I Left My Desktop in Regensburg...
By templedf on Feb 01, 2006
I recently relocated from the Sun office in Regensburg, Germany to the Menlo Park campus. In moving from Germany to California, almost everything in my life changed radically, except one thing. One thing stayed exactly the same. That one thing is my desktop.
Sun has a cool product, called SunRay. It's basically a graphics card with a network connection that you use to get a virtual session on a big server somewhere in a data center. Most folks in Sun have a SunRay on their desks instead of a traditional desktop. Not only is it lower maintenance for the IT folks, since the SunRays themselves are zero-admin FRU's (Field Replacable Units), but it's also generally better for the users. Instead of have a 1-CPU machine on my desk, I have a chunk of a big SMP machine. Yes, I have to share it with the other users, but in general, I find the performance much better. Another big advantage is that the SunRay recognizes me by my badge. I can walk up to any SunRay on the campus, insert my badge, and have instant access to my desktop, exactly as it was when I left it.
For me, the best thing about the SunRays is that they also work remotely, and the rendering is fast, even at great distances. Even though I work at the Menlo Park campus, my desktop still resides on the SunRay server in Germany. As I write this blog entry, I'm sitting at a SunRay in California that is showing me a desktop stored in Germany, and aside from an occasional hiccup, it's just as fast as logging into the SunRay server here in my building.
This remote access, called hot-desking, has had several interesting impacts on me. First, the clock in the lower right-hand corner of my screen tells me the time in CET, so I constantly have to do math to know what time it is where I am. Second, printing can be a challenge, as my documents have to be sent 7000 miles from the server in Germany to the printer near my office. Third, I haven't had to migrate my environment to a new account. I still have "local" access to all the machines located in our lab in Regensburg. I still have exactly the same set of software available as I did when I was sitting in Germany. Fourth, when I travel back to Germany, nothing changes. I still have the same desktop; the performance is just slightly better.
Number five, though, is the thing that inspired me to write this post. Apparently the IT folks have been messing around with the servers here in Menlo Park the last couple of days. Yesterday email was down. Today there have been connectivity issues. People periodically wander down the hall and ask me if I still have email, or a desktop, or whatever. My answer is always 'yes' because I'm not logged in here. My desktop is in Germany where the IT people are much more conservative. That is technology at work.