By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2005-04-18 Print this article Print

Tarantella Inc.s Secure Global Desktop 4.0 software Appliance Edition is a robust, nonintrusive software appliance that provides secure application access across enterprise infrastructures with mixed server environments.

In eWEEK Labs tests, SGD 4.0, which shipped in February, was easy to use and deploy. We believe the appliance is a good choice for providing quick and secure remote application access for branch offices and mobile workers.

SGD competes with remote application access and management products such as Citrix Systems Inc.s MetaFrame Presentation Server 3.0 and Microsoft Corp.s Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server.

While Citrixs products and Terminal Server are Windows-centric, Tarantellas SGD line supports a wide range of platforms, including Windows, Unix, Linux, Java, AS/400 and mainframe operating systems. IT managers can quickly Web-enable business-critical applications without having to worry about costly platform modifications.

There are three iterations of SGD 4.0: the Enterprise Edition, SGD Software Appliance Edition (which we tested) and SGD Terminal Server Edition. The Enterprise Edition and the Software Appliance Edition are priced at $160 per user for Windows-only systems or $220 per user for Unix-only shops. A combination license that supports Windows, Unix, AS/400 and mainframe operating systems costs $260 per user.

The SGD appliance is software bundled with Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9.0 and can be installed on any x86-based system, meaning shops can leverage their existing hardware. The intuitive installer and configuration wizards make initial deployment a snap, even for users who arent familiar with Linux. Following the installation, we could log in to manage the appliance using almost any Web browser .

IT managers will most likely set up the Tarantella appliance in a three-tier architecture: client on one level, Tarantella Server on the next, and application servers or mainframes on the third. In most cases, the SGD appliance (or an array of them) will sit in the DMZ and serve client sessions to remote users beyond the corporate firewall.

SGD 4.0 supports several security protocols to protect remote application sessions. For simplicity, most sites might want to run all sessions via SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and Windows Domain authentication (as we did). However, more security-conscious shops can integrate SGD into their existing authentication mechanisms, such as PKIs (public-key infrastructures), LDAP 3, Microsofts Active Directory or RSA Security Inc.s SecurID.

Enterprises using Citrixs ICA (Independent Computing Architecture) or Microsoft RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) can run these applications through SGD 4.0 to add an extra layer of security to remote sessions, and SGD can be used in a mixed environment to handle application sessions that are not supported by Citrixs MetaFrame Presentation Server.

SGDs three main tools—the array manager, object manager and configuration wizard—helped us configure appliance settings and user access policies and, most important, publish applications from back-end servers. We found these tools very easy to use.

The array manager defines member servers in an SGD array and controls server settings such as load balancing, licensing, security and application session properties.

Using the object manager window, we created and configured objects such as users, hosts and applications to be used by the SGD appliance. The tool let us define remote-user access privileges, as well as monitor sessions and construct password policies.

The SGD appliance does not offer an auto-discovery tool for finding available applications on back-end servers, so all application publishing must be done manually. We used the configuration wizard to publish every application and to input the path for the program executable. For running commands or scripts on back-end servers, administrators can simply enter the command on the path and publish it to SGD.

On the client side, accessing published applications is easy and often transparent to the user. SGD supports any Java-enabled client via a Web browser, including thin-client devices and PDAs. Users launch applications via a URL to the SGD appliance and can bookmark applications for quick access. SGD 4.0 also publishes a comprehensive desktop to thin-client users via Lightweight HTML.

Tarantellas ALM (Advanced Load Management) technology allows IT managers to optimize performance across server farms and centralize SGD systems from dispersed locations. IT managers can deploy an array of SGD appliances, and ALM will distribute session loads across the array. Added load balancing can also be performed with standard load balancing software or hardware downstream.

In an array configuration, SGD appliances are mirrored, so if one appliance goes down, users are rerouted to another appliance. However, if an SGD appliance fails while a user session is active, theres no failover capability in place to recover the session.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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