Oracle ends development on Sun Ray and VDI technology

About two weeks ago, Oracle announced that they had ended new feature development for Oracle Sun Ray and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure along with the Sun Ray thin clients and virtual desktop clients for PCs and mobile devices. They say they’ll keep developing Secure Global Desktop and VirtualBox.
This has started quite a reaction on the Sun Ray Users mailinglist aswell as a number of international (zdnet, the register, Brian Madden) and german media. These products never gained a huge amount of marketshare but there are a number of very enthusiastic and loyal users around it who are now after 15 years left to find an alternative. Continue reading

Create exceptions for non-smartcard sun ray logins

People use Sun Ray DTUs with SmartCards for mainly two reasons: To enable hot-desking between devices and as an extra layer of security by only allowing Sun Ray logins with a (registered) smartcard. This is easy enough to set up, simply disable non-card access in the Policy section of the GUI or through the utpolicy commandline tool. We register all our smartcards to a certain user and only allow those registered cards access which will also pre-fill the username field of the login mask so even if I knew the password of my teammate, I could not log on as his user unless I also steal his card. This is a pretty common setup.

But the introduction of OVDC softclients (either for PC or Mac or tablets) has made this a bit more complicated. You can of course use a USB cardreader with your laptop but I try to avoid carrying extra stuff when travelling and also the iPad simply does not allow to connect a reader. Continue reading

VDI 3.5 and Sun Ray Server 5.4 released

vdi_em12cThe Oracle Desktop Virtualization team just released the latest versions of VDI and Sun Ray (Oracle blog: What’s New). This is following a rough schedule of (major) upgrades about twice per year and while a lot of the changes are maintenance and bug fixes there are some cool new features aswell. So let’s get started with the list of new things that I find interesting and/or useful and will definitely play with (and blog about) in the future:

  • Support for Solaris 11 and Linux 6.3: People have been waiting for this for quite some time. This is useful for folks running native sessions because this introduces desktop enhancements and bug fixes. The Support for Solaris 11 is also fantastic because the network virtualization in this new OS has the potential to solve many issues.
  • Enterprise Manager 12c integration: I still have to actually try this out but I think this is a feature to fall in love with. Both GUIs of VDI and Sun Ray are a bit outdated, not integrated together and do not really provide monitoring functionality. So until now we had to use two GUIs, still do some stuff on the command line because there was no button in the GUI for it and build our own monitoring scripts.
  • With personal hard drives you can re-clone a VirtualBox machine but leave user data on another virtual disk.
  • fun: dynamic session resizing and screen rotation will automatically resize and optimize your desktop when you rotate your iPad or Android tablet client. Maybe not the most important new feature but it just looks cool.
  • IPsec support for Sun Rays. Good news if you are not using cisco devices which have been supported for quite a while
  • Support for Microsoft App-V. I don’t know anything about that MS product but it seems to deal with the problem of how to roll out applications to virtual clients and sounds interesting.
  • Support for Android in OVDC 1.2
  • New supported guests for VirtualBox hypervisor: Windows 8, OEL 6.3, Solaris 11.1
  • The new getting started guide looks like a great entry point if you have never worked with Oracle VDI before. I think this was badly needed after the old sun wiki was shut down.

And then there is a long list of bugfixes and minor improvements which a lot of look very familiar because they have been submitted by us. I especially like the fact that SRS auto-failover is now disabled by default. I had talked about this in my presentation at DOAG last November. The old default behavior was to fail-over the Sun Ray primary when the master crashed or was rebooted. This sounds like a good intention but in Sun Ray all secondary servers have to restart on such a change and this usually introduced more problems than it solved.

Another improvement is a new parameter (client.select.always) to control the display of available desktops even if all your desktops could be launched on all your monitors: In VDI 3.4 if you had two desktops assigned and a DTU with two monitors, VDI would automatically start both desktops and put them on your screens. This can be very useful for using two different operating systems with just one keyboard and mouse. But sometimes you only want to bring up a single desktop and use both monitors with it. The workaround was to create a third “dummy” desktop so that the number of screens and desktops did not match anymore to bring up the selection screen.

Next up: Secure Global Desktop (SGD) Version 5, please.

OVDC 1.2 for iPad released

OVDC 1.2 update iTunesWithout much fanfare, an update to the Oracle Virtual Desktop Client for Oracle VDI or Sun Ray servers showed up on iTunes today. Version 1.2 promises improvements with the user interface, new gestures, higher screen resolutions, clipboard support to copy text between OVDC and the iPad aswell as dynamic session resizing to automatically change the resolution when you rotate the iPad from landscape to portrait mode. Continue reading

streaming music to Sun Rays

With only a few days left until christmas, it is time to spread annoying messages of love in the office through repeating the same old songs. And also a great chance to showcase your Sun Ray setup as a music streaming solution. The goal here is this: stream (and repeat) Wham’s “Last Christmas” to the internal speakers of all Sun Rays in the office until people find out it was me and start shouting threats. (I estimate this will only take 20 seconds).

