MokaFive is getting ready to launch Version 3 of their product, which will add full Windows 7 support, integrated AVG, and multitenant support for service providers. The price will remain unchanged, starting at $150 per user, per year. Notably missing from the new release is their "bare metal" capabilities (due out early next year) which they originally showed off at BriForum earlier this year.
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Regular readers will remember that MokaFive is one of the companies with a promising product that I like a lot. Their solution is a desktop virtualization product where desktops run locally on the endpoint devices, currently based on "Type 2" environments (and again with the Type 1 bare metal coming next year). MokaFive doesn't actually build the hypervisor, instead leveraging VMware's free player, or the open source Virtual Box, Parallels Workstation, VMware Fusion, etc. MokaFive adds all the management that's needed to securely deliver and manage these "Live PCs" to end users. Their product provides the layering capabilities you need to split your images into OS, app, and user layers, as well as the central deployment, patch updates, security scans, user assignment, and policy controls needed to actually run client-based VMs in the real world.
The main way that MokaFive is used is that a user logs in to the MokaFive web portal and sees a link for one or more Live PCs that he or she is authorized to use. After a single click, that Live PC is downloaded where it can be run locally. Of course the initial download can be rather large (although MokaFive uses their own disk format which can significantly compress and reduce the size of the image when compared to a normal VMDK file), once the image is downloaded then everything happens locally on the client device--whether online or offline. The single MokaFive package can also contain the actual virtualization software itself (VMware Player, Virtual Box, etc.), and (new in v3) an integrated full-licensed AVG antivirus package.
MokaFive has also done a lot of work digging into the depths of how Windows accesses the drive, and they offer a deployment solution where the Live PC and supporting virtualization software actually lives on a USB device (thumb drive or even microSD card in a mobile phone). So you just plug your USB stick into the host PC and run your corporate desktop from there, and when you pull the drive out, *poof*, it's gone. (Anyone who's ever tried to run a VM from a USB key with the normal off-the-shelf VMware Player knows that MokaFive's ability to do this is quite a feat!
Being a client-based solution, MokaFive has a special place in my heart because I've written that I believe 90% of future "VDI" will be client-based, (though not everyone agrees), so why would you waste your money and energy putting desktops in your datacenter if they'll run perfectly fine on the endpoint? Way cheaper and simpler! (And then just use a remote desktop session-based solution, like XenApp or vWorkspace to deliver just the single seamless apps that need to run in the datacenter.)
So fundamentally I like MokaFive and I was excited to hear that they have a new version coming out. Since they're based in Redwood City and I live in San Francisco, I drove down there last week to see Version 3 for myself. I spoke with MokaFive cofounder & CTO (& BriForum 2010 speaker) John Whaley about the new features in Version 3 (and recorded this short video of him explaining it.)
As I wrote previously, the new features of MokaFive 3.0 are Win7 support, AVG integration, and a new service-provider edition.
Windows 7 support is pretty straightforward. It's full support for everything they do, including the layering, management, and ability to run on both 32-bit and x64 editions.
The AVG integration is interesting because they actually did a deal with AVG themselves to integrate the MokaFive LivePC player with AVG. (Here's a video of John explaining it.) In this case, AVG performs a client scan which checks for keyloggers, viruses, malware, etc. before the user is able to login to his or her Live PC, and if malware is detected then the user isn't even able to type in his or her password into the Live PC to continue. Of course MokaFive 3 customers are able to run other AV solutions, it's just that the AVG-based one is now included with your 3.0 license, and the deployment and management and security scanning is fully integrated.
The final new feature is the server-provider edition, which just means that the product is fully multitenant aware, meaning a single MokaFive server infrastructure can be created for multiple different sets of users, complete with delegated administration, separate customizations, etc. Service providers can also share Live PC disk images across clients.
What's missing in 3.0?
As I mentioned, MokaFive's bare-metal solution is not in this initial 3.0 release. It's currently in alpha at a few customers, and due out early next year. John mentioned that the bare metal feature is based on the same 3.0 infrastructure, so when it comes out it will plug right in.
Also missing in 3.0 is what John referred to as a "trickle back" capability where a Live PC is continuously backed up block-by-block in realtime in the background. The current product allows block-level changes to "trickle down" from the admin in the background, and the user and app layers can be backed up on a schedule, but there's currently not a continuous trickle-back option.
And of course, being a client-only solution, MokaFive doesn't offer any kind of datacenter-hosting option for your Live PC images. So if you want a "full" desktop delivery solution, you'll have to also use Citrix XenDesktop, Quest vWorkspace, or something like that. (I don't mention VMware View since it's VDI only and doesn't include support for integrated Terminal Server apps, so in the context of "full" solutions if you used MokaFive & View then you'd still need another TS-based solution.)
You'll also probably need to use a real user virtualization product and a real app virtualization product, as MokaFive's layering is built more for PC management as opposed to user and application isolation (as CTO John Whaley explains in this video).
At $150 per user per year, MokaFive is be no means cheap. The company has focused on large customers over the past few years, all but ignoring requests from smaller ones (due to their limited sales and support structures and their need to get the most bang for their proverbial sales buck.), but they do mention that the service provider version of 3.0 should allow providers to deliver desktops to smaller companies.
At the end of the day, I like what MokaFive does. I'm not 100% sure that these limited new features warrant an entire new "major" release (from 2.x to 3.x), although I guess that's somewhat arbitrary in our industry. We'll keep our eyes open for MokaFive bare metal and see how it compares to other bare metal solutions from Citrix and Virtual Computer. (Actually if MokaFive does it right then they'll be the only company that offers both Type 2 and bare metal options for their client-based VM solutions.) This space is becoming fairly crowded, and we'll keep track of how it's shaking out.