Sun whips its Sun Ray thin client into better shape
Sun Ray platform makes strides in Unix-based computingFollow @pvenezia
Sun boasts that the bandwidth utilization required by each client is approximately 300Kbps down and 128Kbps up. These numbers seem slightly low, but not terribly so. With the dual-monitor configuration, the downstream bandwidth numbers are roughly double that of a single-monitor client. All network traffic to and from the clients is UDP-based, and my measurements showed that at 768Kbps down and 128Kbps up, the dual-monitor client was barely usable: There were many screen artifacts when dragging windows, and sound quality was truly terrible.
At slightly higher rates, these problems were drastically reduced, and at 1.5Mbps, completely gone. Testing with a single-monitor client had these rates decreasing by about 60 percent, so I wouldn’t go lower than 512Kbps downstream in a production situation. Of course, trying to squeeze native X11 through pipes that small is impossible.
To truly test the solution, I let some dust settle on my dual-Opteron workstation running Fedora Core 5 for one week, working exclusively on the Sun Ray 2FS client with dual monitors running on the RHEL3 Sun Ray server. In fact, I wrote this review in OpenOffice on a Sun Ray session. Even for a power user, it’s quite usable, with the occasional display artifact or sluggishness when dragging windows around, but largely unnoticeable.
I did experience some problems with audio support, requiring all mixer settings to be set to the maximum level to get even low-volume audio, which was quite distorted by the high gain. Sun is preparing a patch to address this issue and sent me a prerelease, which largely fixed the problem. Still, I had occasional problems with audio volume and quality following a hot desk switch.
To reach the Windows market, Sun has released the Sun Ray Connector for Windows, which essentially runs a full-screen Windows Remote Desktop client on the Sun Ray client. This approach may seem like the long way around to those with a history of Windows-based thin-client implementations, but it does work.
Support for a modern Linux distribution would be quite welcome because my biggest problem working exclusively on the Sun Ray for the week was the rather elderly base of RHEL3, although Sun plans on introducing support for RHEL4 sometime this year. I’ve had a chance to look at the beta release of the next version, and aside from a few bugs, it builds and runs on RHEL4, which is a very welcome step.
If delivering a secure, manageable Solaris or Windows desktop is the goal, the new Sun Ray solution is worth a look. The bells and whistles are not just fluff when you need to deploy dual-monitor support or have a highly secure fiber network.