Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Extreme virtualisation

On Friday evening, I posted the following to Twitter:

Okay, so I’m running Windows XP in VMWare through Sun Secure Global Desktop on Windows 7 in VirtualBox in Mac OS X. Phew!

Some of the responses quite rightly questioned my sanity, what with this being Friday night, but others were confused as to why I was going so much effort to run Windows XP. The key is that the Windows XP environment was not on my own computer – it was at work.
At work we use Sun Ray thin clients, namely the Sun Ray 270 units which integrate a 17″ TFT screen. These then connect to a central server running VMWare, which houses a series of Windows XP virtual machines. This means that we can hotdesk – any Sun Ray terminal will let us access our virtual machine on the Sun Ray server and let us use it as if it the computer was on our desk in front of us, and not in another part of the site,
We also have access to the Sun Secure Global Desktop (SSGP) which extends this access to the web. Theoretically any computer in the world with Java can be used as a terminal, so it’s possible to access our work desktop, and all of our applications, from home or an internet cafe.
Unfortunately the SSGP client applet doesn’t work reliably on Macs, which instead of using Sun’s official Java Runtime Environment, use a customised version co-developed with Apple (this means we get prettier Java applications at the expense of slower security updates and slightly reduced compatibility). So to allow me to access my desktop at work, I had to load up my copy of the Windows 7 release candidate in VirtualBox (queue a stream of tweets moaning about Windows Update choking on a package for around an hour).
So while my machine was running Mac OS X, I had VirtualBox open with Windows 7 in it. That then ran the SSGP client which connected to the Sun Ray server at work, which then opened up my Windows XP desktop running on VMWare.
If you understood that, then congratulations, you’re a computer geek.

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