SunRay NG Discussions

My thanks to those that have commented so far. I have to say that I'm most amazed that anyone is even reading this blog.

I wish I could comment more on the ideas we're throwing about, but that would break the rules here, and posibly give out proprietary information. That being said, I also am appreciative about the comments about the JavaStation and the NCD. I was around for the entire JavaStation fiasco at Sun -- and was deep in the middle of most of it -- so I take those comments seriously. I don't want us to go back down that rat hole.

But I am most interested in the comments about the possible addition of further USB support. It has long been one of my contentions that one of the limiting factors of SunRay's adoption has been the lack of support for additional USB devices. At least when I was in the field with Sunray customers, I heard this endlessly.

Here's my thinking on this subject, and why I see it this way. The SunRay, by centralizing all management and process execution, enables session mobility, centralized management, and centralized application and OS upgradability. these are all strengths of SunRay that no other system out there has. There's no local memory, no local processor to speak of, etc. Nothing to upgrade on the client side, ever. This is the strength of the SunRay. These are also some of its weaknesses. The SunRay would make one heck of a cash register for Home Depot if it could support USB scanners, receipt printers, etc. Think about it, every cahs register in the store, hooked to the system "in the back" that tracks inventory, etc. Any cashier can walk up to any register and be instantly authenticated to that register. No more rebooting the cash register (have you had to stand there while they do this? I have). So more USB device support is warranted in such a case.

Without the support of just about every USB device known to man, the willingness of many enterprises to deploy SunRay is likewise limited. Like it or not, enterprises want the ability to attach local storage devices, etc. to their desktop. In addition, the current SunRay only support Composite Video In, not USB. Have you tried to buy a Composite Video webcam lately? It was never very easy, but it is close to impossible now as USB webcam prices drop to the floor. So video-conferencing via a SunRay is now nearly impossible -- and I'm not even going to get into the bandwidth restrictions around such activities.

But let's also look at a potential market for SunRay that has never been explored. The Consumer Market. The Mass Market. Let your mind wander to checking into a Hotel and your room key (a SmartCard) gives you access to a full range of Internet services, an IP-based phone, etc. All you need is your USB Mass-storage device and you can get to work. If you (like I used to) spend the majority of your time in Hotels, how nice would it be to have continuous access to your data, and indeed your entire session, from any room within a Hotel Chain's operations? Let's imagine that that same Hotel chain could assign you a 'virtual phone number' that would follow you from room to room, no matter what property you were staying in.

And that's not even the Consumer Market, per se. The ability of a broadband provider to sell it's services to customers without requiring them to own a PC, and to then up-sell additional services (like on-demand software) is an entirely new, and un-tapped, market potential.

I'd love to write more on these subject, and if the comments and responses warrant it, I may.

Comments:

I was actually looking at the Sun Ray 1g specs the other day thinking "it doesn't have USB2?". I think your example of cash register is a very good one. Also think: RFID scanner attached client \^-\^ Anyway, I think a really good thing Sun could do to increase take up of Sun Rays is to reduce the price of the units. (particularly the Sun Ray 100 and 150). Well, that and advertise them heavily once JDS is shipping on them. I know people should consider the overall price etc, but having a really low unit price would really help demand I think. Also consider "subscription pricing" - eg $100/unit/year, or $150/unit/year with full JDS subscription included. As a piece of hardware, I think the Sun Ray 1g is almost perfect. On the software side, I think it's just waiting for JDS on Solaris SPARC/x86 and on Linux. I think having a little program for Windows that temporarily turns it into a Sun Ray client (using application software) would be good for migrations, proof of concepts and that sort of thing. In terms of making Sun Ray a big commercial success, I think they're just waiting for people to find out how damn good they are. I'm certainly not against more R&D on it, but I don't think that by itself more R&D and next gen hardware will actually make a huge difference given the ignorance in the market place.

Posted by Chris Rijk on July 14, 2004 at 01:29 PM EDT #

Some of us are already using SunRays at home, thanks to eBay and an unhealthy appetite for cool Sun hardware...

Posted by Derek on July 14, 2004 at 09:07 PM EDT #

I was trying to play video on it. As far as I konw there is Radeon 7000 graphics chip on SunRay 1g maybe You could add some simple video compression to the communication protocol. It will help to not have 70 and more Mbits traffic on one SunRay port. (or it will cause posibility to play with better resolution than 640x480)

Posted by Jan Matis on July 15, 2004 at 02:06 AM EDT #

Since when was video compression simple? :-)

Posted by Derek on July 15, 2004 at 06:35 AM EDT #

I would like to see the sunray server software ported to Solaris X86.. We would also like to see support for like a usb thumb drive. I have been trying to talk some upper management in to using them, but being able to use a thumb drive would be important to them. I would like to put them in student computer labs and the usb drive support would allow the students to copy files back and forth between the sunray server and their pc's. I also use one at home over a dsl line from the office, so I can't wait till the low bandwidth ones come out.

Posted by jason on July 15, 2004 at 04:07 PM EDT #

My coleague had a funny idea. When You have single sunray it plays "mono" sounds. what if You have 2 multihead sunrays :) could the play "stereo" ?

Posted by Jan Matis on August 17, 2004 at 01:11 AM EDT #

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