You will need:

  • a Sun Ray Server
  • a few Sun Ray DTUs (
  • an annoying piece of christmas music

First, you’ll need to convert your music file to the Au file format. This is a special format invented by SUN and you could use ffmpeg to convert any other format to au.

ffmpeg -i last_christmas.m4a last_christmas.au
ffmpeg version 0.4.9-pre1, Copyright (c) 2000-2004 Fabrice Bellard
  built on Oct 27 2005 17:26:03, gcc: 3.4.4
Input #0, mov,mp4,m4a,3gp, from 'last_christmas.m4a':
  Duration: 00:04:28.1, bitrate: 281 kb/s
  Stream #0.0: Audio: mpeg4aac, 44100 Hz, stereo
Output #0, au, to 'last_christmas.au':
  Stream #0.0: Audio: pcm_s16be, 44100 Hz, stereo, 1411 kb/s
Stream mapping:
  Stream #0.0 -> #0.0
Press [q] to stop encoding
size=   46196kB time=268.2 bitrate=1411.2kbits/s    
video:0kB audio:46196kB global headers:0kB muxing overhead 0.000051%

If you don’t have access to ffmpeg you can also use an online service to convert your file.

Next we need to make sure that the audio output on all devices is not muted, set to the maximum volume and sent to both the external speaker and headphone if headphones are inserted. Unfortunately, we cannot set this from the root account directly because the only way to modify these values from the CLI is through the utset command exected from a Sun Ray session. But that is exactly why Sun invented the utaction command. We can set this up in our kiosk script to execute utset every time a sesion starts or reconnects when hot-desking. Simply copy this line into your kiosk script:

/opt/SUNWut/bin/utaction -c '/opt/SUNWut/bin/utset -o v=31,m=off,s=hs' -i &

Now wait for your users to reconnect their sessions (or if you are a true BOFH you could simply terminate all running sessions).

To actually play the music on all connected DTUs, simply issue the utwall command like this

/opt/SUNWut/sbin/utwall -a /var/tmp/last_christmas.au ALL 2>/dev/null

Sit back, enjoy, wait for people to call and yell at you. Repeat. Merry christmas.

Oracle Support proactive about “broken” patch download

Last week I was quick to download the latest patch for Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure version 3.4.1 on the same day it was released. It installed just fine and fixed some issues of a previous version. Also, we were in the process of upgrading a customer anyway.
On the next day, I received an email by VDI product manager Andy Hall telling us (and propably everyone else who downloaded this version in 24 hours it has been available) that they discovered an issue with the installer in some setups and warned about those difficulties. He even followed up when they released the improved version of the patch a bit later and confirmed that our system was not affected anyway.

Now while I would love to live in a perfect world where every software ever released is free of bugs, I have to say I was very impressed with the way Oracle handled this issue. Instead of letting customers and partners find this out by themselves and/or simply releasing yet another new version or patch they engaged us directly, honestly and proactively.

Do you have similar stories to share?

VDI specialization finally on the horizon

Portrix is already an OPN specialized partner for Sun ZFS Storage Appliances and Sun Flash Storage and has a few more applications in the pipeline. But the one specialization we are most excited about is for VDI. A lot of the content and some of the tests have been online for a while now but the final tests for implementation specialists have gotten postponed to the next quarter at least twice.

Currently the specialization guide states an activation date of FY13-Q1 which ends in August. And it looks like this time it could be for real – the exam 1Z1-559 is finally available in beta and already scheduled with our local testing center. If all goes well we could be among the first partners globally to be recognized as VDI specialists.

DOAG 2011 Tag 1

Alle Jahre wieder, immer kurz vor dem Christkindelmarkt, empfängt Nürnberg die deutsche Oracle Gemeinschaft für die dreitägige Konferenz der Deutschen Oracle Anwender Gruppe. Mit etwa 2000 Teilnehmern ist dies nicht nur die größte Veranstaltung ihrer Art in Deutschland sondern auch in Europa, und weil einige Vorträge auch auf Englisch angeboten werden, kann sich die Teilnahme auch lohnen, wenn man kein Deutsch spricht.
Continue reading

VDI Bootcamp Berlin

In dieser Woche fand in Berlin ein Bootcamp rund um die Desktopvirtualisierungssoftware Oracle VDI statt. Jaap Romers hat diesen Workshop aus Vorträgen und Demos zusammengestellt und wurde von Rolf-Per Thulin und Thomas Assum unterstützt. Veranstaltungsort war eine alte SUN-Geschäftstelle in Berlin Tempelhof, in der einige alte, mittlerweile leicht eingestaubte lila Schilder ein wenig wehmütig an vergangene Zeiten erinnerten.

