linux devices running a Windows 2008 desktop connected by Citrix XenApp 6 (soon to be upgraded to Citrix XenApp 6.5). There are 120 virtualised Citrix servers using Citrix XenServer as the hypervisor.

“The virtualisation has helped us go from a ratio of approximately 30 physical servers to just four and this has also had a massive positive impact on the space and cooling we need, as well as the energy savings,” said Probert.

As well as the desktops, the hospitals are also using wireless connected IGEL thin clients on their medical carts on the wards. They connect to the network using a dongle via the USB port and are used by medical staff for viewing results and checking records.

The IGEL devices on the carts are much better designed for the job than the old PCs as they are smaller and draw much less power from the battery system, meaning they can work much longer between recharges.

All the health board's devices boot quicker too and also don't need constant individual virus upgrades and anti-malware updates. Another benefit is that patient data is more secure, as information cannot be stored locally on the devices.

Moving forward, the ICT team is looking at the possibility of introducing video conferencing and speech recognition recording using the IGEL devices and capabilities within the IGEL firmware.

Probert said: “We manage the infrastructure with the resources of just four staff who are able to support the IGEL clients via the Universal Management Suite console as a small part of their job.

"We have noticed a significant drop in our power use and have avoided issues like the end-of-life support for Microsoft Windows XP, which many other organisations are now having to grapple with.”

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