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Sun Microsystems’ thin-client desktop strategy will get a boost with the release of a new version of its Sun Ray platform that will allow users to connect with a Sun Ray client over a broadband Internet connection.

Sun Ray Server Software 3.0 also will allow Sun Rays to be supported for the first time by Linux servers, and to run the JDS (Java Desktop System) graphical interface.

The broadband capability, which has been deployed within Sun during the past year as part of its internal “Sun Ray@Home” program, is at the center of the upcoming monthly Sun Ray service announced by Scott McNealy at last month’s Solaris 10 launch event.

But the details of that service have not yet been fully formed, according to Fred Kouhout, Sun’s new vice president of marketing for the client systems group.

“That’s a directive that we have that we are working on,” Kouhout said in an interview with “Certainly, the ability for a company to offer a desktop service is a potential area that we need to go explore. A couple of years ago, that’s not a conversation we could have had.”

Sun already has seen some success with the Sun Ray architecture with call-center customers, including Time Warner—primarily because of the ability of Sun Ray client terminals to support multiple user sessions, and for users to move from desk to desk while keeping their desktop sessions intact. With the new broadband capability, Kouhout said, companies may be able to have call-center employees work from home.

Sun Ray Server Software 3.0 will allow companies to support remote offices and employees over a secure Internet connection, and to centralize storage and computing assets.

“This means that companies can set up serverless offices,” said Mason Uyeda, Sun’s product manager for Sun Ray. “You can have a call center in Nebraska with servers in Dallas—or a call center in Mumbai, with the hardware in Mechanicsburg.”

Click here to read about Sun’s focus on the Linux platform.

Aside from the added security and business continuity advantages of the new Sun Ray architecture, Uyeda claimed that the total cost of ownership of Sun Ray clients is substantially less than that of a similar PC deployment.

A study by Forrester Research found the cost of ownership for a Sun Ray client was $48 a month, compared with an average of $179 per month for PCs.

“The difference is primarily from hardware and software refresh costs,” Uyeda said, “but also from administration.” He added that one Sun customer calculated that it could get a complete return on its investment in one year just from the savings in electricity usage.

Tadpole Computer is one Sun partner supporting the new broadband functionality with its Comet mobile thin client, a 15-inch notebook thin client based on the Sun Ray architecture and equipped with Wi-Fi wireless networking.

With the new bandwidth enhancements, these notebook thin clients now will be able to be used by mobile workers outside the corporate network over any wireless broadband connection—and they’ll allow companies to keep the data and compute resources used by those mobile workers safe and secure back at the corporate data center.

Additionally, Tadpole is planning on releasing a new, smaller-form Sun Ray notebook early next year.

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