Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - 9:44am

A new OneIT@Iowa program encourages Drupal Digital Signage Service customers to retire old computers used to run their signs in exchange for free, energy-efficient compute sticks.

The Drupal Signage Hardware Exchange Program enables units to replace aging computer hardware with new Intel Compute Sticks, which are small, reliable, and easy to maintain.

OneIT budgeted $10,000 for the refreshes, and expects a strong return on investment for campus. An estimated 75 signs are eligible for the swap. The four-year operating cost of a PC running a sign around the clock is almost $1,000. Running it on a compute stick costs $52.

Anticipated savings will come from several directions. The sticks are far less expensive than PCs—only about $140 each. About the size of a small TV remote, the sticks use a fraction of the power—16 kwh compared to 200-300 kwh for a full-scale computer. When units use the Drupal service, which is free since it uses open-source software, they avoid annual licensing fees of $132 per device that would be paid for vended software used to run other signage solutions.

There are economies in staff time as well. Project Manager Isaac Podolefsky of College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Technology Services identified the Intel hardware as a potential option and worked with ITS Enterprise Client Management staff to create a common system image for the sticks. The consistent configurations simplify deployment and maintenance. The sticks are also programmed to detect issues, automatically reboot, and kick out an email if there are issues with the sign.

Units interested in participating in the Drupal Signage Hardware Exchange Program should contact UI-Signage@uiowa.edu. The requirements are:

  • All requests must be received by April 1, 2016.
  • This program is for existing digital signage implementations, not new installations.
  • The existing device must be sent to surplus.
  • Reimbursement is only available for Intel Computer Sticks; no other devices are eligible.
  • Departments must cover the networking and power costs to run the devices.