At time of writing, Really Green IT has just completed testing of a fully off-grid fat client (desktop PC) solution at the Business Academy Bexley, the UK’s leading vocational learning academy. The Business Academy was an exceptionally early adopter of green initiatives and has a solar farm installed immediately adjacent to the Secondary section providing almost all of the energy required to power the main building. In addition to the solar farm, Bexley has also installed a Biomass boiler system. It’s fair to say that Bexley are exceptionally forward thinking in the way that they have looked to address carbon footprint considerations and their overall energy usage, and, in keeping with this ethos, the school has recently undergone a full re-fit of their lighting estate, swapping old and inefficient UV lighting for bespoke, cutting-edge LED equivalents. Not satisfied with simply reducing energy spend and carbon emissions, the school has also recently opened their own ‘Green Learning Pod’ which provides students with a learning area for matters relating to carbon footprint and the environmental effects of unfettered energy usage.
The latest initiative undertaken at this most forward-thinking of schools centers around the energy consumed by their computer estate, both at secondary and primary sections. Really Green IT were invited to run a series of ‘proof of concept’ installs with a view to taking all computer estate off-grid, thereby eliminating any related carbon emissions and energy spend. These tests began in Spring 2013 and initially focussed on a zero client solution. Thin and zero client devices use very little energy as the computing power is provisioned at the server-end and not at the clients themselves. The less power used, the easier it is to configure a renewable energy solution – or so we thought!
The initial zero client solution used local servers linked to ‘daisy-chained’ endpoints via Microsoft Multipoint Server. At Bexley, however, there were broader concerns in play. The Academy was adamant that they wanted an end-user computing experience in keeping with that offered by their business-class Hewlett Packard desktop estate. Bexley had also made significant investments in site-wide software licensing including Adobe Mastersuite. Unfortunately, Microsoft Multipoint does not support Adobe Flash Player and so we were forced to look for an alternative solution that ticked all of the required boxes and not just some of them.
It’s fair to say that those outside of the education arena might be surprised as the level of sophistication many schools require in terms of end-user computing experience. Media-rich environments are very much the order of the day in secondary schools, colleges and universities, so it was clear we needed to develop a solution that could cope with memory intensive programs for video and music editing, 3D rendering and other creative and design applications. In short, we needed to find a means to provide enough power from the solar panel estate to allow Bexley to run fat client devices akin to standard PCs from the likes of Hewlett Packard, Lenovo and Dell. In doing so we could ensure that the computing experience was sufficiently sophisticated that it was on a par with mains powered desktop PCs or better. We also needed to ensure that the solar power infrastructure was not prohibitively expensive. After much testing, many sleepless nights and some gnashing of teeth, Extreme Low Energy designed us with a system which not only proved stable and robust but also, according to Bexley IT Manager Michael Payne, ‘knocked spots off’ even their most recently purchased business class PCs, all without drawing any mains power.
Here at Really Green we are very proud of what we have accomplished. The evolution of the current system has not been without its challenges and we are immensely grateful to our strategic technical partner, Extreme Low Energy Ltd and also to the senior leadership team at Bexley whose support and patience has been unwavering. If you would like to understand more about how a similar system might benefit your entity, please in the first instance drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll contact you directly to arrange a demonstration.