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Sun's low-cost computing journeys Down Under

Australian communications giant Telstra becomes one of the first major customers for Sun Microsystems' new thin-client computing effort.

Sun Microsystems has signed up one of the first major customers for its Mad Hatter low-cost computing initiative, with Australian communications giant Telstra revealing plans to migrate to the system.

Mad Hatter, which Sun formally unveiled earlier this week as the Java Desktop System, is the latest attempt to popularize thin-client computing, in which corporate PCs are replaced with stripped-down networked devices. Sun's effort, which runs on the open-source Linux operating system and includes Sun's StarOffice productivity software, is meant to be more flexible than previous approaches, letting information technology administrators decide how much computing work is shifted to central servers.

Curtis Sasaki, vice president of desktop solutions at Sun, said Telstra has been running trial installations of Mad Hatter for several months and has been pleased enough with the technology to go for widespread deployment. "We've been working with them for a while, both on their back-end infrastructure and on StarOffice, and the whole Mad Hatter desktop was a natural extension of that," Sasaki said. "One of their big things is trying to save money, and they saw a lot of potential there."

Telstra hopes to cut its $1.5 billion IT budget in half by switching from Windows PCs to Sun systems, according to a Telstra executive quoted in national newspaper The Australian.

Sasaki said Sun is working with a number of other major organizations looking at Java Desktop System projects. He said recent efforts by European and Asian governments to shift to open-source systems have helped encourage companies to experiment. "Some of the government agencies are beginning to mandate they use products based on open-source and open file formats," he said. "That gives companies a lot more incentive to move on projects like this."