Sun whips its Sun Ray thin client into better shape
Sun Ray platform makes strides in Unix-based computingFollow @pvenezia
In its infancy, Sun’s Sun Ray was a network-clobbering, sometimes stuttering example of what thin-client computing on Unix-like systems could be. Now it’s much more stable and much, much thinner.
The Sun Ray thin-client computing platform is actually a combination of hardware and software. At the hardware end, there are two new clients available. The modest Sun Ray 2 offers 10/100 Ethernet, sound, and USB support. The Sun Ray 2FS is larger but adds 100FX support for greater security at the transport level, as well as the ability to run dual monitors. Both clients are outfitted with SmartCard readers to support two-factor authentication.
On the software end, the clients require the Sun Ray Software package. This includes all the server-side components that deliver a desktop to the client devices. A rather rudimentary Web management UI that can display connected clients, users, and SmartCard information is also included.
In the lab, I set up a Sun V20 Server running Solaris 10 for Sparc, and two Sun Ray 2FS clients, each with a single 20-inch LCD monitor. The network between the server and the Sun Ray clients was a dedicated 100Mbps segment, with another NIC on the server linked to the overall lab network. With the server running, powering on a Sun Ray client would bring up a Solaris Desktop log-in quite quickly, and from there, the experience was more or less like working on a local system, including stereo sound and USB device support.
Hot Desking is one of the major features the Sun Ray provides, and it works very well. In the middle of a user session, removing the SmartCard from the front of the client will revert the client back to a log-in window. Placing the card into another client will bring up a log-in window, and with a valid password, the user’s entire session appears exactly as it was on the original client. This is similar to session disconnects on Windows Terminal Services or Citrix but with the additional security measure and ease provided by the SmartCard.
Furthermore, the Sun Ray clients are truly stateless devices. Whereas some thin clients come with an embedded OS, such as XP Embedded, Sun Ray clients have no onboard OS, but rather very simple firmware that can connect to a remote server. Thus, they require no significant management and will pull new firmware versions when prompted by the server during their boot process. The Sun Ray Software also permits deploying Sun Ray servers in a fail-over scenario with both servers present on the dedicated network. The Web-based management UI is nothing to write home about, but it does give a reasonable picture of the client status and overall system availability.
Next, I built an RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 3 x86 server on a VMware ESX 3 server instance running on an IBM System x3550 server. After linking the virtual network interfaces to the two physical NICs in the server and building the Sun Ray client network as a dedicated segment, I installed the Sun Ray Software for Linux on the server. The installation was quick and relatively painless, as was running the brief network configuration script. After rebooting the server, the Sun Ray kernel modules loaded, and the Sun Ray clients booted to a RHEL 3 log-in screen. This time, however, I put both monitors on a single Sun Ray 2FS client. After restarting the Sun Ray services on the server, the client booted with both panels active for a 3,200x1,200 desktop.