Hey! Neocleus has a strategy now! (Plans to OEM their client hypervisor to others. First is BigFix.)

Neocleus (along with Virtual Computer) is one of two startup companies shipping client hypervisors today. We've spoken with both companies quite a bit over the past 18 months or so, but now that VMware and Citrix are getting close to shipping their own client hypervisors, it's getting harder and harder for the smaller companies to get traction.

Neocleus (along with Virtual Computer) is one of two startup companies shipping client hypervisors today. We've spoken with both companies quite a bit over the past 18 months or so, but now that VMware and Citrix are getting close to shipping their own client hypervisors, it's getting harder and harder for the smaller companies to get traction.

Seriously, yesterday I had a conversation about Neocleus that went like this:

Me: So I'm meeting with Neocleus tomorrow.
Jon: Neocleus? Really? They're still around?
Me: Yeah, although I'm not exactly sure what they're doing now.
Jon: Looking for a buyer?

It's too bad the world works this way. Neocleus has some great technology. But regardless of how great it is, just the mere idea that Citrix and VMware might someday release a product that competes with them (even if the Neocleus one is ten times better) could kill them.

Neocleus recognized this late last year. On the one hand, they felt they had client hypervisor capabilities that would far exceed what Citrix and VMware will do with their v1 releases. On the other hand, they were a startup that was being stretched too thin by customer demands. ("This customer wants better management. Another customer wants better disk image updating over a WAN. A third customer wants more granular control over the policy engine.") Eventually it dawned on them that by trying to be everything to everyone, they weren't actually doing anything as good as they wanted and their core vision was being pulled apart.

So last October Neocleus decided to focus on providing the hypervisor (and its relevant management hooks) to other software vendors. I mean after all, if yahoos like Gabe and me have been talking about the value of client hypervisors for security, manageability, AV, backup, etc., then Neocleus could make a great business for themselves providing this capability for others.

Neocleus' first OEM Partner: BigFix

Have you heard of BigFix? They're a security and systems management software company whose product competes with "traditional" offerings from Symantec (Altiris), Microsoft (System Center Config Manager / SMS), etc. Big Fix is kind of an edgy company, currently involved in an ad campaign where they compare traditional management vendors to dinosaurs. (They've also accused McAfee & Symantec of being "impotent baloney.")

BigFix's story is about "simplicity," and everyone who uses them raves about 'em. Without going into all the details, BigFix believes that these traditional enterprise management systems were designed in an era when an "enterprise" was static and lived within four walls. But nowadays we have dozens of platforms, locations, laptops, devices, roaming users, home access, etc., etc., and the notion of a huge backend system with all the intelligence to manage thousands of agents doesn't make sense anymore.

BigFix flips that model on its head. Instead of the smarts residing in the central system, the "smarts" live in the agent on the endpoint. That agent can talk to other agents, configure itself, perform tasks, etc. Of course this is highly simplifying everything, but if you think of how a brand-new systems management system would be designed in today's peer-to-peer, loosely-connected, BitTorrent-loving world, you'd end up with BigFix.

So anyway, BigFix is cruising along fine for the past ten years or so, but they realize that their agent running inside the Windows client can actually be problematic. I mean if Windows is hosed, the agent is hosed.

Look at what Ron Oglesby blogged about on BrianMadden.com way back in 2006. If the management agent can move outside of Windows and into its own VM, then a bricked instance of Windows could still be restored, recovered, and booted remotely. The agent could handle backup, encryption, restoration, software distribution... the list goes on.

So that's how BigFix and Neocleus got together. So far BigFix hasn't announced any details about products. They think they'll be able to start demoing this in the next few months, but that it won't actually be available as a product until 2011.

So there you have it! Neocleus is no longer selling a product to end user customers. Their BigFix deal is exclusive in the management space, but not exclusive overall. (So Neocleus could power other ISVs' products.)

This deal is great for both companies. Let's be honest: there was no way in hell Neocleus was going to compete against Citrix or VMware. And adding a client hypervisor to a desktop management solution just makes sense. So congrats to both companies!

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Wohoo, finally we know where appdetective works (or to whom he designs ads) BigFix motha!


Now, about the Client HV thing. @Brian - do you know how it's going for VirtualComputer? I've been speaking with them some time ago, but my small audience are not at all hyped by Client HV. Also, one thing that scared me a bit is that a lot of corporate computers do not have VTx capable processors + high percentage of ATI gfx that noone likes to use for GPU offloading.


I'm gonna force feed OSS Xen Client to my Lenovo when I get it - then I'll reinstall and go back to Type 2.


How about you guys, what's your take + what do your customers think?


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@Brian,


I realize that VMware and Citrix have resources and captive customers that give them certain advantages in bringing new offerings like client virtualization to market, but I think you are too quick to anoint them as the winners in client-side virtualization.  How close are they to “shipping” client hypervisors?”  Even if they are close, what does that mean?  Beta quality or GA?  A hardware compatibility list of 2 PC models or 200? An equivalent or better experience than native or a step backwards for end-users that will stall product adoption just like the early days of VDI?  Will they ship a hypervisor initially with basic configuration options only or actually have it tied in to their core VM management framework in a rational way day one?


