Sun rolls out new Sun Ray thin clients

Company also ships second server based on its Niagara UltraSparc T1 chip

Continuing its push to drive broader adoption of thin-client computing, Sun Microsystems on Wednesday rolled out the second generation of its Sun Ray thin client devices and software, which now can connect to Windows environments.

The company also released the second server based on its "Niagara" UltraSparc T1 chip.

The new ultrathin clients are the Sun Ray 2, a low-end model, and the Sun Ray 2FS, a higher-end version that adds a built-in, fiber-optic connector and dual monitor ports, allowing users to simultaneously connect to two monitors as if they were one unified display. This is particularly useful for stock traders and engineers who need large displays for multiple data-intensive applications, according to Sun.

The Sun Ray 2FS also has additional connectivity ports and supports a higher, 1900x1200 screen resolution.

Both models have smart-card slots to enable "hot desking," which allows users to use Java-based cards to switch devices on the fly, starting up sessions where they left off.

Sun says it has "future proofed" its thin clients with a SIM card slot, like the ones used in mobile phones. A version of Sun Ray software, set to ship in mid-2007, will let administrators configure device settings via the new SIM card slots.

Intel and the GSM Association said last month they are driving an initiative to develop guidelines for integrating SIM cards and 3G (third-generation) modems into laptop computers, to enable users to connect to 3GSM networks and Wi-Fi networks worldwide. Sun said it envisions delivering the "desktop as a service" to thin clients through service providers such as Verizon Communications on an annual subscription basis.

Sun is also touting the low power consumption of the new thin clients, which consume about four watts of power, compared to some 80 watts used by a desktop PC.

Sun has also licensed Microsoft's RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) specification, and will release version 4.0 of its Sun Ray Software next month with an RDP client to allow Sun Ray devices to connect to Windows terminal servers.

Sun is also offering system administrators software it acquired last year from Tarantella, called Secure Global Desktop Software, which lets thin clients access applications on servers running Windows, Linux or Unix.

The Sun Ray 2 and Sun Ray 2FS are available now and are priced at $249 and $499, respectively.

Lowered IT management costs and increased security are often cited as drivers for businesses moving from desktop PCs to thin clients, but while the thin-client market is growing it still comprises just a sliver of the overall PC market. Last year thin-client shipments worldwide increased about 43 percent from the prior year to 2.4 million, according to market research firm IDC. That number is expected to increase to 4.2 million shipments in 2007, which compares to the more than 246 million PCs IDC predicts will ship worldwide in 2007.

Sun also said Wednesday that it had started shipping its low-end Sun Fire T1000 server based on the UltraSparc T1 processor, code-named "Niagara." Pricing for the new 1U server starts at $2,995. Earlier this year Sun starting shipped a higher-end model, the T2000, based on its Niagara processor.

Sun also said that it had completed the design for its next-generation UltraSparc T2 processor, which the company says will ship in the second half of 2007 and will double the performance of the T1 within the same power envelope.

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