Sun Ray Software 5.1 Bumps Up Virtual and Remote Desktop Infrastructure Support

Oracle continues Sun's remote desktop effort against VMware and Citrix and increases support for Windows 7 and remote desktops running on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Sun Ray Software 5.1 (SRS)-the first upgrade to the desktop virtualization platform since Oracle's acquisition of Sun-includes media, Adobe Flash, audio, USB and multidisplay support.
As such, Oracle is joining the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) battle for the eyes and ears of enterprise end users. VMware with PCoIP, Citrix with HDX, and Microsoft with RemoteRX are all boosting the audio and visual performance characteristics of hosted desktop systems. Oracle hopes that SRS 5.1 will be paired with improved Sun Ray clients for users who want a premium hosted desktop experience.

Oracle Sun Ray Software 5.1 became available on September 27 and is licensed on either a per-named-user or per-Sun-Ray-device basis. Either license costs $100.

Oracle isn't the only VDI maker that depends on specialized hardware to get enhanced graphics and multidisplay graphics support. VMware requires Teradici-equipped displays to take full advantage of PCoIP. Thus, while virtual desktop technology is clearly advancing, IT managers who want to support workloads that go beyond run-of-the-mill word processing and order-entry will need to factor in the cost of the specialized hardware (see review of Sun Ray 3.1 thin clients WHERE?).
Sun Ray Software 5.1 is actually a package of software components, each with a separate name and version number. The two main components in the package are Sun Ray Server Software (SRSS) version 4.2 and Sun Ray Windows Connector (SRWC) version 4.2. Both components are incremental improvements over their respective predecessors. Neither sets new standards for remote access solutions, but both are well appointed and worthy of consideration in enterprises that use Oracle (formerly Sun) remote desktop services.
For IT managers who are already using Sun Ray Software, upgrading should be a fairly easy process. SRSS (the server software portion) 4.2 installer can automatically upgrade a prior release of SRSS with the new features and patches. For those organizations that already use the Windows Connector, the upgrade process is bit more involved. In both cases, prior users of SRS should have little trouble implementing the current version.
I tested SRS 5.1 on a Solaris 10 virtual machine hosted in a VMware vSphere 4.1 environment using Lenovo server hardware. I connected to the SRS 5.1 setup using the latest Sun Ray 3i all-in-one 21.5-inch thin client and Sun Ray 3 standard thin client devices.
Using the SRWC 2.3 connection infrastructure, I was able to use the newly enhanced audio and USB redirection and also saw the improved Adobe Flash media playback features. I used the audio input support to send input from a microphone connected to a Sun Ray 3i. The audio and USB redirection services are welcome capabilities to SRS 5.1, but they don't stand out from the efforts competitors are making to bring high-performance graphics, audio and video to the remote desktop.
Many of the enhancements made to SRS 5.1 are aimed at supporting remote Windows 7 desktops and remote desktops that run on Windows Server 2003 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2. I used Windows Server 2008 R2 to share USB storage devices among multiple clients in my test infrastructure. Aside from sharing the USB device, there was no other special setup required on my part to make the device available for use.
During tests, it was common for me to make changes that disconnected my Windows sessions. New in this version of SRS 5.1 is an auto-reconnect feature that automatically reconnected my Sun Ray clients to the running Windows session without a hitch.
Organizations that are using Sun Ray 3 clients will like the fact that SRS 5.1 automatically upgrades the firmware on these devices to bring them up-to-date for use in an SRS 5.1 environment.