Linux in Government: Linux Desktop Reviews, Part 4 - JDS
During the launch of Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS), the company touted its product as a real alternative to Microsoft Windows. During an interview, Peder Ulander, the then director of marketing for the Desktop Solutions team at Sun, said, "The Java Desktop System is a comprehensive and secure enterprise desktop environment that runs on Solaris and Linux. It provides the enterprise with the first viable alternative to Windows in 15 years, by offering a complete feature set at a fraction of the cost of a Windows upgrade."
Peder also said:
From the perspective of a feature-to-feature comparison, we offer more than a traditional Microsoft solution, since we are integrating applications such as StarOffice and an email and collaboration program. These services cost an additional $600 on a Windows platform. At the end of the day, we focused on building a complete solution that would enable CIOs to easily migrate their transactional and knowledge workers from their existing solution to a more open, secure, and cost-effective alternative. We have integrated the major application components, made the desktop extremely intuitive and easy to use, and leveraged the security of a UNIX-based operating environment. This saves CIOs money both in Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Total Cost of Acquisition (TCA).
Fifteen months later, we have not seen the market embrace Sun's entry. Is JDS, in fact, ready as an enterprise desktop? Have other factors interfered with Sun's marketing efforts? Let's take a look.
As Peder indicated in the quote above, the Java Desktop System runs on Solaris and Linux. At the time of that article, however, Sun had released only JDS for Linux. Most analysts therefore believed Sun planned a Linux strategy with JDS. Many of Sun's Reseller partners also viewed JDS as a Linux strategy.
In actuality, Sun's enterprise desktop strategy involves an infrastructure change. To make money, Sun has to move hardware. Sun first and foremost is a hardware company, and its operating systems exists mainly to sell hardware. Similar statements have been made about Apple's software--it exists only to move hardware.
If you contact Sun about its alternate desktop, the company is likely to present you with a proposal to move from standard PC hardware to its Ray thin client infrastructure. You can find Ray client-server information on Sun's solution page. Ray thin client hardware is one of Sun's major lines of business.
When you connect the dots, Sun's Ray opportunity appears chaotic. Let's look at some inconsistencies in what the company says and does. First, to use the Sun Ray system, you need a server-level computer and an operating system that can support the Sun Ray 3.0 server-side software. The workstations connected to the server hardware do not run copies of the operating system or any other software. They are stateless and consist primarily of a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. The server runs the operating system and the Sun Ray Server 3.0 software. The server-side software paints the pixels on the thin-client monitors, and users thinks they are using a full-fledged PC.
The current version, Sun Ray Server Software 3.0, runs with UltraSPARC servers using Solaris 8, Solaris 9 and/or Trusted Solaris 8. Solaris 10 does not support the Sun Ray server-side software. These Solaris versions require UltraSPARC processors; Solaris x86 does not support the Sun Ray 3.0 server-side software.
Sun Ray Server 3.0 also runs on x86 processor computers running three operating systems: Sun's Linux JDS operating system Release 2, Red Hat Enterprise Server AS 3 and SUSE Enterprise Linux 8, all in 32 bit mode. Sun's Linux JDS Release 2 supports the Sun Ray server-side software. Release 3 of the Linux JDS is slated for launch later in 2005, but it does not support the Ray server-side software as it is based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server version 9.
To use the Sun Ray server, one has to configure a supported hardware platform, load one of the supported operating systems mentioned above and install the Sun Ray Server 3.0 software product. The Sun Ray Server 3.0 uses the underlying operating system to paint the thin client desktop. So, if you use Solaris 9, users see only the older GNOME 1.4 or 2.0 desktop--not JDS. If you use Linux JDS Release 2, the Sun Ray Server 3.0 paints the thin client monitors with JDS R2. Note: Linux JDS R2 uses SUSE Linux Enterprise Server version 8.0.
Now one can see why Sun had to use the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server when building its enterprise desktop. You need a server-class product to power the Sun Ray thin clients. On a single-user machine, Linux JDS might seem like overkill. Just consider it a powerful Linux workstation.
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