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From the Sun reseller trenches

A former Sun reseller tells it like it is.

Here's a note by frequent contributor Burana.

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Hi Murph

I worked for a small Sun partner in Central Europe. Maybe I can tell you my experience through the eyes of a Sun Partner.

Unfortunately there were some cultural issues inside the company which led to a massive employee evaporation...

I worked for the only Sun Partner in Country X who, amongst other things, tried to sell Sun Ray and Sun Secure Global Desktop solutions (nowadays better known as "virtual desktop infrastructure VDI").

We had a reference case at a small recruitment company with around 20 end-users. This company was running mostly MS-Office with some legacy CRM applications. Before switching to Sun Rays, the IT stuff was done by the CEO, who was an IT hobbyist. As usual in cases like this, over time it was getting too expensive to run the environment, and the company was running into a hardware life cycle...

The company wanted to get rid of all inhouse IT tasks (Backup Tape Handling, Patching etc.). Continuing to run Windows was a natural choice as the churn rate of the call center agents is very high (training issues). Providing a Unix Desktop was despite of this still an option for later times...

Basically what we did was running a Windows Terminal Server on ESX in our rented datacenter and having the Sun Rays connect over a dedicated VDSL connection with a 3G wireless backup connection. Country X's telco infrastructure is very good, but you still want to have a standby link...

This reference case was running very stable and the architecture would have been easy to deploy to other customers as well.

Another thing we tried to sell was Sun Secure Global Desktop (SGD). Selling SGD was relatively easy because people already knew Citrix and Secure Global Desktop looked similar to them. SGD of course plays in another league. It's architecture is much better, as you can put SGD in a different network zone than the application servers without a problem This makes the whole solution more secure than Citrix (to be fair Citrix also provides proxy services, but you still have to install Citrix onto the app servers). SGD also supports heterogeneous environments.

After the customers saw SGD we went on to a Sun Ray demo. In the end, they were more interested in Sun Rays, than SGD.

For SGD we also saw interest from ISVs for providing their legacy Windows Applications as a Service over the Internet (e.g. CRM, ERP stuff). SGD runs nicely over an https connection. But as legacy applications are going away in favorite of web applications, we didn't follow that idea too much.

Another interesting sideline we tried to sell with Secure Global Desktop was Session Recording - developed by a German company (www.tbsol.de). Basically everything you do during an application/desktop session generates a macromedia movie which will be archived (=> SOX anyone?). This add-on is particularly interesting, as there are many ISVs demanding remote access to your most precious systems. And if something bad happens, you want to know what they did, don't you?

When talking to my friend at sales (who really understood the technology behind it), the feedback from most SMB customers was that they did not understand the Sun Ray (and combined SGD) solutions. The topic is just too complex to understand if not seen in action. One guy was even saying he doesn't believe us at all, when we were talking about hot-desking with smart cards :-) .

When customers came over to see our demo environment, feedback was always very positive. Unfortunately, no-one ordered! My personal guess is, that our company was too small to run critical things like a desktop @ 7x24x365. Also the initial investments were too high for them (not counting TCO correctly). Another thing might be that they only know HP, IBM and Dell and not Sun, and anyway "no-one they know is doing thin-computing".

Looking back and comparing us to other Sun Partners, we were really ahead of these box movers.... We were so ahead of Sun's sales organization in Country X, they didn't understand it at all, what we were doing! All the sales were focusing on their niche product. Or maybe our revenue was just flying under their radar...

I still believe in VDI solutions, be it a Windows or a Unix Desktop (you have to somehow get one foot in the door), and if I had the money, the time and the energy, I would start over with my own company. Customer feedback was just too amazing when they saw smart card hot desking. It was just like the glowing eyes of children awaiting presents under the Christmas tree. ;-)

Cheers
Burana

BTW: We were never contacted by customers for asking for a Sun Ray or SGD solution....

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Country X obviously isn't Canada or the United States, but experience in both has been similar: no support from the national Sun sales organization; customers who've never heard of the product before loving the demos but not buying; and the technology enthusiasts who see and value this stuff eventually forced to give it up.