The challenge for the "one hit wonder" desktop virtualization vendors

While there's not too much that most readers of BrianMadden.com agree on, I'd be willing to bet that we can all agree on (1) desktop virtualization will be big, and (2) no single vendor today offers anywhere near the complete nirvana solution.

While there's not too much that most readers of BrianMadden.com agree on, I'd be willing to bet that we can all agree on (1) desktop virtualization will be big, and (2) no single vendor today offers anywhere near the complete nirvana solution.

I've written quite a bit about how I think that all of the technical components we'll need for our nirvana solution will be available next summer (and I still think we're on track for that). The problem that's rapidly beoming clear is that the entire "solution" (at least as it stands today) will require each customer to cobble together products from about 15 different vendors. This is so complex and so risky that it means customers won't actually do that, and will instead just leverage the minimum number of vendors as possible to solve very specific tactical problems.

So that's fine, but it means that we're not going to get to the nirvana solution because it's too hard.

My point is that of the 100+ vendors in the desktop virtualization space, probably three-quarters of them are "one hit wonders," where they do one specific thing well (really well!), and the rest of their stuff is not interesting or not as good as another vendor or something they just threw in last minute so they could call their product a "solution."

Let me give you some examples. This list is in random order and only covers about 5% of the one hit wonders out there:

  • Wanova, a new startup I wrote about last week, offers streaming disk images across a WAN. I'm sure they're very good at that and maybe better than anyone else in the industry. They also offer layering of Windows which I'm more nervous acount.
  • Atlantis Computing has that really cool disk I/O virtualization, which completely rocks and I think should be standard in every VDI deployment. They also support application-specific layers, which I fear are very brittle. So with Atlantis, I want to use their dynamic disk composition thing, but I'll leave the app isolation and virtualization to another vendor.
  • Neocleus seems to have the best client hypervisor on the market today (since they can sort of combine/bridge the emulation, paravirtualization, and pass-through techniques), but they also threw in a basic management engine which I'm not impressed with at all. I'd love to see their hypervisor everywhere, but managed by something else.
  • MokaFive has done an amazing job digging into the innards of various VMMs and getting them to boot from USB keys, enabling cross-platform suspend/resume (suspend on VMware Workstation for Windows, resume on Fusion for Mac). They also offer Windows layering. Are they the best at that too?
  • Kaviza has a really cool self-configuring virtual appliance that essentially lets you build a desktop grid. So if you need more capacity you just add their virtual appliance to a new server, point it to your existing environment, and walk away. Their system automatically figures out what resources you need on the new hardware and starts copying stuff over and using it (connection broker, disk images, VM hosts, etc). It's very cool. But do I want to use Kaviza for my connection broker too? Do I want to use their disk image management?

And that's just a partial list among the startup-type vendors. Think of the client device. Think of the display protocol. Think of the user environment management. Think of the printing. In every case, there's probably one vendor that pops in your mind as the "goto" vendor for each of these.

Would it be technically possible to combine all of these, pulling out just the best parts to create a nirvana solution? Maybe. But it wouldn't be practical. First of all it would be waaaaaay too expensive... probably pushing $2,000 in software licenses per user. Second, it would be a nightmare to support. And third, a lot of these products are built so that you have to choose them for everything they do. I don't think I have the option of using Wanova for WAN-based disk streaming but replacing their layering with MokaFive's. I don't think I can use Kaviza to automatically manage my entire environment while replacing their connection broker with Leostream's.

So the reality is that I have to make choices. I have to decide which issues are most important for me, and then select the vendor that best solves my specific challenge. And if that vender requires that I use some other component of theirs that's not as good as something from another vendor, well, in most cases that's just too bad.

I wonder a bit about the long-term viability for these one hit wonders. Is it realistic that most of them will be acquired by the big vendors and integrated into their suites? Can they stay independent and continue to sell their single hits? Should they focus on integrating with others instead of being complete solutions? Of course this all depends on which vendor and which technology we're talking about, but overall they're in a really hard place, especially considering that a lot of people want to virtualize their desktops to save money.

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Brian, my view there is that everybody assumes you HAVE to do pooled desktops with brokers etc as the the only way. I certainly buy that is a future state to get to and agree with your premise that there is room for consolidation. I personally believe that all of this also leads to a lot of complexity and people are just confused about how to change systems management at the same time.


VDI today for people doing it, at least in my case and friends I speak to are doing it for Agility. This means a number of things. The first is that cost is not the primary driver today, the promise of lower costs is appealing though. It's easier to simply threat this stuff as a Desktop and move it into a data center using existing or modified process to gain that agility and then build towards that bright future. Hence why I really keen to see vendors like offer the ability to just connect and allow early adopters to avoid brokers and so on. Keep it simple now, it's a desktop and we should be able to just connect period. The broker stuff will take time to mature, and the market is young.


