Accessing Windows applications from Solaris

I often get asked by customers how to access Windows applications from Solaris. Many customers have a training lab or department that uses Solaris workstations or Sun Rays and those users need to be able to access Office or other Windows only applications. There are various ways to approach this - a SunPCi card can be an excellent solution for users who need both a Solaris workstation and a full blown PC, for example. Some people using Solaris for x86 have had success with Wine. For most users however, the best route is to run their applications on a Windows server and access them in a thin client style. For customers with a large number of users who are primarily accessing Windows applications and using Solaris for the odd task, Tarantella or Citrix are the best option. Tarantella and Citrix are the 'premium' approach, however. They have a tonne of cool features, but they cost money and require admins to have product specific skills. Many customers' needs are met by setting up a Windows Terminal Services server on which to run their application and using a Windows Terminal Services client on Solaris to access those centrally hosted applications. There are two Windows Terminal Services clients for Solaris. \* rdesktop. rdesktop is Open Source. Sun provide a Sparc binary for it here. Don't worry about the fact that it is part of a Sun Ray companion CD, it'll work with a Solaris workstation. An alternative way to get hold of rdesktop for Sparc or x86, or indeed any OSS software compiled for Solaris, is to use the Blastwave site. tsclient, also on the CD, is a nice graphical front end to rdesktop. \* ThinSoft's WinConnect S. WinConnect S is a commercial product. Once you have set up your Windows Terminal Server and installed WinConnect S or rdesktop, you should be able to connect easily and run a Windows screen. You can either run your Windows session in a Solaris windows, or have your Windows session take over your Solaris desktop and run in full screen mode. The latter option is particularly good when using Sun's Controlled Access Mode. CAM allows you to run your Sun Rays in a 'kiosk' style. It starts an anonymous Solaris session and automatically launches an application of your choice. If you set that application to be rdesktop, you can present your users with what appears to be a 'normal' Windows PC. They never see a Solaris login or need to be terrified by CDE of Gnome - as far as they are concerned, they are using a very small, silent and heat free PC. rdesktop can be used to map local drives to the Windows Terminal Services server. You can also use rdesktop to print to locally attached printers, as desribed in this blog entry. You'll have to check the ThinSoft site for the latest on WinConnect's capabilities. It is fully supported by ThinSoft and they have a Linux version available as well. rdesktop works with Solaris on Sparc and x86, as well as Linux. Sun do not support rdesktop, but it's used by many Sun customers, as well as thousands of Linux users on a daily basis, the world over. rdesktop uses device based Windows Terminal Services licensing. A useful article on the ins and outs of Terminal Services licensing can be found here. rdesktop cannot make use of more advanced Windows Terminal Services load balancing features which require the Windows TS Session Directory feature. It seems to work fine with simple Windows Network Load Balancing. WinConnect S is available only for Solaris on Sparc. You'll find a document here that you can use to set up Sun Ray, rdesktop and Windows Terminal Services quickly. If you're using a Solaris workstation, just ignore the Sun Ray part. This document describes how to set things up quickly with Citrix. I must write one for Tarantella! So, if you've got some Solaris workstations or some Sun Rays with Solaris (or Linux), give rdesktop or WinConnect S a whirl. I would like to see Sun create their own Terminal Services client for Solaris... We'll have to wait and see what happens. For now, the solutions mentioned above are more than adequate for many smaller sites.
Comments:

Has anyone tried using Sunrays with Windows Server 2008 terminal services? The rumor is that USB Redirection works seamlessly in this mode, and I would like to know if anyone has any updates concerning this front. Would solve a lot of rejection problems concerning Sunrays in a Windows environment and lack of USB devices support

Posted by Gladwyn Lewis on April 12, 2008 at 03:19 PM GST #

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