Archive for September, 2005

Choose Tarantella or Citrix?

06/09/2005

I had an interesting link in the list of ‘referrers’ to my blog recently[1]. Someone had come across my illustrious musings after typing ‘choose tarantella or citrix’ into Google. They would have found some general info here, but nothing that specifically answered their question, so I thought I’d write an entry to give the next Googler some info to help them make their decision. I’ll add the phrase ‘tarntella vs citrix’ as that’s probably another phrase that will be typed in. [28/9/06, adding phrases SSGD vs Citrix and Sun Secure Global Desktop vs Citrix, now that Sun’s renamed Tarantella.]
First off, please understand that if someone buys a Tarantella licence in my region, the revenue counts towards my yearly goal, which is currently made up of all Sun’s desktop products, as well as RFID and some other bits and pieces. This means it’s thoroughly in my interest to sell Tarantella.
It’s also in my interest to sell a customer the right solution, even if that means we end up providing 500 Sun Rays using Citrix running on Sun servers, as opposed to 500 Sun Rays using Tarantella on Sun servers.
Selling the right solution makes sense for long term customer relationships and good long term relationship means revenue for Sun. That said, come and ask me which you should buy towards the end of Sun’s financial and I can’t guarantee you’ll get a completely unbiased response. After all, I like to get paid as much as the next chap.
I won’t go into great depth about each product’s features as the products’ respective web sites do that in detail. I’m assuming that if you’re reading this you have a basic idea of a Citrix architecture and a Tarantella architecture. I mention Sun Rays in my example above, but Citrix and Tarantella will work with many different clients.
So, Tarantella or Citrix? or Tarantella vs Citrix?
Technical reasons
Tarantella is an excellent product. I’ve been singing its praises for over 5 years now.
* If you have a mixed environment where users need to connect to a mix of Unix, Windows and AS400/Mainframe applications either remotely or from your internal network, Tarantella excels.
* If your users only need to connect to Unix either remotely or from your internal network, Tarantella excels.
* If your users only need to connect to AS400 or mainframe based apps either remotely or from your internal network, Tarantella excels.
* If you need to web enable legacy terminal or graphical Windows, Unix or AS400 apps, Tarantella excels.
* If you need to set up remote access to your mixed applications in a very secure way, Tarantella excels.
* If your clients need to do remote printing from any application, Tarantella excels.
* If you only have Windows applications to connect to, either remotely or from clients on the internal WAN or LAN, Tarantella is very good.
* You’ll need your IT guys to have some good Windows Terminal Services skills and you’ll need your guys to have some basic Unix skills as well in order to maintain the Tarantella servers.
I’ve also worked with Citrix for several years. I have never been as hands on with Citrix as I’d have liked, but I know what it can do and I have seen it do it extremely well.
* If you only want to connect to Windows applications, Citrix excels.
* Your IT team will have to have good knowledge of Citrix and Windows, but Citrix makes it particularly easy to deploy large and commplex Windows-centric server based computing farms.
* Both Citrix and Tarantella work very well with Sun Ray. A proof of concept would demonstrate where each product’s strengths lie in your particular environment if you are considering Sun Rays with either product.
Business issues
* Tarantella used to suffer from being a relatively small company with weak presence in many countries. That issue has gone completely thanks to Sun’s acquisition of the company. Every Sun reseller will be able to sell Tarantella and the technical community behind it is now huge.
* Citrix have a large global presence
* Both Tarantella and Citrix have an excellent list of customer references covering pretty much every industry vertical.
* Many larger customers are already using Citrix. Unless you are desperately unhappy with Citrix it makes sense to build on what you’ve got.
* If you have chosen Citrix or are already a Citrix user the local Sun office should enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to work with you and Citrix to reduce your desktop TCO further by deploying a Sun Ray desktop architecture. You shouldn’t need to worry about the sales reps trying to shoehorn Tarantella in when you’re happy with Citrix.
* Who’s strongest locally? Any product can get into an endless feature war, but unless you trust the people you’re going to be working with, it’s much of a muchness.
* Price. Price is negotiable. If you like both products equally, do the maths. Don’t just cover your licence costs, look at the total solution, from hardware through to admin and user training.
So, which to choose? That’s up to you, but the reasonably impartial advice above should be a good starting point. Your local Sun office or Sun partner should be the right place to start. Tarantella is on our price list, but good sales teams will want to sell the right solution and ought to have Citrix knowledge and a good relationship with Citrix or the local Citrix partners. [2]
[1] Note correct spelling of referrer. Two Rs please 🙂
[2] In my region our relationship with Citrix varies. It’s particularly good in the Middle East and I want it to stay that way. A number of joint customers stand to benefit greatly from working with our companies, providing we co-operate well. The same is true for the countries who aren’t particularly close to Citrix and I’d like to see those countries improve the way they work with Citrix and Citrix partners.
In many cases we have a Sun partner who’s also a Citrix partner. This can work very well with partners such as Unit in Slovakia who are very solutions focused and can sell Sun, Citrix or whatever they feel best suits what the customer needs. If I had a Unit working in each of SEE’s 98 countries I could probably retire in a couple of years. Other joint Sun and Citrix partners often have totally separate divisions. This means that on paper they look like ideal partners for Sun desktop activities. Unfortunately it’s often the case the Sun department is divorced from the Citrix department, who typically also sell rival thin client solutions to Sun Ray. For various reasons it’s hard to get the two groups to work together, but hopefully the walls will start to come down.