Oracle hat remote eine Reihe von Servern und Storage zur Verfügung gestellt, auf denen Teilnehmer sich mit eigenen Notebooks verbinden konnten. Und so wurden in Demos und Labs Software installiert, Desktops gecloned und für die Verwendung in einer Windows Domäne vorbereitet, Cluster konfiguriert und anschließend maltretiert. Wenn etwas mal nicht gleich geklappt hat oder man schon immer eine Frage zu gewissen Funktionen hatte, war immer jemand greifbar, der Antworten kannte. Zwischendurch und als Ergänzung zu den Hand-On Aktivitäten gab es immer wieder kleine Vorträge der Experten, die einzelne Technologien und Optionen erklärten. Dabei waren Kollegen aus dem Engineering, Vertrieb und Presales stets für sämtliche Themen greifbar. Sein Netzwerk so erweitern und Pflegen zu können ist für Partner natürlich besonders wertvoll.

Das Format, in dem Labs und Vorträge gemischt werden gefällt mir sehr. Viele Fragen ergeben sich erst dadurch, dass man die Software tatsächlich selber benutzt, auch wenn man die meisten Funktionen eh schon täglich im Job benutzt. Umso mehr freue ich mich auch schon auf RAC Attack bei der UKOUG Konferenz im September, das im Grunde dasselbe Konzept darstellt.

Wer Interesse an den VDI Lösungen hat, kann sich auch auf der DOAG Konferenz in Nürnberg einige Sessions anschauen. Rolf-Per Thulin wird im Demo-Kino eine Fülle von Features präsentieren. Wer bisher noch keinen Kontakt mit Desktopvirtualisierung hatte, wird davon fasziniert sein. Thomas Assum spricht dann am Dienstag noch in einer Session über Best Practices und Implementierungen.

Ein interessanter Einstieg findet sich aktuell durch die Unterstützung vom iPad als Client, was ich vor einiger Zeit schon rudimentär getestet hatte. Jaap konnte dies live demonstrieren (über UMTS auf Servern im schottischen Solution Center). Wer nicht dabei war, schaut sich vielleicht dieses Video an.

VDI Windows on iPad

Yesterday, I took Oracle’s OVDC for iPad for a test drive. As expected, the installation was free an just as easy as with any other app. The setup offered a choice between automatic discovery and manual setup. I chose to enter the server IP manually since our wireless is on a different (but routed) network. There was another option for VPN but I did not take a closer look at that. I am wondering though if the client has it’s own VPN client or uses the iPad’s system-wide VPN.

Things were great from there. The app connected to my server and presented a sharp and crips image, things went smooth. A few things were a little annoying: I was not able to do a double-click. I can only assume that double-tapping too fast does not work and tapping too slow will let windows think that you want to rename the file or shortcut or whatever.
Also, the keyboard driver did not work as expected. When using special characters, things were weird with a US keyboard layout on the iPad but the keys were actually interpreted like on a german keyboard. Or the other way around.
Playing flash videos did not really go very well, the playback was pretty slow so I wouldn’t want to watch a full movie on it. I also tried the stream of a webcam at the office and this worked really well.

As a first impression i would say that the OVDC app is great for showing off your VDI setup and also for the occasional emergency task when you really need to have access to an excel file on the road. But it will propably not revolutionize the way you perform everyday desktop work. I also wonder if this will spark a new eco-system where Oracle partners rent virtual machines to regular people.
If I find the time, we will set up a demo system at the data center to see how this works over the internet and give test accounts to friends and family to see if this is something that is actually useful or just something that is only appreciated by true geeks.

Gute Neuigkeiten von VDI und Sun Ray

Heute ist wohl ein hervorragender Tag für Nutzer der Desktopvirtualisierungssoftware von SUN/Oracle. VDI ist in der Version 3.3 erschienen, und wir hatten bereits die Gelegenheit, diese zu testen. Die Administrationsoberfläche wurde etwas aufgeräumt. Vor allem aber wurde an der Performance geschraubt. So reagiert die Administration schneller und auch die virtuellen Maschinen laufen jetzt flüssiger und schneller. Außerdem wird jetzt neben Solaris auch Oracle Linux als Virtualisierungsplatform unterstützt. Das wird vielleicht die Hemmschwelle für Kunden senken, die bisher wenig Erfahrung mit Solaris hatten und trotzdem diese spannende Technologie kennenlernen wollen.

Brandneu ist ebenfalls der neue Software Client für das iPad! Ab jetzt kann man sich also den VDI oder Sun Ray Desktop auch auf das iPad holen. Das riecht nicht nur nach extremem geek-Spaß sondern macht sicherlich auch in Präsentationen der VDI Umgebung richtig was her.

Und dann habe ich noch gelesen, dass Oracle für das Design der dritten Generation von Sun Ray Clients einen Designpreis gewonnen hat. Die Geräte sehen auch wirklich gut aus, lassen sich einfach aufstellen (der Fuß wird jetzt nur noch geclippt statt geschraubt) und haben neuerdings einen Knopf, mit dem man die DTU von eh schon wenig Stromverbrauch in einen Standby-Modus schalten kann.