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Client Computers

Off-the-shelf consumer-level PCs are cheaper today than ever before, and assembling the components necessary to build a useful inventory for ACME's desktops can be accomplished rather quickly. Volume purchases can bring the cost of these desktops to even lower levels, and many PCs are equipped with more-than-adequate CPU horsepower, RAM, drive storage, and other built-in features to support productive desktop sessions.

However, several factors can affect the choice of a client computer base for ACME's computing infrastructure when using Linux. One issue is how users will be managed. Will users be able to use local hard drive storage? Should users, user applications, and drive storage be centralized on a server? Should thin clients be deployed and Linux booted over a network from a centralized server? Do any of ACME's users require workstations with more capabilities than a standard desktop? Will laptops be deployed for ACME's mobile workforce?

Linux vs. W2K at the Client

This section describes and outlines Linux and Windows software for desktop and workstation use. Much of ACME's operations involve simple desktop operations, and the bulk of its 500 users will be more than amply served by a base operating system and office productivity tools. These tools include an office suite providing word processing and spreadsheet calculations, and Internet-related tools supporting electronic mail and Web browsing.

Linux System and Software

For a truly inexpensive approach to desktop operating system acquisition and use, ACME could turn to Red Hat's free Red Hat Linux 8.0 distribution for desktop operations. ACME's servers may be easily configured to enable network installation of this desktop via FTP or HTTP, and the base install may be customized to either limit or expand the variety and type of software installed on a user's PC.

Table 4 showed a listing of Red Hat commercial products for the desktop. Table 10 details a few of the common graphical desktop productivity applications included with all popular Linux distributions (including Red Hat), along with a commercial office productivity suite available from Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Table 10—Linux Productivity Software, Purpose, and Cost

Client Applications




Word processing

Free; no royalties or licensing


electronic mail; calendaring; intranet/Internet news; task and contact management

Free; no royalties or licensing


Spreadsheet operations

Free; no royalties or licensing


Web browsing, HTML creation; electronic mail; Usenet news reading

free; no royalties or licensing

Netscape Communicator

Web browsing, HTML creation; electronic mail; Usenet news reading

Free; no royalties or licensing


Word processing; spreadsheet calculations; image editing; presentations

Free; no royalties or licensing


Word processing; spreadsheet calculations; image editing; presentations

Free; no royalties or licensing


Word processing; spreadsheet calculations; image editing; presentations; database operations

$75.95 single client; $1500 for 25 clients; $50.00 each per 150 users to $25.00 each per up to 10,000 users



W2K System and Software

This section provides a short table outlining the costs of various Windows desktop operating systems and software. Table 11 shows the difference in retail costs for two base desktop operating systems, whereas Table 12 outlines the retail costs of various products in the office suite family of products. Note that Windows 2000 or Windows XP provide base support only for third-party or Microsoft productivity software, and do not include such applications.

Table 11—Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Costs




Windows 2000 Professional

Provides base client operating system for a PC

$319 per seat; volume licensing available

Windows XP Professional

Same as above; latest version of Windows desktop OS

$299 per seat; volume licensing available

Table 12—Microsoft Office Productivity Software, Components, and Costs





word processing; spreadsheet calculations; presentations; electronic mail, electronic mail; calendaring; task and contact management

$479 per seat; volume discounts available


word processing; spreadsheet calculations; presentations; electronic mail, electronic mail; calendaring; task and contact management; low-end database operations

$579 per seat; volume discounts available


word processing; spreadsheet calculations; presentations; electronic mail, electronic mail; calendaring; task and contact management; low-end database operations; HTML development; development tools

$799 per seat; volume discounts available





User Training/Productivity

Both Red Hat and Microsoft provide training and certification programs at a variety of levels and at locations around the United States. On-site training support is also available at a premium cost and on-line training may be used as an alternative to avoid travel costs.

Microsoft certifications come in a variety of flavors, such as the base Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credential, the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA), Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCT), Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD), Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD), and Microsoft Office Specialist (Office Specialist) and Microsoft Office Specialist Master Instructor.

Red Hat's training and certification spans a thinner field with a focus on skill sets aimed at advanced configuration, use, management, and administration of Red Hat Linux. Candidate Red Hat Certified Engineers can pursue the RHCE Rapid Track Course, RH033 Red Hat Linux Essentials, RH133 Red Hat Linux System Administration, or RH253 Red Hat Linux Networking and Security Administration courses. Experienced Microsoft engineers can sharpen transition skills using RH033 or the more basic RH300 introductory course.

Refer to Tables 6 and 7 for a sampling of courses related to server administration (and for Red Hat Linux, basic user training).




Pick a Winner/Workstation

Outfitting a single desktop using a Microsoft operating system and office suite generally exceeds the actual cost of the computer hardware, especially in base office PC hardware platforms. Complete office and desktop PC solutions are now available from many large vendors or sources in the less-than-$400-range, and even less if purchased with an installed operating system.

Outfitting ACME's 500 desktops using Red Hat Linux can range from a retail cost of $0 to $75,000. This wide range is based on how Linux is deployed, and does not take into account the cost of time and effort of setup and installation. Table 13 details several product approaches that ACME could employ in outfitting its computers with Red Hat Linux. Discounts may apply from Red Hat, Inc.

Table 13—Red Hat Linux 8.0 Deployment

Product Type




Red Hat Linux 8.0 (free)




Red Hat Linux 8.0 Personal


$39.95 each


Red Hat Linux 8.0 (free) and Red Hat manual sets


$49.95 each


Red Hat Linux 8.0 Professional


$149.95 each


Outfitting ACME's 500 desktops using Microsoft software can range from a retail cost of $407,177 to $467,177. The range of costs is based on the type of operating system used and office software purchased, and includes retail client-access licensing for server access. Obviously, the actual cost will be much lower, depending on volume discounts derived from licensing options. PC system purchases with bundled operating system and office software can bring discounts even lower. It is interesting to note that the office productivity software expense exceeds the cost of the operating system, and it is reasonable to expect this ratio to be present, even with volume discounts. Table 14 details several product approaches ACME could employ in outfitting its computers using Microsoft software.

Table 14—Microsoft Operating System and Software Deployment17

Product Type




Windows XP


$299 each


Windows 2000


$319 each


CALs (Windows 2000 Server)


$799 per 20


Office (Standard)


$479 each


Office (Professional)


$579 each



Red Hat Linux 8.0 is the obvious answer as a cost-effective, reliable desktop solution for ACME's user base, even considering deep discounts on Microsoft operating system, office suite, and client-access licensing schemes. ACME can build its desktop user base for literally the cost of the computing hardware and without the need for software audits or license tracking of installed software. Even using the most expensive retail packaged consumer version, Red Hat Linux Professional will cost one-fifth of outfitting ACME using similarly capable Microsoft products.

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