The newest incarnation of Sun Microsystems 's JDS (Java Desktop System) is a visually pleasing desktop loosely based on SuSE Linux, though it departs from standard Linux distributions in mildly annoying ways. That said, the biggest change in this revision is the management back end.
Sun's Control Station management tool runs on Red Hat Linux servers and offers individual workstation management, including health monitoring and automated software installation and removal. Further, its PXE (Pre-Boot Execution Environment)-based installation services enable quick deployment of desktop images.
Each JDS 2.0 desktop includes the required management agent, but agents are available for other Linux-based distributions and even Solaris, making it possible to integrate management functions in heterogeneous environments. The standard Linux agent isn't as sophisticated as the JDS-specific one, especially when used with more obscure distributions or newer releases, such as Fedora Core 2, but it does offer rudimentary management functions.
Most interesting is Sun's new Configuration Manager offering. So far, Linux desktops have lacked policy-based management capabilities like those offered by Microsoft 's GPO (Group Policy Objects). With Configuration Manager, administrators can apply policies to managed workstations, which can be used to modify a number of variables, including user presentation, application settings, security parameters, and so forth.
Unfortunately, the demo environment Sun provided was fraught with inconsistencies; hopefully the actual product works better than the demo. Still, these new tools prove that Sun has been giving serious thought not just to desktop user experience but to network administration, as well.