Sun unveils, shows off a new ultra-thin client

IDG News Service

Sun Microsystems Inc. last week unveiled its Sun Ray 1 network appliance in a bid to cut management, maintenance and upgrade costs for businesses further than previous thin-client devices have allowed.

Unlike prior network computers—including Sun's own JavaStation—the Sun Ray device requires no processing on the client side, according to Sun officials. Sun Ray essentially displays applications running on the server side and provides an input mechanism that enables users to access those applications.

"We have created a stateless and computeless desktop to get you off the upgrade track for good," said Ed Zander, Sun's president and chief operating officer.

The Sun Ray measures 11 inches by 12 inches and is 4 inches thick. It incorporates Sun's MicroSPARC chip, 8M of RAM and a smart card reader, but no operating system. The current version of the machine offers no ability to attach local storage.

The device works in conjunction with the company's new Sun Ray enterprise server software and Hot Desk software technology. The server software provides user authentication services and manages software sessions between the client and server hardware. It also gives users access to networked peripherals.The Hot Desk software, in conjunction with the smart card reader incorporated into the Sun Ray, lets users call up their applications from any Sun Ray device. Users need only to slip their smart card into a Sun Ray to access their applications from the server, Sun officials said.

In a demonstration of the Sun Ray at the kickoff of Sun's Enterprise Computing Forum, Sun officials showed how a user can pull out a smart card in the middle of typing a word processor document, then, without logging off or logging on, slip the card into another Sun Ray device to call up the document, with the device displaying the last word typed on the earlier machine.

Sun officials said that a future version of the device will enable local storage devices to be connected through Universal Serial Bus ports, though they gave no time frame for the upgrade.

Sun is offering the Sun Ray, for workgroups of 50 to 200 users, at less than $30 per month per user in a bundle that includes the StarOffice software suite, keyboard and mouse, a 17-inch Sun monitor, and Sun Ray enterprise server software.

The Sun Ray devices are priced at $9.99 per month, but do not include a monitor and require that the Hot Desk and Sun Ray enterprise server software be purchased separately, starting at $495 per CPU server. Individual Sun Rays are priced at $499 for purchase, without monitor or server-side software.


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