Building "TX Ranger"
By davew on Jun 11, 2007
Along with the usual (or, of recent date, more technically unusual) customer-facing and project-related things I get up to, I've been absorbed in something which has distracted me from blogging for a while.
Consider Solaris 10 Trusted Extensions (aka "TX"). I followed the (accurate, but IMHO not absolutely complete) instructions here to get myself a laptop on which I could demo TX, and found it rather labour-intensive; there isn't a JET module for it yet (and yes, we know we need to put one together), so the heavy lifting currently has to be done either manually or with some currently-very-bespoke Jumpstart stuff.
Consequently, relatively few people are in the position of being able to show TX working in front of a customer at site. Even if a technical sales guy or consultant has attended a TX presentation and is able to explain it to a customer, TX's Compartmented Mode Workstation capability (OK, we don't do the information label section any more) is - in my experience - something which customers have to see in action before they truly "get it".
Also, delivering a TX presentation in a TX environment, seriously reinforces the message that TX is real technology and not vapourware.
So, we need to make it easy for folk to host a potted, demo TX environment on their x86 laptop, no matter what it is.
Here's where VMWare comes in.
If pre-built VMWare images of TX demo systems are held somewhere on our intranet, all that is needed (other than knowledge) to demo TX at a customer site is to install a suitable VMWare environment on an x86 laptop, grab a suitable image, and go.
"TX Ranger" - yes, the pun is deliberate and we can thank / blame Alec for it - is the initiative which will provide these images. A basic demo environment suitable for simple laptop demos has already been built and demoed, a SNAP server image will be built shortly, and other images (eg Glenn Faden's safe browsing system, John Weeks' label-aware web services) will be built as code availability and time permits.
Further, TX Ranger images will make for a great starting point when testing how well application software works on TX from a configuration perspective.
While there are no plans to make TX Ranger images available outside of the community of Sun employees at this time, it's entirely possible that something suitable will be crafted for the Download Centre at some point.
Both Glenn Faden and Dave Miner have also suggested I look at building something around / on top of the Live Media stuff here; I think it's a cracking idea and I intend to look into it shortly, although it looks like quite a learning curve!
Update and Clarification:
The notes above refer to TX-Ranger Phase 1; a bunch of the VMWare images exist internally, and I've now started to investigate making them externally available.
TX-Ranger Phase 2, is the tools (some of which are described in more detail here) for making configuration and customisation easier - these could be deployed on a VMWare image for testing and hacking, or they could be deployed on a TX installation built directly on a server's metal, without OS virtualisation. I wouldn't consider using a virtualised TX environment, if Govt accreditation is required; also, I'd still probably use existing manual build processes for sensitive Government systems. However, the Phase 2 tools may well be good enough to use for building non-virtualised TX environments for live deployment in academic or commercial scenarios.