Sun releases VoIP for Sun Ray thin clients

Sun Microsystems last week released for its Sun Ray thin clients new voice-over-IP software that lets users create voice conferences, and make or take phone calls at any Sun Ray device.

The voice-over-IP support is part of Version 3.2 of the SunForum software, formerly called ShowMe. This server-based software can now connect to a corporate PBX, and route calls to and from Sun Ray users over the LAN. A new GUI program displays an image that mimics a cell phone's appearance, complete with on-screen mute button, a keypad and address book. A group of Sun Ray users can create an audio conference with the same interface.

At its core, SunForum is a videoconferencing and whiteboard application, based on the H.323 and T.120 standards. But to make it a complete end-user package for the Sun Rays, Sun has added other programs. SunForum now also includes the new SunOffice 5.2 Java office suite, an interactive chat client, Java-based terminal emulators to mainframes, and a reworked Citrix ICA client to access server-based Windows applications.

The Sun Ray appliance uses software Sun created to split off the thinnest slice of the graphical user interface, the frame buffer, which is almost all that runs on the desktop display. The Sun Rays and their servers exchange only pixel changes over the net. The rest of the software, along with the SunForum applications, runs on Sun Solaris servers.

The thin clients don't have visible IP addresses. Thus, to support voice over IP in the SunForum 3.2 release, Sun created a gatekeeper program that maps IP addresses dynamically among the Sun Ray clients, says Barton Fiske, senior technology manager with Sun's Internet Appliances Group. New code on the Sun Ray server does the necessary encoding and routes a voice stream to the appropriate phone switch.

Because Sun Rays are "stateless" devices, users can log on to any Sun Ray using a smart card, access their applications, and have phone calls routed automatically to wherever they are.

Also this week, Sun released a new version of its Java Advanced Imaging (JAI) software, which is used to build and run image processing applications.

Version 1.1 runs faster than the earlier release, partly due to expanded memory management features for very large images. Changes to JAI's computational scheduling and the addition of multithreading capability are also performance boosters.

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