By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2006-05-08 Print this article Print

Building on its new relationship with Microsoft, Sun has licensed Microsofts RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol), a new feature that allows for direct connection to a Windows Terminal Server. This means the Sun Ray 2FS will allow IT managers to present a Windows, Sun Solaris or Linux desktop environment to end users, taking advantage of terminal services to virtualize a Windows session.

Released on May 8 for $499, the Sun Ray 2FS packs features such as a built-in dual-head connection and a fiber-optic network port for organizations that want to avoid Ethernet. Combined with an operating system such as Trusted Solaris, the Sun Ray 2FS brings plenty to the table for security-conscious environments.

The Sun Ray 2FS system we tested also had an integrated Java smart-card slot, three USB 2.0 ports, a printer port and an Ethernet port.

Unlike the HP Compaq t5720 thin client, the Sun Ray 2FS has no local operating system and no option to store data of any kind on the unit. The only thing the Sun Ray has is about 300KB of firmware thats used to help control the unit.

IT managers hoping to reduce management costs should consider the Sun Ray thin-client solution. Because there are no moving parts, the management of these units is greatly simplified: There is no local operating system management, no local memory upgrades and no client application management.

eWeek Labs testbed consisted of two Sun Ray 2FS thin-client units attached to a Sun Fire V240 server running Sun Solaris via a NetGear ProSafe 5 Port Gigabit Desktop Switch. Also part of the testbed was an HP xw4300 Workstation with Windows Terminal Services running, to test the capability of the Sun Ray 2FS to virtualize a Windows desktop.

While performance obviously will depend on your network and on how many clients are accessing the Sun Ray server concurrently, we found performance with the Sun Ray 2FS to be quite good.

Click here to read a review of the HP Compaq t5720 thin client.

When virtualizing the Windows desktop, there is no way to get into the Solaris environment beneath it-a nice transition for end users used to working on Windows desktops.

Meanwhile, Apple Computers Boot Camp has nothing on the Sun Ray solution: Whereas you have to shut down Apples Mac OS X operating system and restart to access Windows with Boot Camp, users familiar with both Unix-based and Windows desktops can switch easily among operating systems and applications with the Sun Ray 2FS.

We used two Sun Ray 2FS units to test the thin-client platforms "hot desking" capability, which allows a user to pull the smart card from one thin client, put it in another thin client and get redirected to the same session he or she was working in before the switch was made.

This handy feature will enable, for example, physicians to go easily and securely from one system to another within a hospital and continue their work, as the Sun Ray handled hot-desking tasks like a champ during our tests.


The Sun Ray has multifactor authentication: In addition to the smart card, the thin client also requires a user name and password to log on. And because there is no hard drive, users cannot save data to the thin client, eliminating physical security issues.

The Sun Ray 2FS, which measures 1.09 by 8.46 inches without its stand, is the only thin client on the market with built-in dual-head connectors. The HP Compaq t5720 that we also looked at, for example, requires the purchase of a dual-head card.

The dual-display capability offers 1,920-by-1,200-pixel native resolution at 24-bit color on both monitors and is a welcome feature for users such as stock brokers and graphics designers who need the additional screen real estate. (For a case study on how the Defense Intelligence Agency is using the dual-display capability, see Page 44.)

One area in which the Sun Ray 2FS really impresses is power consumption. Our unit drew only 7.86 watts. In contrast, the HP Compaq t5720 drew 30 watts, and the average PC draws as much as 220 watts.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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