SANG-HA replaces PCs with Sun thin clients

Sun Microsystems has secured its biggest StarOffice win yet in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. The vendor has supplied the Saudi Arabian National Guard Health Affairs (SANG-HA) with SunRay desktop systems and StarOffice licenses to replace its existing Microsoft-based PCs.

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By  Caroline Denslow Published  May 8, 2005

Sun Microsystems has secured its biggest StarOffice win yet in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. The vendor has supplied the Saudi Arabian National Guard Health Affairs (SANG-HA) with SunRay desktop systems and StarOffice licenses to replace its existing Microsoft-based PCs. The deal sees Sun deploying 1,500 SunRay thin client desktop systems and 4,000 StarOffice licenses in several SANG-HA sites such as the King Fahd Hospital in Riyadh, King Khalid Hospital in Jeddah, and the King Abdul Aziz healthcare facilities in the eastern region of the Kingdom. The Arabic-enabled nature of the StarOffice productivity suite and the lower investment level required by Sun’s thin client offering was what attracted SANG-HA to the solution. “Infrastructure development is a major focus area for us, and the ability to use Sun’s Arabic-enabled StarOffice suite and lower operational costs at the same time is making a major impact on SANG-HA’s bottom line,” said Dr. Majid Al Tuwaijri, executive director for information systems and informatics, SANG-HA. Aside from costs and maintenance issues, security was a main concern for SANG-HA, said Graham Porter, Sun’s marketing manager for the Middle East and North Africa. “When you buy a PC, in three years you throw it away. It’s a big capital expenditure. There are also huge problems managing it because frequently you need someone onsite. That means a lot of people are roaming around fixing problems on PCs. Viruses have also been a huge issue because end users were able to install any software or download applications from the internet and run it on their machines,” explained Porter. “When you’re running a hospital, the last thing you’ll need on your computer network is a virus. Timely access to information is critical when you are dealing with people’s health,” he added. “With SunRays, it actually brings the control back to the IT department, instead of letting the end users control what they are doing.” Sun also supplied SANG-HA with Java Cards to add another layer of security, said Porter. The idea of deploying a thin-client structure in its facilities has been in the pipeline for a while but because the costs of the servers needed to manage the desktops were high, SANG-HA decided to postpone it, revealed Porter. “They have looked at thin client solutions before for a few years, but they were concerned about the cost of the servers needed to run it. Two or three years ago, for every 50 SunRay thin clients that were deployed they needed to spend about US$25,000 on a server to manage them, but that price-point has come down to about US$7,000 today,” Porter said. Porter considers the project as phase one as SANG-HA is also looking at standardising its IT environment throughout the Kingdom, although plans for additional thin-client deployments have not been finalised. “They are still looking. They are doing it in phases and they are looking at more installations right now. They are considering how they can standardise their IT environment, so yes they are considering right now how they are going to take phase one [further] and what they can do for the rest of their organisation,” Porter said. Sun’s partner in Riyadh, Jeraisy Computer & Communication Systems, implemented the new desktop environment for SANG-HA. Citrix’s MetaFrame solution (now called Access Suite) was installed on SANG-HA’s Solaris-based servers to allow its users to access their old Microsoft applications on the SunRay machines, said Porter. Sun is currently holding user acceptance and training sessions with SANG-HA’s end users. Sun also announced that it plans to release the next version of StarOffice in July. StarOffice 8 will include “dramatically improved Microsoft Office compatibility,” the company said on its Web site. It will support new features such as password protection for Word and Excel documents and spreadsheets, and PowerPoint AutoShapes.

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