SCO Forum: Tarantella Delights Users, Partners

Santa Cruz Operation Inc.'s Tarantella application-brokering product appears to have many fans, judging by presentations made by Tarantella users last month during SCO Forum '99 in Santa Cruz, California.

The most commonly touted benefits were: ease and speed of deployment; the ability to use Tarantella as a set of builder's tools to build a specific application brokering platform; and speed of access to applications.

Charles Brewster, senior infrastructure specialist with EDS in Plano, Texas, found access to a Unix-based application to be so quick over a dial-up line when testing Tarantella that he thought he must still be connected to the LAN.

"I unhooked everything and started again, went into dial-up and there it was in five seconds again. I couldn't believe it," Brewster said, adding that loading the same application over dial-up previously left enough time to go get a coffee.

Tarantella sits on a server between application servers -- whether they are running Unix, Windows NT, 3270 or something else -- and clients, allowing users to access the applications through a Web browser without regard for their desktop computing platform or other Web-enabled device.

"Anything that's capable of surfing the Web can access any application" with Tarantella, said Tony Baines, SCO's leading evangelist.

Brewster said EDS, a professional services company, manages several customer applications and networks. The variety in servers and applications meant that some EDS operators had several machines on their desks because one client couldn't handle each kind of connection. With Tarantella, EDS operators can now access all of the customer applications through a Web browser on one machine.

"It's hard to type on three devices at the same time, whereas with Tarantella I just flip screens," Brewster said.

"You just drop in a server and run."

Most of the other customers at SCO Forum had used Tarantella as a builder's platform to create their own specialized versions of the product. Although each company had separate needs and goals, the consistently appreciated result of Tarantella was not having to update individual client machines when an application is changed. The Web browser simply loads the application every time it is accessed, so any changes are loaded then and there.

"We're making one look and feel that the client can get used to and then we can deploy that rapidly without having to go and touch everybody's PC," said Ben Keeley, director of the Enterprise Technology Transformation Solution Center (ETTSC) for Deloitte Consulting in Atlanta.

Willem Rademaker, manager of services and education for ilion Benelux, an Almere, Holland-based distributor of networking and communications products, said: "If you've got 1,500 users calling the help desk because they have a configuration problem on their machine, you have a major issue."

But with Tarantella, Rademaker said, the configuration needs to be changed only once at the server level.

Deloitte's Keeley said new applications can be added by simply putting them into the Tarantella database.

"You can go from zero to two to 200 users instantly using a portal. Basically all we have to do to create profiles is drag and drop."

Two Boca Raton, Florida companies integrated Tarantella into their existing products for better management and deployment. Mike Wittig, vice-president of software development for CyberGuard, said Tarantella was integrated into his company's firewall product to facilitate remote administration.

"You want remote administration because the firewall might not be physically located at your site ... Tarantella has made our product much easier to use remotely. It has reduced cost for both us and our customers. It's reduced bandwidth as well," Wittig said.

Similarly, Casi-Rusco has integrated Tarantella into its security management software that monitors elements such as door locks and card-entry systems.

Gary Beerman, product manager for Casi-Rusco, said the new software makes security management easier for end users as well as administrators.

"You might have one person whose job it is to make the badges, so you set it up so the only icons they see are the badge icons. Then you have a security guard and he only needs to see security icons and not badge-making icons," which Beerman said is important for keeping idle security guards from fiddling with systems they should not be touching.

Beerman said SCO's help and support has been wonderful, in particular in development of a demo system in only three days.

Despite the ease of use, especially when used as an off-the-shelf product, several users said they found Tarantella a bit overwhelming.

"Once we found out how it worked, we kept finding new things to do with it. But it took three months for us to really understand what it could do," said Deloitte's Keeley.

Even SCO's president and CEO Doug Michels said Tarantella can be hard to peg down.

"It's a new category ... People aren't waking up and saying, 'God, I need a Tarantella!'"Instead, Michels said people are waking up and worrying about how to port applications to a Web interface without having to convert the application to Java.

SCO's Baines agreed. "Customers aren't going to rewrite their applications in Java overnight just to take advantage of the Internet ... (With Tarantella) you don't have to rewrite a single line of code on your business application," Baines said.

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