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New technology could mean big savings for Chemeketa

By Matthew Skog

Chemeketa’s Information Technology department is always searching for new ways to save you money.

Recent advancements in Ultra- Small Form Factor (USFF) computers, such as Intel’s book-sized Next Unit of Computing products, have the potential to drastically reduce costs without diminishing the user experience.

Technology analyst Luke Walker has been with Chemeketa for more than 20 years and is a certified Intel gold partner.

“Our goal here in IT is to provide the best experience we can, in the most cost-effective way we can,” he said. “These Intel NUCs save us about $200 per computer.

“But that’s just the upfront savings. They have no moving parts or fans, so maintenance costs are minimal as well. They don’t even need an annual cleaning.

“Add on top of that the energy savings, and you can see how these machines will save us a lot of money.”

Walker provided an example.

“The type of desktop computers you’ll find in most labs on campus pull about 50 watts of electricity under normal use– these NUCs pull 4,” he said. “That’s some serious energy savings.”

But cost isn’t the only advantage that these small form-factor computers bring.

“They mount to the back of the computer screen, so it’s a huge desk space savings,” Walker said.

“And because the NUCs have no case fans or moving parts, they’re completely silent.”

Walker said that the performance of the NUCs is virtually identical to that of a desktop tower for most classroom uses, and that the average user would not be able to discern the difference.

The machines aren’t perfect, though.

“The only thing missing is a CD/ DVD player, but those are available in USB format if needed,” Walker said.

“The computer-aided design/drafting labs also need more computing power and a discrete graphics adapter than the NUCs can provide. But beyond that, we don’t see any issues for most student labs.”

Arnold Goth, a computer technician at Chemeketa, said the move toward these small form-factor computers was in the best interest of the college.

“Off the top of my head, I’d say 90 percent to 95 percent of computers here could be replaced by NUCs,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with them; it’s just the next phase.

“I’m in favor of it. I think it’s a great idea, and it’s going to save a lot of money.”

But Goth also isn’t without some concerns.

“With a tower, the pieces come out,” he said. “The whole thing breaks down into a dozen pieces. You could take out a motherboard and replace it. If you’re really slick, you could solder something on the motherboard.

“But with a NUC? If something breaks, there’s nothing for us to do. It’s just like with a tablet: when it dies, there isn’t anything I can do.”

While desktop computers may be being phased out on campus, Goth said the shift doesn’t mean that they are a thing of the past.

The PC gaming hardware market is worth an estimated $21.5 billion – and for that reason alone, “desktop towers aren’t going away anytime soon.

“But for the money, and the convenience, and a lot of other good reasons, I think this change is a good thing,” Goth said.

The NUCs are currently being field-tested in a single lab in the journalism department in Bldg. 2. But if all goes well, Walker said he expected to see a transition to more units through- out the campus starting next summer.

“This is just the next progression

in computing,” he said. “We’ve seen a serious migration to mobile, and it’s all getting smaller and cheaper. It’s just the direction the industry is going.”

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