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VDI, Classroom Style

Thanks to my colleague Jeff Schwartz for sending me the following interesting and unique VDI item.

A Canadian company named Userful Corporation says that since 2002, it has been offering a Linux desktop virtualization product called User Multiplier, that allows one PC to support up to 10 independent users simultaneously. All the users need are their own monitors, keyboards and mice. The product features automatic configuration and offers multimedia capabilities such as full-screen/full-motion video.

Multiplier is most popular in government, educational and SMB organizations that are running on tight budgets.

Userful touts Multiplier by saying it "turns one PC into 10," and creates "$69 virtual desktops." Multiplier 3.7, the most recent version of the product, expands on the multilingual capabilities of its predecessors by adding new "internationalizations" that make the product useful in more than 100 countries around the world.

Userful tells a very happy, it's-all-good, Multiplier story, declaring, "By using Userful Multiplier in the K-12 classrooms, our customers have reported saving over 50% on their desktop hardware costs, an average of 62% on electricity costs, and additional savings on costly Internet drops, switches, network wiring and other infrastructure and support costs. The multi-seat Linux desktops allow our customers to stretch their limited IT budgets, and use those savings to provide better computer access for all students in their region."

So what's not to like? So little that Userful claims Multiplier has "paved the way" for Microsoft's new Windows MultiPoint Server 2010, which provides the proverbial rich Windows PC experience to students who combine the same hardware devices used by Multiplier with Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services (formerly Terminal Services).

According to a recent blog by Microsoft's Director of Environmental Technology Strategy, Mark Aggar, the likes of Multiplier and MultiPoint Server 2010 are especially appropriate for school districts that have a limited number of laptops for their students, as well as for Internet cafes and libraries.

Aggar describes a demo in which 16 monitors simultaneously play 720P HP video using the processing power of a single PC powered by an Intel Core i7 system, noting "This particular feat was aided by a new feature available in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 that allows for full screen video rendering within a remote Terminal Services session. If you have two Windows 7 PCs, you can try this for yourself -- just open up a WMV file from within a remote desktop session on another W7 PC and prepare to be amazed."

Then, of course, there are the green ramifications, which Aggar lists, starting with the reduction of waste due to the presence of far fewer processors, disks, RAM, and additional electronic components. Beyond that, he cites reduced power requirements and says "Not only is there less e-waste to deal with at the end of the day, but it makes it far more feasible (financially and practically) to upgrade the central PC's components (e.g. bigger disks, more RAM) than it would for multiple PCs -- quite often, it's just easier and ultimately cheaper to replace the PCs altogether."

In the end, happy, engaged students meet eco-friendly computing products, and increase their learning power, while grateful school administrators save big bucks and please demanding parents.

Userful can be reached at, or toll-free across North America at 866-873-9008.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 02/16/2010 at 12:48 PM


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