Neocleus - A different take on desktop virtualization

Ariel Gorfung, CEO, Neocleus, and I had a fast paced, interesting discussion about the company's notion of "endpoint virtualization" and how that can change how organizations deploy and use desktop and laptop systems. At first I had trouble really getting to the heart of what they were doing.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

Ariel Gorfung, CEO, Neocleus, and I had a fast paced, interesting discussion about the company's notion of "endpoint virtualization" and how that can change how organizations deploy and use desktop and laptop systems. At first I had trouble really getting to the heart of what they were doing. Their use of marketing catch phrases and industry buzzwords actually obscured what they were really doing.

This led me to the belief that their approach was merely another implementation of desktop virtualization rather than something strikingly new. As I learned more, I came to the understanding that they've been looking at the same industry issues but have been working from a different vision of how these issues can be effectively addressed. Neocleus insists that many of the issues that exist in today's "end point" computing environments can not be solve within those environments because the very structure of those environments gets in the way of an effective solution. The company asserts that the only way to resolve those issues is to apply usage management, security and other levels of IT administration from outside of the desktop operating system through the use of virtual machine software and management software for virtualized environments.

How Neocleus describes what it is doing

Here's a snippet of Neocleus' marketing material:

In computing, virtualization is a concept that has existed for decades. It refers to the abstraction of computer resources and was first used to increase mainframe productivity. More recently, server virtualization has become popular in the data center because it offers higher availability of resources, significant energy savings and a way to lower IT costs.

But while server virtualization has succeeded in allowing IT departments to create a more efficient data center, it does little to fully address the challenges associated with managing and protecting desktops and laptops. Nor is server virtualization able to tackle the issues organizations face in trying to securely deliver applications, services and data to partners and customers.

Overcoming endpoint challenges requires an infrastructure that provides the freedom for users to transparently bridge across legacy Windows applications, applications that are migrating to virtual datacenters and external Internet-based services. The architecture must also facilitate the delivery of operating environments that IT can control and manage with less complexity and at a lower cost.

Endpoint virtualization offers a new approach for simplifying the management of endpoints while providing essential security and performance improvements. Business applications and services operate in a trusted environment "outside of Windows." Endpoint virtualization also gives the context necessary for IT to control the endpoint as a thin client on the corporate LAN, remote access device or as a local PC depending on performance and security needs.

Organizations that embrace endpoint virtualization will realize significant benefits of a common infrastructure to efficiently and securely enable deployment of applications, data and services across the distributed enterprise.

What is Necleus really doing?

Neocleus magicians have developed enhancements to the open source Xen hypervisor (which are being offered back to the open source Xen community so that they can be of use to everyone) that will make it easier for Windows desktops to live in a protected environment that can be either accessed remotely through a virtual desktop interface or delivered down to a desktop or laptop computer. More than one of these virtual desktops can exist on a single "end pont" computer if needed.

This approach allows organizations to combine protected organization applications with the staff member's own personal computing environment on the same system without allowing them to interfere with one another.

Neocleus has developed a management and security environment, called Trusted Edge, to protect and control access to those environments.

It's an interesting approach but appears, on the surface at least, to be very much like the approach offered by Citrix, VMware, Qumranet and a host of others.

Snapshot Analysis

If one goes beneath the surface to really examine what Neocleus is doing, it is far more interesting than the buzzwords would indicate. This tells me that Neocleus faces both a technical and marketing challenge.

On the technical side, the company is depending upon the open source Xen community to adopt the enhancements offered by the company. It is not at all clear that this will actually happen. The Xen community is heavily influenced by Citrix, Red Hat, Novell/SUSE, Virtual Iron and many others and may or may not embrace the enhancements offered by Neocleus.

On the marketing side, the company is competing with far larger companies and will have to either spend a great deal of money or do some very clever things to get their messages out over the noise in the market. Neocleus faces competition from better established companies that have been offering products that combine desktop virtualization, management of virtualized resources and security in a virtualized environment for a number of years.

If my conversation with the good Mr. Gorfung is a guide, Neocleus is very likely to overcome these challenges and take its place on the world stage along side of these other companies.

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