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Accessing Windows applications from Solaris

06/09/2005

I often get asked by customers how to access Windows applications from Solaris. Many customers have a training lab or department that uses Solaris workstations or Sun Rays and those users need to be able to access Office or other Windows only applications.
There are various ways to approach this – a SunPCi card can be an excellent solution for users who need both a Solaris workstation and a full blown PC, for example. Some people using Solaris for x86 have had success with Wine. For most users however, the best route is to run their applications on a Windows server and access them in a thin client style.
For customers with a large number of users who are primarily accessing Windows applications and using Solaris for the odd task, Tarantella or Citrix are the best option. Tarantella and Citrix are the ‘premium’ approach, however. They have a tonne of cool features, but they cost money and require admins to have product specific skills. Many customers’ needs are met by setting up a Windows Terminal Services server on which to run their application and using a Windows Terminal Services client on Solaris to access those centrally hosted applications.
There are two Windows Terminal Services clients for Solaris.
* rdesktop. rdesktop is Open Source. Sun provide a Sparc binary for it here. Don’t worry about the fact that it is part of a Sun Ray companion CD, it’ll work with a Solaris workstation. An alternative way to get hold of rdesktop for Sparc or x86, or indeed any OSS software compiled for Solaris, is to use the Blastwave site. tsclient, also on the CD, is a nice graphical front end to rdesktop.
* ThinSoft’s WinConnect S. WinConnect S is a commercial product.
Once you have set up your Windows Terminal Server and installed WinConnect S or rdesktop, you should be able to connect easily and run a Windows screen. You can either run your Windows session in a Solaris windows, or have your Windows session take over your Solaris desktop and run in full screen mode. The latter option is particularly good when using Sun’s Controlled Access Mode. CAM allows you to run your Sun Rays in a ‘kiosk’ style. It starts an anonymous Solaris session and automatically launches an application of your choice. If you set that application to be rdesktop, you can present your users with what appears to be a ‘normal’ Windows PC. They never see a Solaris login or need to be terrified by CDE of Gnome – as far as they are concerned, they are using a very small, silent and heat free PC.
rdesktop can be used to map local drives to the Windows Terminal Services server. You can also use rdesktop to print to locally attached printers, as desribed in this blog entry.
You’ll have to check the ThinSoft site for the latest on WinConnect’s capabilities. It is fully supported by ThinSoft and they have a Linux version available as well.
rdesktop works with Solaris on Sparc and x86, as well as Linux. Sun do not support rdesktop, but it’s used by many Sun customers, as well as thousands of Linux users on a daily basis, the world over.
rdesktop uses device based Windows Terminal Services licensing. A useful article on the ins and outs of Terminal Services licensing can be found here.
rdesktop cannot make use of more advanced Windows Terminal Services load balancing features which require the Windows TS Session Directory feature. It seems to work fine with simple Windows Network Load Balancing.
WinConnect S is available only for Solaris on Sparc.
You’ll find a document here that you can use to set up Sun Ray, rdesktop and Windows Terminal Services quickly. If you’re using a Solaris workstation, just ignore the Sun Ray part. This document describes how to set things up quickly with Citrix. I must write one for Tarantella!
So, if you’ve got some Solaris workstations or some Sun Rays with Solaris (or Linux), give rdesktop or WinConnect S a whirl. I would like to see Sun create their own Terminal Services client for Solaris… We’ll have to wait and see what happens. For now, the solutions mentioned above are more than adequate for many smaller sites.

