Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sun Ray Thin Client Replacement

Oracle killed the Sun Ray thin client. We have dozens of Sun Ray thin clients at work. While they will continue to serve us for many years the search has begun for a replacement. We don't want to return to a personal computer at every desk. The benefit of centralized management is too great to go backwards.

I have deployed 5 diskless Linux workstations as a possible replacement for our Sun Ray thin clients. The trial has been going well so far and this could be our next client computing environment for 90% of our employees.

Today our employees have a Payflex card that they insert in to a Sun Ray and their Windows Terminal Server or virtual machine (VM) desktop is displayed. Tomorrow our employees may log-in to a diskless Linux workstation using their Windows Active Directory credentials and the same Windows Terminal Server or VM desktop that the Sun Ray provided will be displayed. If the user prefers they can back out of Windows and work on the Ubuntu Linux desktop. 4 out of the 5 testers are doing just that. The majority of our employees won't be abandoning Windows though. There are too many Windows-only applications in use. 

The Sun Ray has one weak spot and it is multimedia playback. The diskless workstation solves that issue. The Intel i3 dual core processor with the HD4000 GPU has no trouble playing video. If an  employee needs to watch a video, which is rare, they can back out of Windows with a keystroke and watch the video from the Ubuntu desktop. 


  • PXE Boot
  • Linux Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
  • Libre Office
  • Chrome browser
  • High performance media playback
  • Joined to Windows Active Directory
  • Dynamic Windows terminal server assignment
  • USB media shared to terminal server
  • CDROM media shared to terminal server
  • Dual monitor support
  • VoIP Mobility enabled (user's phone extension follows them when they change locations)


  • Single golden image managed centrally on a VM
  • Client images reside on a server with TFTP and NFS configured
  • Client image can be replaced with the golden image in about 20 minutes per client
  • Client image can be updated with the golden image in about 2 minutes per client. Uses rsync.
  • Client images synced with the golden image nightly 
  • User's home directory is a separate directory on the server and is not touched by the update routine. 
  • Simple deployment by adding a DHCP reservation
  • Diskless client hardware build takes less than 15 minutes.

Diskless Client Hardware

Intel Core i3-3220 Dual-Core Processor
Mini ITX Motherboard
8GB memory
M350 Universal Mini-ITX PC enclosure
Mini-ITX Power Supply picoPSU
Motherboard Header Cables
AC Adapter Power Supply


Dual monitor

Top of M350 case

M350 standing on its side 
M350 front
M350 rear
M350 top off overhead view
Pico power supply
M350 top off looking from back
M350 top off side view

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