For me understanding the agility vs. cost thing is key, and depending on your scale requirements etc, will help you decide if VDI is right for you and where in your respective organizations. I simply just don't buy the broker is required argument for organizations who want agility at scale, it's doesn't work today and will take a long time to mature. Even when it does, I will not use a broker for my top users, it's too risky.


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I guess the way I see it, ultimately the company that has the most features/functions (whether they are the best or not) with the easiest management utilities is going to be the winner.  With the market where it stands now (recession) and the fact that because this is still considered immerging technology.  Adoption is glacial.  Until this starts being highly adopted and deployed into production environments, none of these manufacturers have any kind of serious customer pressure or even "feedback/recommendations\product enhancement requests" to work with.  


The are some massive barriers to adoption in the enterprise and SMB space.  Until IT budgets open up and people are able to migrate/upgrade or deploy these solutions for real-time use there is not going to be any serious advancements.  IMHO anyway.  Recessions Suck!!!


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There is another aspect to this too - how the new technologies relate to existing technologies.


If in implementing desktop virtualization you end up buying products whose scope is limited to only that implementation then you create a technoogy silo. That might be OK if you know that you are going to roll out to all of the organization ASAP but that is not the case for most organizations right now.


The problem with creating technology silos is that you end up having to support multiple ways of doing something, always a source of cost and confusion.However where a single solution bridges across multiple delivery technologies then it all starts to make sense - it becomes a organizational standard. We have seen this in the past with management products liuke SCOM and SCCM and increasingly with Citrix and others.


There is a always cost and pain associated with adding a new technology, Adding a technology that only solves a problem in one area and leaves that problem to be solved in other ways elsewhere is just cost and pain with no payoff.


Martin Ingram (AppSense)


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In an emerging market, corporate interests often work against a nirvana solution.  Many of these startups are simply technology incubators that innovate quicker than larger entities.  Some will be auired, others die on the vine along with their technology.


For SMB deployments, I agree with appdetective on the idea of simplicity.  From my experience, the simpler solutions are receiving significant POC testing or small production deployments.  Whereas, the numerous technologies around client hypervisors, streaming disk images, OS layering, application layering, VMM disk image manipulation, etc...are simply too complicated and immature.  I try to follow some of these developments, but even you probably have a hard time keeping track of it all.


Everyone wants their piece of the VDI pie...not everyone will get one.


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There isn't anything new here. With every major new trend in technology, you always have plenty of players with point solutions. Eventually, as the market starts to build a direction, there is massive consolidation.  This already happened in server virtualization:


Citrix buys XenSource


EMC buys VMware


Oracle buys Virtual Iron


Microsoft buys Connectix


I wouldn't be surprised to start seeing consolidation in the desktop virtualization space as the main players try to round out their solutions.


Daniel (twitter @djfeller)


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I agree with Rodd and djfeller.


Vendors will buy the technologies these guys have to offer and not the end business customer.


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Brian,


I appreciate your observation about Neocleus' Client Hypervisor "Productization".


The direction we took with regards to our management system was to integrate with existing management systems, complementing them in multiple ways (and not replacing them since millions of dollars have been spent there). It is hard to be impressed with such a system, especially in the early days, since it is really about interoperability more than anything else. A lot of things are going on under the hood in terms of provisioning etc.


The good news, from Neocleus' perspective, is that we have a solid infrastructure on top of which we are able to deliver our vision of new PCLM/IT features/benefits/products – things that couldn't be envisioned before one was able to virtualize endpoints.


So, at this point in time, assuming the Client Hypervisor productization is the hard part to master, Neocleus is able to present a quick turn-around on developing Enterprise-grade products. After all, the value proposition is all about the management, but you got to have a productized hypervisor to do it all (and I believe it is easier to do a lot of the stuff you mentioned when you already virtualized Windows).


A Client Hypervisor will be the cornerstone of every IT/PCLM/Security management system in the years to come – it is really the New Core of Client Computing. I believe that Neocleus is in a excellent position to lead this brave new world, with both vision (as we proved already) and implementation.


Etay.


Disclaimer: I am Neocleus' CTO.


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I think point solutions, or “one-hit wonders” are doomed.


As you point out, they are difficult to integrate into other offerings and, even if they could be integrated, the aggregate price would be astronomical.


More complete solutions, like VERDE from IBM and Virtual Bridges, offer the best hope for delivering full-featured value at an economical price… and, without the wait.