New Jeep Commander

05/09/2005

The new Jeep Commander looks tempting for those with growing families who want something decent to drive in the dunes.
This review doesn’t really cover the offroad abilities, but they sound impressive. The Quadra-trac stuff sounds just the right thing for when you find yourself in a situation like this:

Picture courtesy of ME 4×4

The life of a Dubai taxi driver

05/09/2005

Whilst on my way to the airport today I had a good chat with my taxi driver.
Most drivers in Dubai are from India (usually Kerala in the southern part of the country) or Pakistan, with a minority from nearby Arab countries such as Syria, Egypt and Yemen. The taxis themselves are generally excellent, mostly Toyota Camrys that are less than two years old. The cars are clean and well maintained. The drivers are generally friendly and unless they’re brand new to the job they know their way around very well, which can be a challenge in a city that’s changing so fast.
Driving standards vary. Fortunately most drivers that get me are quickly made to understand that I’m more interested in arriving at my destination alive as opposed to arriving on time but severely traumatised. Good advice – if it’s a wimpy Westerner, use your indicators properly and drive sensibly and you’ll get a decent tip!
My guy today was very chatty and was telling me all about his working life and his family. He’s from Peshawar in Pakistan and has been driving a cab in Dubai for 5 years. He makes around a $1,000 US a month, with free healthcare, but doesn’t get accommodation provided. He works about 12-14 hours a day, usually 7 days a week. Once a year he gets around 30 days’ leave, which he spends back home. Home doesn’t have electricity or running water. Home is also where his wife and four kids live, who he has to support with his earnings. As if that weren’t enough, he also supports his parents, two of his brothers and their wives and families. One brother has 4 children, the other has a small baby.
He was pretty worried about my sister, as I told him that she’s 27 years old and not married. Apparently it should be my responsibility to get her married off as soon as I can. I explained that my sister wouldn’t be very happy if I started to get involved in her life in that way, which caused him some surprise.
Based on our brief conversation he seemed like a decent, hard working bloke. I woudln’t want to swap jobs with him, but I wish him all the best.

What not to call your new skyscraper

05/09/2005

Not the best name for your new mega skyscraper. I wonder if we’ll see some other similarly named buildings celebrating the achievements of other well endowed ‘actresses’? Pamela Peaks Plaza, anyone?

Rent up 30% and fuel up 30%. Ouch.

01/09/2005

Dubai’s getting more expensive. This year my rent has gone up by 30%. Fuel prices have also just been increased by 30%.
Still, the cost of living in London is a lot higher, let alone the cost of fuel. The UAE has other advantages too. As a UK citizen I have to fill in a tax return each year but I don’t have to pay income tax on any earnings made in Dubai. I’ve just filled out this year’s form, which took all of two minutes – just a quick tick of the ‘non resident’ box and a signature and that was it.
Three years on, I still grin each time I get my monthly salary statement and see that the amount I’ve been paid is the amount going straight to my bank account, without any deductions being diverted off towards Gordon Brown’s pockets along the way.

DRM – what I want as a consumer

01/09/2005

There’s been a fair amount of discussion about DRM recently. (Digital Rights Management is the technology that controls your access to electronic media such as downloaded films and songs for example). Jonathan has mentioned it in his blog, for example. His comments make sense, which they ought to, given his job.
Most articles in the press tend to revolve around what companies want. The phrases used typically give the whole concept a negative feel. It’s all about restriction, prevention and punishment. This makes the concept of downloading and watching films via broadband sound more like a prison regime than a great thing for consumers.
I’ve been trying to work out what I want as a consumer.
With the advent of RSS, it’s become so easy to subscribe to content. I’ve particularly enjoyed the BBC’s limited experiment with releasing certain programmes as podcasts, for example. I subscribe through iTunes and listen to them in dull moments in airport lounges. I’d like to get a lot more from the BBC, including access to TV content. I would be willing to pay for it as well. Currently all their radio programmes are available as live streams, but I would like to be able to download TV shows as podcasts as well. I want to listen to or view my shows at a time that suits me, whether I’m connected to the web or not.
Leaving aside the politics surrounding the BBC’s role as a public service broadcaster funded by an obligatory TV licence, £126.50 per year to be able to access any BBC content sounds a pretty reasonable amount to pay. More so when you leave the UK and realise how awful TV is in the rest of the world.
Let’s say I’m able to pay up and subscribe to the BBC TV and radio shows I want and have them downloaded to my PC at home. Here’s what I believe to be ‘reasonable’ use of those shows. Any DRM technology used would need to meet these requirements for me to be completely happy with it. I can imagine it being pretty hard to do so, which goes to illustrate what a minefield this subject is in both technical and legal terms.
* I don’t expect to be allowed to share my downloaded shows or my access to streamed media freely with anyone on the net.
* I would like to be able to lend the shows to someone in the same way I can lend a CD or a VHS recording to someone.
* I don’t expect my rights to view the show to expire, but wouldn’t mind if the ‘lendee’s’ rights to view expired after a certain timespan or number of views.
* I expect to be able to have copies residing on any appropriate device I own and to make backups. If the main device to which files are downloaded is the PC in the living room, I don’t want any hassles copying things to and viewing things on my work laptop, to be viewed when travelling, for example.
* I expect to be able to play the shows on compatible devices I own regardless of platform. No hassles with Windows, Solaris, Linux, Mac OSX or set top boxes. Platform independence please.
* I expect the BBC to commission a fifth series of Blackadder.