Sun buying thin-client system vendor Tarantella

The deal is valued at $25M

Sun Microsystems Inc. today announced that it is buying thin-client system maker Tarantella Inc. for $25 million.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Tarantella sells serverware that allows users to access enterprise applications through a thin client.

Sun, which sells its own thin-client system, Sun Ray, plans to integrate the Tarantella technology with its own as quickly as possible, according to John Loiacono, Sun Microsystems' executive vice president for software, who spoke during a late afternoon teleconference.

Loiacono said Tarantella has 12,000 customers and technology that works "on virtually all applications, networks and devices," including PCs, thin clients, handsets or automobile dashboards -- "anything with a Java-enabled browser."

He said Sun's goal is to take Tarantella's technology, integrate it with Solaris and the company's own Sun Ray thin-client technology "and make this the most complete interoperability platform and the foundation for building out desktop environments as a utility."

With the technology, customers will be able to use Solaris and Sun Ray "while also accessing Windows applications," as well as Linux, mainframe applications and others. "We have been steadily building out our strategy of driving toward a true utility model," Loiacono said.

Although Sun plans to act quickly to integrate Tantarella's technology into Solaris, Loiacono wouldn't commit to a time frame for doing so.

He also said that Sun will support Tarantella customers on whatever platforms they now use and that whatever changes the company makes may give them additional capabilities.

Tarantella's competitors include Citrix Systems Inc. But two Tarantella users reached today said they have stopped using Tarantella's thin-client system. Both were found on the company's list of Web site customer references.

"To tell you the truth, I actually quit using their system about three or four months ago," said Jay Huber, the IT manager at Forte Communications Inc., a Chicago-based phone service provider. "I had a lot of trouble running it on the server, and their support was pretty bad."

Huber said the testimonial he provided Tarantella was true when he gave it, particularly regarding its pricing. He began using Tarantella's Secure Global Desktop Terminal Services Edition a year ago this month, saying at the time he could use it "for the same price as five Citrix users." But Huber said the cost of support turned out to be a lot higher.

Another customer case study listed on Tarantella's Web site is the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. That College Park, Md.-based institution has also stopped using Tarantella's system, according to Ernie Soffronoff, the enterprise architect at the business school.

The school switched over to Citrix last summer, Soffronoff said in an e-mail. It used the Tarantella hardware to publish Windows applications through a Web portal, but there were problems getting Java on the desktop and Microsoft applications to work together. "Too many people had the wrong version of Java installed or didn't have it at all, so they couldn't load Tarantella's desktop or client," he said.

Soffronoff said that the Sun purchase is probably a "good thing" and that Sun Ray technology may make the underlying desktop more predictable.

Last month, Tarantella said it would support Sun Solaris 10 running on x86 platforms.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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