Consider that VERDE is shipping today and includes almost everything on your list of required features for successful adoption (and more): distributed connection broker, efficient hypervisor, multimedia display protocol, single Gold Master image management, personalized sessions (docs and settings), clustering, dynamic provisioning, integrated client-side hypervisor for mobile users, ability to automatically replicate gold images to branch servers/sites for overcoming any latency issues, no bit duplication at all… and all this for a paid up license of $50 per seat (in volumes of 1000 or more).


Solutions like this will begin to shine more brightly as more users emerge from their economic bunkers and begin to actually deploy VDI and see demonstrable benefits. This will separate the vendors with products that are integrated, easy to use and affordable from those that are more hype and reputation.


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@Brian


you said.."Neocleus seems to have the best client hypervisor on the market today"


Why & how is it the best?


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Ok, the gang is all here...any predictions for "new news" on the above thread this VMworld??  Anyone buying anyone?  hmmmm


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@clayton -


"Vendors will buy the technologies these guys have to offer and not the end business customer."


That's all good and fine until the vendor cobbles together the multiple acquired solutions no better than you could have done, slaps a product name on the whole thing and sells it as "Super Duper Edition" for "one hundred billion dollars" ;)


Shawn


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The only challenge I have seen so far is that you cannot seem to get access to these vendors to actually try out their products... If there is ever a claim for a one hit wonder it is the software company that only decided to play their music in one radio market... LOL...Accessibility is really going to cause these companies to Fade to Black...


I have tried to get access to Neocleus, they seem to offer some sort of localized management on a true type 1... Plus they also offer up the what appears to be 3d graphics... but what good is my theories if I cannot get a hold of anyone at the company to get a copy...


3 phone calls to some voice mail and 2 or 3 emails.. nothing... I am using my personal email for this because I will not use my company as a crutch to get in the door... If they have a product that is great then it needs to be a bit more accessible to those that are interested...


In my case I see a great way as just a home user to have client hypervisor that has direct access to hardware and will allow me to host multiple OS's on hardware that is too powerful for just a single copy of MS XP...


Just my 2 cents...


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One last remark... If these companies want to actually have a shot at giving Citrix a run when Xen Client comes out they are going to need a much stronger grass roots effort now while they still have a chance...


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@willirob


I had the same experience with Neocleus. Email's, phone calls, nada!!


I had to email Brian & ask him to help put me in touch with someone at Neocleus.


Personally (without going into to much detail) a very dissapointing experience trying to interact with those folks.


Virtual Computer was a lot more responsive & accessible.


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I checked into Virtual Computer but I was really disappointed when I found out all the cool demo stuff I found online was not really where they went with their shipped version..


They ended up opting for a strictly central managed client... Meaning you would need a server to drive the client product... Also when questioned about the 3d functionality I was really happy to see they opted to not include that...


But on a plus side they were very responsive, and very nice... It was just a bit disappointing that the product they demo'd in beta was not what the decided to ship..


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what did they demo on the beta that was different from the shipped version?


3d functionality? what's that


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First off, thanks for the kind words about the responsiveness of the Virtual Computer team.


To clarify a couple of points, there is no feature that was in any of our beta releases that was held from our eventual product release.  With one exception, there is no feature of our product that has been seen in any online videos anywhere (Brian’s site, Virtual Computer site, YouTube, etc.) that is not in our currently shipping product.


The one exception is a video we posted on YouTube some time back where we demonstrated a prototype of fully virtualized 3D graphics in multiple symmetric VMs.  This is something we are actively working on, but it is not something we have ever released to customers.  We will, so if this is a key buying criteria for you, I am happy to share our roadmap plans in this area privately, as I do with prospective buyers often.  They are generally very complimentary of the approach we are taking.


Our graphics approach, as well as the fact NxTop virtual desktops originate on a central management console, has a lot to do with the target market for our product.  We are not a consumer product, and we are not aiming to compete with products like VMware Workstation and Microsoft Virtual PC.  NxTop is a PC life cycle management product, targeted at IT desktop administrators trying to manage large quantities of PCs centrally, that happens to utilize a client hypervisor.  Part of our value proposition is virtual desktop portability: the same NxTop VM that is running on a PC with an NVIDIA graphics card now could be moved to a PC with an Intel graphics card 10 minutes from now without worrying about hardware-specific drivers in the image.  Pass-through graphics, though innovative and useful, breaks this VM portability.  If you are an individual power user, you probably don’t care.  If you are an IT person with thousands of PCs with varying hardware components to manage, you probably do care, and you are probably more interested in a graphics architecture that maintains full hardware abstraction for your VMs.


