Startup Launches 'Desktops as a Service'

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-04-07

Startup Launches 'Desktops as a Service'

A startup called MokaFive is launching the MokaFive Desktop Virtualization service on April 7.

The new service, supported by 15 pending patents, is intended to deliver "virtual desktops as a service" to help customers manage thousands of virtual desktops running a variety of operating systems and resolve key security issues remotely.

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The service will also allow users to switch from online to offline status seamlessly.

The offering represents yet another rebirth for desktop virtualization, which has undergone several metamorphoses from its beginnings on mainframes in the 1960s and '70s into thin clients in the 1990s to its current renaissance within open enterprise systems; now, the technology is taking yet another life as a service-oriented offering.

"We have taken the best of both cloud computing, a la Google, plus the power of a local notebook or desktop computer to solve, once and for all, the offline/online problem at the heart of today's costly desktop management headache," said MokaFive President and CEO Bill Demas in a statement.

Desktop virtualization enables the separation of the physical location, where the PC desktop resides, from where the user is accessing the PC. When a desktop is virtualized, its keyboard, mouse and video display (among other things) are typically redirected across a network via a desktop remoting protocol.

MokaFive's Demas and co-founder John Whaley discuss the Virtual Desktop Solution in this eWEEK podcast. Listen to them here. 

MokaFive uses a new, patent-pending format called LivePC for its virtual machines. LivePC contains an entire desktop operating system and application stack based on SunRay thin-client architecture, which Sun co-founder and current MokaFive principal Vinod Khosla helped develop.

Most current virtual desktop software packages are limited to static images that require a server to manage a limited number of users.

In contrast, LivePCs deliver dynamically updated images that can be used by up to thousands of individuals accessing a single server, company spokesperson Chantal Yang said.

MokaFive enables IT managers to manage literally thousands of virtual desktops running on Windows, Macintosh and Linux PCs across an organization, said Yang.

LivePCs also allow users to pause and resume their computing state on different PCs using a USB thumb drive. Thus, LivePCs can be run online or offline, boot quickly on a PC, fit securely on a USB flash drive, and update automatically over a network or the Internet.

MokaFive Features

MokaFive features automatic updates, self-healing from spyware and malware (through MokaFive's Rejuvenation technology that allows users to simply shut down and restart a LivePC if security is ever breached by any threat, including rootkit or zero-day vulnerability attacks), and cross-platform and OS flexibility. 

The desktop virtualization market is growing quickly, according to Gartner Group, which reported that in 2006 "fewer than 5 million PCs used the technology [OS-to-hardware virtualization]; by 2011, that figure is expected to increase to more than 660 million."

Analysts predict that PC virtualization technology will be commonplace in almost all data centers and in most homes and offices within the next two years.

"It will become an increasingly critical component of future enterprise desktop computing environments," IDC research analyst Michael Rose told eWEEK.

"One of the major benefits of MokaFive is the enablement of secure mobility without sacrificing end-user capabilities," Rose said.

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Therefore, "organizations with significant security challenges or challenges related to regulatory compliance would find MokaFive's technology to have particular value," he added.

MokaFive, based in Redwood City, Calif., will officially introduce itself and its new product April 8 at the IDC Virtualization Forum in San Francisco. On April 10, it will stage its first public demonstration at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, Calif.

The new offering is based on more than 10 years of research at Stanford University, partly funded by the National Science Foundation.

No stranger to virtualization, Khosla is also one of the key backers-along with former Oracle President Ray Lane and Veritas co-founder Mark Leslie-of Xsigo, which provides I/O virtualization software for data centers.

A 30-day free trial of MokaFive is available for download here. General availability is scheduled for later in the second quarter of 2008, said Yang.


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