BIVBlog #34: Playing Around with SunRay 1 Thin Clients

During an IPv6 training I held last year I was given two Sun Microsystems SunRay 1 thin clients. I give them a closer look, explain why they caused so much excitement when they hit the market, and tell about the problems I ran into trying while trying to get the server side to work.

Table of Contents

00:00:30 How I got hold of the SunRays—and heaps of thanks to the folks at Spirit/21.
00:01:30 History of the SunRay “Ultra Thin Clients”.
00:02:30 A look at the hardware.
00:09:40 SunRays, security, microsegmentation, and IPv6.
00:12:35 Starting up the SunRay clients.
00:16:50 Using smart cards in the SunRays.
00:18:30 The magic smart card feature.
00:20:10 Why didn’t they get more popular? Part I.
00:21:05 SunRay server woes.
00:30:00 Why didn’t they get more popular? Part II.

UPDATE: What I don’t mention in the video: You don’t want to use the latest version of the server software, because it no longer includes the firmware for the clients (which is available as a separate package for customers with a service contract only); instead, use the oldest one you find on the server.

Follow-up video on the strengths and weaknesses, and the eventual obsolescence, of thin clients in general in BIVBlog #35 (


Long term IPv6 evangelist/book author/trainer/consultant and generic Unix guy (*BSD, Linux, Solaris, and about a dozen more).


  1. Arturo de la Riestra

    Hey Benedikt, i am part of a three-teenagers group of work studing at the Instituto Industrial Luis A. Huergo in Argentina. We stumbled upon your video while looking for information on how to run a server in order to use our Sunray 1. We have actually found 4 laying around between some boxes but we got only one of them working. Unfortunatly, we discovered this task to be far too complicated for our actual level of knowleadge, so we could use some help of yours on how to start and what O.S. to run the server on. Thank you very much in advance!

    • Benedikt Stockebrand

      Hi Arturo,

      it’s been a while that I set up that server, so I don’t even remember all the little pitfalls I’ve run into. But if I remember correctly, the easiest way to do this is to grab a copy of Solaris 10 (which used to be freely available for a time) and the documentation to set up the server from somewhere on Oracle’s web server. It’s still rather tricky, and I’ve run into a number of problems that made me shelf the project for weeks several times, so don’t worry if you don’t get it done. And as I said in both episode #34 and #35, these devices mostly of interest for historic reasons, and setting up a server for them was really just for the fun of it.

      If it’s for the learning experience and/or getting a cheap desktop system up and running I guess you’re way better off with a Raspberry Pi.



  2. Jonathan Teran

    Hi Benedikt! I’m also one of those three-teenagers and I wanted to thank you for the advices you gave us, because we somehow managed to set up a Sun Ray Server and make the clients came to life! I wanted to ask you where did you get the Smart Cards, because we would like to use them too, I think we’re not getting as much as we can from these clients.

    Anyway, thank you again for everything!

    • Benedikt Stockebrand

      Hi Jony,

      glad it helped you to get things up and running! Unfortunately, I haven’t found out what sort of smart cards could be used instead of the original SUN ones; the documentation still available from Oracle doesn’t give any pointers, and I really know way too little about these beasts to identify them somehow.

      And: As impressive as it looks when you pull a card out of one client, stick it in another and immediately your old session pops up, this really isn’t up to today’s security standards. You should really use password authentication, and only add the smart cards as an optional extra.

      Anyway, if you do find a source for those smart cards, please let me know. I’m more than willing to get a few for myself, just for the fun of it.



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