Sep 27 2013
Data Center

The ROI of VDI: Colleges Go Thin for Good Reason

Replacing traditional desktop PCs with thin clients resulted in dramatic savings for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

What’s not to love about thin clients and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)? Zero clients have a longer shelf life than the average desktop or notebook PC, cost less to operate and require almost no maintenance. When it comes to security, they are virtually impenetrable to malware and hacker attacks. Mobility? Students can use their own tablets or notebooks to connect to the virtual desktops from wherever they are.

With minimal RAM, low-cost processors and no hard drives, thin clients also cost a fraction of the price of a new desktop. Still, their true savings are realized through improved efficiencies, says Tom Hoover, associate vice chancellor and CIO at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC).

Figuring the ROI of VDI

Does VDI pay off in the long run? Hoover compared a VDI setup using 200 NComputing thin clients with one deploying the same number of traditional desktop PCs.

Despite the higher cost of virtualization software and licenses, the cost savings are dramatic:







Cost per device



Cost per device


Total hardware cost



Total hardware cost


VDI licenses and servers



VDI licenses and servers







Hoover calculated that each device would save the university more than $500 apiece on the initial purchase price alone. That figure did not factor in thin clients’ longer refresh cycles or savings on annual maintenance contracts.

Hoover’s projections for energy savings are even more dramatic:



Number of devices

Cost per month

Cost per year

Cost over 10 years

PC (150 W)





Thin client (5 W)





Cost savings






UTC’s decision to go with thin clients running VDI proved 90 percent more energy efficient and cost the university half of what it would have paid for traditional PCs, Hoover says.

Access Hoover’s full presentation on VDI savings here:


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