Tarantella: Beyond Windows

While thin-client services for Windows applications attract most of the attention, the fact is that most large organizations run a mix of Windows, Unix and mainframe applications. So a product like Tarantella, which can support access to a mix of applications from a single client, should be a compelling proposition for IT managers.

Unlike Citrix Systems Inc.'s MetaFrame and Microsoft Corp.'s Terminal Services, which must run on each application server, Tarantella runs on a middleware server that sits between the client and back-end systems. That should appeal to Unix administrators who may be hesitant to install products like MetaFrame for Unix on their host systems.

To the client, Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Tarantella Inc.'s bandwidth-optimized communications software speaks Adaptive Internet Protocol, so it will run on any device with a Java-enabled Web browser. On the back end, it communicates using the appropriate protocol for each server, be it X Window or Microsoft's Remote Display Protocol.

University Health System in San Antonio uses Tarantella to connect 4,500 Windows NT PCs and 1,000 Unix workstations to its Unix-based clinical documentation, lab results and medical imaging applications. Using a Web browser, doctors and other staffers can access patient information internally or from seven locations via T1 lines. University Health initially considered a Web-enabled version of the software but rejected it because "the cost was in the seven-figure range, and there was a lot of retraining involved," says Dr. James Legler, clinical informatics specialist. With Tarantella, "we came in well under $100,000 for the whole thing, which was one tenth of what we would have paid for the Web project," he says.

The system, which includes dual-clustered servers running Tarantella, was relatively easy to set up, he says. As for performance, when users first log on in the morning, they experience a 15- or 20-second delay. But "from that point on, the speed is the same as a regular terminal," Legler says.

Tarantella's biggest problem may be that it's a well-kept secret. The company, which spun off from The Santa Cruz Operation Inc. last year, has had little visibility, and its small size is a concern for potential customers who need enterprise-level support such as John Bolz, a systems architect at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. "From a long-term viability standpoint, I'd be better off with Citrix than [Tarantella]," he says.

But Legler isn't concerned. "If you have a Unix application you need ported to a Windows NT box, the solution is there in Tarantella," he says.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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