Some of you may know the first-ever post on BrianMadden.com was about how New Moon Software, makers of the server-based computing product called Canaveral-IQ, sold to Tarantella in 2003 (nine years ago!). The Canaveral-IQ product was folded into Tarantella's Secure Global Desktop solution as Secure Global Desktop Terminal Services Edition (SGD-TSE), but failed to make much impact. Later, Tarantella was acquired by Sun, at which point the source for SGD-TSE was licensed to Propalms, leaving the original Secure Global Desktop in the hands of Sun, which of course was eventually bought by Oracle.
In the intervening years, Propalms has sort of fallen off the radar. They are still around, and still selling their version of SGD-TSE (now called Propalms TSE). The other version of SGD, which I believe was called "Enterprise" at one point, is also still around, and I recently had a call with Oracle to talk about what's been going on with it. To be honest, I'd completely forgotten about it, and the first ten minutes of the conversation were filled with me working backwards down the timeline of product names and acquisitions. (That's why I made it the first two paragraphs here :) Afterwards, though, I had a pretty clear picture of what Oracle has been up to since then.
What, exactly, is Secure Global Desktop?
The general idea of SGD is that it does for any internet browser what Sun Ray Server does for Sun Ray Terminals. Essentially, that means that any application input can be sent to any browser in much the same way that pretty much anything you hook into the Sun Ray Server can be delivered to a Sun Ray terminal. It actually has very little to do with "desktops," and is more of an application virtualization solution.
The backend architecture is actually pretty similar as well, although it is different. Essentially, it boils down to this:
Since this is a super high-level depiction, the Sun Ray equivalent would replace the Secure Global Desktop Server with a Sun Ray Server, and the Web Browser with a Sun Ray thin client. The basic idea behind each is that you can basically take any application input (Windows, Linux, custom web, ERP, just about anything, really), feed it through the Secure Global Desktop server, and interact with it remotely via a web browser. Oddly enough, while Sun Ray's use a protocol called ALP, SGD uses a similar, but different, protocol called AIP that is tweaked for browser access. AIP adjusts the experience dynamically, supports caching and compression, and is designed to work without additional WAN acceleration.
Oddly enough, it did almost the exact same thing as part of Tarantella in 2005, but we largely ignored it because we were focused on Windows. You could say SGD was ahead of its time! Of course, at the time, SGD-TSE was the only thing we cared about, so we followed that product (and it's eventual decline) rather than the version that was focused on enterprise, datacenter applications.
Today, though, new life has been breathed into delivering datacenter-based applications to browsers, and Oracle seems poised to take advantage of it. As I mentioned, the "desktop" in the name is a bit of a misnomer, and while SGD does support delivering RDSH and VDI desktops, it does that more or less because it can. It's main goal in life is to deliver any other corporate, datacenter-based, three-tier application to browsers.
Where does it fit today?
There's the bajillion dollar question. On the user side, Secure Global Desktop is a web interface that can provide you with browser-based access to all of your applications. This is agent-based, but with an HTML5 client, could be quite useful.
At this point, though, you'd probably only go with it if you were already an Oracle shop and had access to all the bits and expertise you needed to pull it off. The end result, though, is still deploying apps to the browser in a non-native way, and we can do that with what we have available to us (and what we are all probably using anyway) with RDS, XenApp, XenDesktop, View, and vWorkspace. Even if we're talking about access to an ERP, there's already Windows clients for those, and we can stand up a system to remote to those really quickly with the techniques we know.
The advantage may come from the mobile side, but support for phones and tablets is still in the "coming soon" phase (along with HTML5 support). Delivering any of these applications to any device via the web interface would be useful, and now is a decent time to get into that space. Still, when I think of Oracle, I don't think "fast moving," or "bleeding edge," so I'm not sure how any of the solutions they release will compare to what else is out there.
Still, I've heard more from Oracle in the last year than I heard from Sun in the previous five years, so perhaps there is something bigger going on. So I ask you, sometimes vocal Sun/Oracle readers - what do you use this for? Where do you see it going? If I'm just a regular Windows shop, should I still be considering using Oracle SGD?
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