Why would you not want a SunRay?

The answer is: "if you want 3D graphics".

If like me you don't need this day to day, then SunRay is just a winner. Given this I am constantly suprised by how much like using a SunRay is like owning a Mac. Everyone who does not use one will tell you how there is no way they will work for them, and all those using them think they are great. True they are only as good as the server that drives them but given that “half” the server that is driving ours has 4 cpus, each with 2 cores and loads, memory, Gigabit Ethernet and runs the latest build of S10 and the other “half” is in f act 2/3rds that is very good indeed. Not many non SunRay users get that for a desktop.

Each time I remove the card from the SunRay and walk to another location, insert it, and my desktop is just there I see the benefit. Walking into the lab, going into an office for a con call, showing a colleague a problem, all are a winner. And Xinerama works flawlessly with the twin headed one, even wen you then move to a single headed SunRay in the lab.

Yet still people who don't use SunRay say they won't work for them. Odd. For driver development I use a lab system, which I access via ssh(1) or via the console server we have. For running a strange window system, I use, SunRay (remote login can be done), for crash dump analysis the SunRay server has lots of memory and is great, resource management keeps it going for other users.

Often it is because people use their desktop to reproduce problems, but SunRay does not prevent that behaviour though it can be painful when you reproduce the hard hang on your desktop, much better to use a lab system to reproduce the problem and SunRay to manage your display, allowing you to keep working, and then move to the lab to stare at the blinking (or not) lights when the time comes and still take your desktop with you.

O.k. Some engineers just have to have the root password to to “their” system I achieve all that I need in that area by using a zone on the SunRay server which I use dtlogin to access remotely. I can do all the fiddling I feel I must, which is more than most people, in the safety of my zone while the rest of the group are either in their owns zones or in the global zone. Unbundled software can be installed, I can have DNS as my prime name service for hosts, IPv6 can be running and I can reboot just like when I had a workstation, but my “workstation” now has 4 cpus and 8 cores, loads of memory, Gigabit Ethernet and mirrored disks that I don't have to worry about.

True you can fake most of the SunRay functionality up using VNC and x11vnc, but when you do this you have to be sure to secure the keyboard of your desktop, and while good VNC and x11vnc are not a easy to use and do not perform as well. Indeed I do this with the SunRay to allow me to grab my session from home or from my laptop, but securing the keyboard with SunRay is as easy as removing your SunRay card, or if not using a card typing “utdetach”.

Would I have “my” workstation back?

Only if it could be configured as a SunRay server.

What would I like to have next?

My zone to be configured as a SunRay server.

So the question remains: Why would you not want a SunRay?

Comments:

Ques: Why not? Ans 1: Because the SunRay server software does not run on Solaris x86 and you want to take advantage of the superb performance offered by Solaris x86 on commodity hardware. Ans 2: You're not really convinced that the SunRay server is as fast as the X-Server I'm sitting in front of right now: almost 3 yr old dual AMD MP based system (still beats a dual 900MHz USIII (280R with 4-way interleaved RAM)) recently upgraded to Sol 9 update 7 and an ATI 9800XT graphcis adapter. Runs XF4.whatever - was running Xigs server for a long time under Solaris 8. Thanks for the blog. Some useful info and you make your points very well. Of course, by the time Sun gets around to the Sunray server running under Solx86 we'll probably be running JDS on some other commodity PC hardware - or using W[12]1000Zs. Regards,

Posted by Al Hopper on October 03, 2004 at 12:29 AM BST #

Yup SunRay on x86 would be cool.

My point is that if you don't need super fast graphics, and I don't, then SunRay is for you. SunRay offers such large benefits that for me they outweigh any problems with high performance graphics.

Posted by Chris Gerhard on October 04, 2004 at 03:31 AM BST #

I bet you typed that text on a Sunray ? Your quote characters are showing up wrongly. Tried on IE-win, Moz-windows, Moz-Solaris,Safari-mac... in all those browsers, the quotes show up as bunch of weird chars.

An answer to your question on Why Not ? ... well its clear that you never tried running a big Java Swing program, show me that it works as fast as on my old Matrox G400 card, and we can talk again... regards

Posted by Tom on October 06, 2004 at 02:34 AM BST #

Actaully the text foobar is down to roller changing &ldquo and &rdquo into those strange chars.

Actually I do use an application that uses java swing and it's performance is perfectly acceptable.

Posted by Chris Gerhard on October 06, 2004 at 02:58 AM BST #

Do you know of any good swing benchmarks? I'm running SRSS3 beta on Java Desktop 2.0 (SunV20z AMD64 hardware.) For most desktop applications via SunRay it feels faster than any thick client x86 box I've ever used, but I'd like to see how it does on a standard Swing benchmark. O.K. 3d graphics acceleration is missing but for everything else...

Posted by bnitz on October 06, 2004 at 03:41 AM BST #

I bet you typed that text on a Sunray ? Your quote characters are showing up wrongly. Tried on IE-win, Moz-windows, Moz-Solaris,Safari-mac... in all those browsers, the quotes show up as bunch of weird chars.

An answer to your question on Why Not ? ... well its clear that you never tried running a big Java Swing program, show me that it works as fast as on my old Matrox G400 card, and we can talk again... regards

Posted by Tom on October 06, 2004 at 04:14 AM BST #

I've been quizzing Chris over this in person recently and, save a little religious fervour, it's all true. I have one bug-let and two outstanding needs:

The bug-let is that audio mixing needs some utaudio(1) hackery to make it work (see bug 4860451). By default only one application can open the audio device at any one time.

The two outstanding issues are: my access to root privilege debugging tools when I encounter a rare or hard to reproduce problem with my desktop; access to a serial port to sync my PDA.

The former can be addressed by a suitably trusting sys admin and RBAC(5). The latter I'm still not sure about and am researching - failing a Sun Ray solution I can always use a dedicated local "media station".

Posted by Peter Harvey on October 08, 2004 at 07:02 AM BST #

This is not religious fervour, for that you have to be doing emacs V vi, or a good shell discussion.

Posted by Chris Gerhard on October 08, 2004 at 10:23 AM BST #

So the question remains: Why would you not want a SunRay?

That's a rhetorical question right? Of course I want one!

Posted by Michael van der Westhuizen on October 15, 2004 at 12:25 PM BST #

According to a recent posting on goups.yahoo.com..solarisx86 by Alan DuBoff the timeframe for SunRay Server for Solaris x86 is June-July 2005. Sure RunRay are a nice thing.

Posted by Michael Lehmann on December 15, 2004 at 11:20 PM GMT #

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This is the old blog of Chris Gerhard. It has mostly moved to http://chrisgerhard.wordpress.com

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