I spent Tuesday at the Esteem ‘Higher Education Strategy Forum’ in Edinburgh.
One the agenda were some really interesting topics such as Sustainable Computing and Becoming an Eco-University. One of the presentations that really fired my imagination was a presentation from SUN Microsystems about their Sun Ray 2 Desktop devices. The Sun Ray is basically a dumb terminal, it doesn’t have a hard drive or cpu. All the computing work is done by a back end server. There is actually no software installed onto the Sun Ray 2 device.
The user inserts a card into the device which connects the Sun Ray 2 to the back end server. The user is the presented with their desktop. One of the impressive things about the Sun Rays is that if a user needs to swap desks, they simply pull out the card (without logging off or shutting down any applications) and insert this into another Sun Ray. When the card is inserted into the second Sun Ray they are presented with the same applications they were using on the previous Sun Ray.
The Sun Ray never needs upgrading, doesn’t have any parts that would need replacing and because it doesn’t have any software installed it means that it can be deployed quickly. The salesman I was talking to claims a Sun Ray can be out of the box and installed in under a minute. The power used by the Sun Ray is only 4watts, from a Green Computing and Energy saving point of view this is superb.
This brings me to my point, Do we need PCs ? Do we all really use our dual processor, quad cores and 80GB hard drives? The answer is almost certainly NO. The PCs that we are currently deploying to desktops are more powerful than some of the servers currently in use on the network. We roll out new PCs to keep up with new releases of Windows and we increase the memory in the PCs to deal with the more resource hungry applications. Sun Rays would put an end to this, they would never need upgrading, there is very little that can fail and they are future proof as all the work is done by the back end server. IT Services are planning a visit to the SUN Offices later on this month, and there is an excellent chance that you might even see some of these Sun Ray devices on a desktop near you soon.