Shipping a client hypervisor is the beginning not the end game.  My (admittedly self-serving) prediction is that the big players will show up with their client hypervisor “table stakes” sometime in 2010, but we’ll be well into 2011 before they are at the end game of being able to present client virtualization as a full-featured alternative to their VDI offerings.  In a world where folks like you and I think 90% of the desktop virtualization action is going to be on the client side, I think there is plenty of opportunity for startups to shake this market up and achieve success.


I also don’t think you can discount the advantages that startups have over established companies.  All of our smart people are singularly focused on this one opportunity.  (Where is client virtualization on the priority list at VMware these days?)  Winning in this market would be a life changing event for everyone in our company—pretty good motivator versus what gets somebody at a big company out of bed every day.  We are not in any way encumbered or limited by legacy technology, rationalizing multiple management consoles, making sure we don’t send inconsistent messages to customers who wrote a big check for VDI last year, etc.


Being David vs. Goliath isn’t as bleak as you make it sound sometimes.  Let's see these guys deliver something before we start handing out the medals.


Doug (Virtual Computer)


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It’s great to see Neocleus finally wake up and understanding that Type 1 hypervisors are commodity and the future is about mgmt. Great way to build an ecosytem, partner with systems management companies who have traction in the enterprise. That said Neocleus faces a huge uphill battle until the OEMs start to ship. I doubt very much they will ship a Neocleus type 1 anytime soon.


Huge difference over Virtual Computer, who are not even a Type 1 hypervisor and are out there hyping themselves as the best thing out there since sliced bread. The hypervisor technologies are not the same. Virtual Computer does not GET that centralization gives you session mobility, which they don’t offer. It’s is naïve to think that in the real world that you offer 90% use cases with what you have. You don’t. You are a point solution and one man marketing team. Real world I want an end to end story from data center to client, and I don’t want yet another mgmt infrastructure for a yet another point solution from yet another vendor.....


I still say that Moka 5 has the best hypervisor mgmt story out there. Now they just need to port it to real Type 1 hypervisors that are commodity from the larger more trusted folks who real world customers are far more likely to trust.


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@appdetective


OK, I’ll take the bait.  What is your basis for calling Virtual Computer out as not having a type-1 hypervisor?  We use the same underlying Xen hypervisor as Citrix and Neocleus.  Do you not view Xen as type-1, or is there something about our particular implementation that you don’t like?  If anything, VMware has been waffling three ways to Sunday on whether they are committed to a true type-1 architecture.


Why does session mobility need to be tied to a centralized architecture?  If you think we haven’t thought about how to do it between distributed devices, you are the one who is being naïve.  At the risk of getting into product roadmap stuff, all I will say is don’t give the big guys credit for futures they haven’t delivered yet for mobile devices and assume we are going to stand still and not come up with ways to address stationary users with hot-desking or session mobility requirements better and more economically than VDI.  We are not getting into server virtualization, but for every desktop use case, it’s on.


That aside, calling something that today does a least half a dozen things that previously were point products (OS image creation/deployment, patching, backup, disk encryption, VM policy management….) and whole bunch of other things that weren’t even possible before we showed up a point product is a bit absurd.


Equally absurd is the notion that anyone who builds a good VM management tool is just going to be able to slap their product on either Citrix or VMware’s client hypervisor and it’s going to work swimmingly.  Getting a management system and client hypervisor working in concert as we have done is pretty darn hard, even when the people writing the code on both ends work for the same company, sit in the same room, and have the same level of motivation to make it work.  Regardless of what they may say publicly, what incentive do Citrix and VMware have to make it easy for management vendors to integrate with their client hypervisors.  They know better than anyone that the client hypervisor will be a commodity eventually.  Are they building them as a public service?  Uh no, they are building them to make money on management tools.


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Lack of device passthrough is one reason where you are weak in the hypervisor area. Adding OpenVZ Type layers on top for management is also a highly restrictive approach IMO. I'd rather not do that in the Hypervisor accept for a few things, to avoid lock in. I'd rather do it in storage like Unidesk.


The fact that you guys go around mouthing of that you will take over the world and this 90% claim of client side virtue is as my English friends would say "Bollocks". Reality is that most PC's for a very long time will be fat. This means that diffusion into the market will be very very slow of Type 1. When that happens OEMs is what will make it real. Do VC have HP or DELL shipping their HV? If so good, then I give you a big thumbs up.


However you are small company and are focused on mgmt. and telling all your potential partner to F off. I mean isn't Citrix an investor. Why not make their stuff better which I am sure will be weak on the mgmt. side when it is released. When it come to pure Type 1, you are behind. I mean look at Neocleus they've even figure out a way to install the Hypervisor, P-V on a regular laptop. They are focused on the Hypervisor differentiators, and are smart by not pissing of the mgmt. ecosystem and giving them hooks. You guys want to do it all. I admire the start up spirt, but as a potential customers you scare the crap out of me, and I run away.


Good luck, I don't believe you will succeed until you figure out how to partner and build an ecosystem.


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has anyone of you guys heard the roumor, that vmware will stop development of the client hypervisor and reactivate the ACE Product?


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