A short while ago, Roger Sakowski and I had the opportunity to speak with XDS, Inc.’s CEO and Chairman, Mario Dal Canto. His company has a new take on the idea of access virtualization. XDS, Inc., the SIMtone.
Here's how XDS, Inc. presents this idea:
SIMtone™ is a paradigm-shifting network service. It's a digital dial tone pervasively available across the global network that automatically manages and provisions network and session connectivity, security and devices.
With the SIMtone™, digital services such as desktops, applications and media content are as simple and efficient to provision, manage and deliver as standard telephone service. And just like the telephone, users can access all digital services by just signing onto the SIMtone itself from any device.
SIMtone™ enables both enterprises and service providers to deliver secure applications and digital services on demand and in real time, eliminating all network and device configuration. Because all data, applications and operating system functionality reside on centralized servers inside the firewall, the solution is secure and scalable, and reduces substantially the cost of infrastructure management.
Although the idea is elegant in and of itself, this presentation appears to me to be a rather confusing collection of jargon that obscures what the company is really doing. This is unfortunate because the company's approach is clearly is an evolutionary step in concept of access virtualization.
What is Access Virtualization anyway?As I've pointed out in previous posts, access virtualization is not a new idea. It is a direct outgrowth of the technology that provided access to mainframe and minicomputer applications from inexpensive, fixed function (called "dumb") devices with little to no requirements for installation of software on the remote client, management of that client or changes to that client when applications, application frameworks or system software were updated or changed.
Access virtualization is inserting technology in between an application and a local or remote device that enhances the abilities of that communication stream so that the application can work with just about any type of networkable device over just about any type of network allowing the individual using the application to be anywhere. Over time, different companies have each developed their own approach. Some have built special purpose, thin client hardware that has the ability to communicate with several forms of virtual access software including the X Windows Consortium's X-Windows, Microsoft's RDP, Citrix's ICA and, in more recent times, VMware's VDI.
What's new and different about XDS's approach?Rather than adding software into the operating system, the way Citrix or Microsoft does, or adding a separate communication process that applications must communicate with the way the good folks over in the X-Windows world do, XDS has developed an external system, called SNAP that catches the stream of pixels coming from the server and sends them over the network in an encrypted form to special-purpose client, called VDU or the Virtual Desktop Utility, that transforms that stream into a display image on the remote device. The software on the remote device also catches mouse movements, mouse clicks and keyboard entry and sends it back to the remote system. Unlike some other approaches, XDS's SIMtone requires a broadband network connection.
What's intriguing is that SNAP can be acquired in the form of a hardware appliance or as software that can be loaded on an organization's own hardware. VDU can also be acquired in the form of hardware or software. This approach provides organizations with a great deal of flexibility so that developers, knowledge workers and task-oriented workers can all have access to systems in ways that best fit their style of working.
Snapshot AnalysisHere's a quick analysis of XDS and it's approach to virtual access.
- Strengths - Grabbing the user interface at this point in the communications process allows XDS to provide a secure, high speed, responsive access to many different applications, many different operating systems using the same mechanism.
- Weaknesses - XDS is a new company and is faced with getting its messages out in a noisy environment.
- Opportunities - XDS has the opportunity to offer secure, responsive access solutions to organizations in the financial services, government and health care markets that could do more and cost less than some of the competitors.
- Threats - XDS is going to have to be very creative to get mindshare when ClearCube, Citrix, Microsft, Neoware, Wyse and several others are investing heavily in marketing.