Over the weekend, ZDnet broke news that Oracle would be announcing the discontinuation of new development Oracle VDI, and, perhaps even more importantly, Sun Ray software and hardware. Frankly, I keep checking the calendar, expecting this to be "screw with the heads of IT writers" day or something, but I also received an email from Oracle PR stating:
In an effort to more tightly align Oracle's future desktop virtualization portfolio investments with Oracle Corporation's overall core business strategy, we have ended new feature development for Oracle Sun Ray Software (SRS), Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Software (VDI), Oracle Virtual Desktop Client (OVDC) Software, and Oracle Sun Ray Client hardware (3, 3i, and 3 Plus). Customer support and the renewal of support contracts for these products will continue uninterrupted. Customers can continue to purchase new licenses. Exact timeframes for a last order date for Oracle Sun Ray client devices will be announced shortly.
Going forward, Oracle's desktop portfolio investments will be focused on continued development and new enhancements to both Oracle Secure Global Desktop and Oracle VM VirtualBox software.
What they didn't say is that in addition to discontinuing the software, they also let go the majority of employees focused on the technology. While I haven't seen this information in any official channels, multiple sources have confirmed that there have been extensive layoffs worldwide as a result of this decision. The only people that remain are a skeleton crew that are simply there to ride out the support obligations and Sun Ray inventory.
When picking a VDI solution, "will this product still be around in 3 years" only comes to mind for smaller companies that only recently crept on to the radar. I feel bad for Oracle customers that bought into the stack, only to find out that all of it is essentially a relic now. I mean, part of the reason people buy an Oracle solution is because it's from Oracle.
Regardless, the pool of talent floating around Silicon Valley is huge now. Every engineer I've ever interacted with at Oracle has been amazingly technical (one could argue that you'd have to be to use the product). Complexity, however, doesn't mean it's a bad product, it just means that to get all the features that the Oracle VDI / VirtualBox / Sun Ray stack offered, you had to jump through some hoops.
Frankly, I've been called to the table before for using the word "complex" to describe Oracle VDI, and while I've seen many demos and understand that it's easy enough to stand up once you get familiar with it, the entire process, if you're a non-Solaris person, is more complex than the other VDI solutions. It's like batting right handed your entire life, then switching to left. In the end you're just swinging a bat, but it all feels different, and each movement that used to be automatic takes more effort. That was the uphill battle that Oracle had to fight with every single feature (protocol, hypervisor, endpoint support, etc…).
What really surprises me is that Sun Rays are also being discontinued. Over the years, we've cultivated a relationship with Sun Ray fanatics that usually falls into something like this:
- We write something about thin clients
- Sun Ray fans see that we left out Sun Rays
- Sun Ray fans write emails and post comments
- Comment war begins until one of us admits to the existence of them and our own neglect for not mentioning them sooner
The thing is, the Sun Ray solution is incredibly powerful and flexible. I do believe that its performance in VDI environments was surpassed long ago by RemoteFX, PCoIP, and HDX (it still worked, but not as well as the other protocols), but Sun Ray fans weren't just in it for the VDI. They were remoting any application, from DOS to Ubuntu to NT 3.51 to their users because the platform was flexible enough to take just about any input and send it over the wire. They were in it for the wacky ways you could configure terminals, as kiosks, with multiple displays, or even having multiple thin clients be aware of each other and share screens, mouse, and keyboard. Sure, those are mostly parlor tricks used to get a "gee whiz" during a demo, but those features are there because somebody needed them.
While nothing is filling the void left by Oracle VDI, Oracle is continuing development on Secure Global Desktop, which, frankly, has been the product that's seen the most change in the last few years. SGD could use a new name, perhaps, and some fresh marketing, but they're on the right track of mobilizing just about everything in a datacenter for any device, anywhere. I've always considered SGD like a web-based version of Sun Ray, and I suspect that's what Oracle is doing, too.
We'll keep an eye out for any more information. In the meantime, let us know in the comments if and how this effects you. And, if you're looking for great technical minds in the Bay Area, you won't have to look too hard.