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Virtualization: Article

The Network Is Computing for Sun

Tarantella acquisition paves the way to unifying enterprise operating systems

Does this mark the beginning of an era for Microsoft and Windows collaboration? That remains to be seen, though the novelty of the Sun/Tarantella combo is that - unlike long-time Microsoft collaborator, Citrix - Sun's new solution allows the consolidation of many more hosts into the same framework, whereas a Citrix solution can do so on Windows architecture only. This brings a new twist to the provisioning of enterprise systems as new systems could be added to the Tarantella framework without having to worry about consolidating them with legacy systems as shown in Figure 1.

Tarantella and Citrix are not the only two vendors addressing the homogenous presentation of legacy applications, though they currently would seem to be the only vendors capable of large enterprise deployments for now. Future competition might come from open source developer NoMachine (, producer of NX Server, which is on the rise as a popular thin client and remote access technology. NX Server can provide a RDP gateway that can be used in place of Citrix or to redisplay X11 applications from Unix/Linux. They also have a management suite (NX Server Manager and NX Site Manger) slated for release in the near future and a growing fan base among Linux and Unix users. Since NoMachine is hosted on Linux, Windows users may benefit by replacing Citrix, which is dependent on Microsoft servers and the costs that they might entail.

For Sun, Tarantella bolsters the integration capabilities of the enterprise including legacy Windows (and other OS) applications' availability. What remains to be seen is how this new technology helps them further their vision of thin client computing and what doors it might open into other markets. Sun also has to figure out where they would want to conquer Windows in the data center and where they can peacefully co-exist. For example, they may have a lucrative business as a disruptor of Citrix and as an add-on for Microsoft servers. Leveraging Windows infrastructure would seem to only hold a short to mid-term advantage since, over time, they should want to see more and more applications running natively on their version of Unix.

In the past Sun had addressed this problem by running Windows applications using Wabi, a Windows on Unix emulator that supported 16-bit applications. Eventually Wabi support was dropped and the Wine project became the preferred way to run Windows applications on Unix/Linux. Sun may also start to benefit from Linux application successes as unmodified Linux binaries can now run on Solaris 10 through the Solaris Linux Application Environment. New dual core processors and the recent development of virtualization technology could also hold the benefits of hosting multiple operating systems on the same hardware and increasing utilization on servers. In fact, Microsoft plans to include their own hypervisor software in their upcoming Longhorn release; perhaps someday Solaris and Windows could share the same hardware simultaneously. Strategically Sun might most benefit from finding a way to "virtualize" Windows on Solaris, allowing the true consolidation of Windows, Linux, and Solaris in the data center or even the desktop.

The net of the Tarantella acquisition is that Sun now has the mechanism to unite the enterprise. This includes both legacy systems like the mainframe and emerging technology like Linux as well as Microsoft Terminal Services. Existing Tarantella customers have gained the resources of a much larger company with greater resources to stand behind them on a worldwide basis. Incumbent Sun users now have a product that addresses a space where previously they were left to fend for themselves. Or where at best you could only remotely access applications via X11 forwarding or SSH. Tarantella brings a much better presentation and administrative framework to Unix remote access and gives non-Windows users a competitive Citrix-like option.

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More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at

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