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If it's any consolation I had the same experiences with Neocleus.  Their product must be so great they can't share it with anyone.  ROFLMAO.


Shawn


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* Official response from Neocleus regarding customer service & responsiveness *


Hi all,


 I wanted to respond to some of the points made about my company, Neocleus, in this forum.  First of all, I want to say how excited we are to be on the cutting edge of a new era of desktop computing.  I firmly believe that client-based virtualization, with the ability to separate OS instances and run them simultaneously is the most groundbreaking development for client computing in the past decade.  Not since the advent of Microsoft Bob has there been such a impact :-)  


 Having said that, we are on the very beginning of this revolutionary new platform.  Neocleus is one of the early major players in the category and we are intent on creating a huge industry, with happy customers and partners supporting our efforts.  


 The reality is that we are still as startup and until now have concentrated about 95% of our resources on building a great product.  With last week's announcement of Les Yetton joining as CEO and our move of the corporate headquarters to Cambridge, MA, we are shifting to becoming a go-to-market organization, complete with the proper sales & support resources needed for this market.  


   Having said that, I want to assure you that we are responding to hundreds of customers and are actively engaged with dozens of pilots at Global 2000 organizations as I type this.  The company, from the CEO on down, is committed to making these customers successful and are doing everything (including working every weekend day) to ensure this success.  


   With regard to people who have contacted us and not received proper response, I want to personally provide my email so you can write to me.  It is bcorrigan@neocleus.com.  Keep in mind that we are targeting the Enterprise and Upper Mid-market customers (> 2500 desktops) and therefore we request that you fit this profile as we start to engage.  At this time, we are not designed as a company to support one-person or two-person shops but I do envision an expanded Neocleus Partner program later this year or early next where we will have the infrastructure to support this effort.  


 We really appreciate everyone's interest in our technology and look forward to working with you in the future.


Regards,


Bill Corrigan


CMO


Neocleus


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@Bill Corrigan,


With all due respect, that's a load of crap.


To attempt to equate lack of responsiveness with 2500+ desktops is laughable.


No where on your website do I see any mention of 2.5k desktops.


In my limited & brief contact with anyone from Neocleus, no one's ever said a word about 2500 desktops.


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One thing is loud and clear from this article – that desktop virtualization is bursting at its seams with innovation – which is a great for the space.  While VMware and Citrix seem like natural candidates to provide the platform as well as the management solution, I would argue that the platform vendors are often not the best at providing management. Take the example of traditional desktop management. Since Microsoft had a virtual monopoly on desktops, there should have been no room for any desktop management solution other than SMS. Yet not only does that space have a lot of vendors, but quite a few have built sizable businesses – Tivoli (IBM), Altiris (Symantec), Landesk (Avocent) to name a few. Similarly in the desktop virtualization space some of these new vendors will be able to build out comprehensive solutions.


Our goal at MokaFive is to be that vendor. With that in mind, at MokaFive we are creating sustainable differentiation by building a strong desktop management platform.  Our solution is built to be platform agnostic (both hypervisor – type1, type2, as well as OS). It requires minimal initial investment and works with your existing investments such as AD (GPOs), software distribution tools, and existing virtual application packages. We are seeing good successes with production customer deployments  ramping up around our 2.0 product.


Purnima (VP Products, MokaFive)


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Here is my problem with that statement, re: >2500 pc's... I am not going to involve my company until I know the product you are offering is a viable solution...


I need to demo it before and also know how it works before I would even consider talking this to my boss about us trying this out on a larger scale.. or for that matter involving the company I work for...


We are rapidly moving server level systems to VM environments now that the technology has been hardened... Meaning we would not even begin to consider a solution like this until we had plenty of time to really use it...


I apologize for the sarcastic overtone to this ahead of time...but I am not one to tell you how to run a company considering I am just a humble system engineer... But wouldn't it make sense to start getting your product out to anyone who is showing interest, so that they end up being early adopters?  You do realize that your competition will soon be that small little company Citrix right?  You have a tactical advantage now in that you have a product ready for use... It would make sense to me that hiding it behind a barricade of unchecked voice-mails and email holes because "we are not designed as a company to support one-person or two-person shops" is not in your best interest...


The Virtual Computer folks are light years ahead in that they take the time to talk to each person contacting them and treat each request legitimately... This is going to play huge in their favor...


I guess my real problem here is I am not interested in sales presentations, pretty pictures, and vague "FAQ-Who we are" pdf's..  I already have an idea what your product does which is why I made the efforts I made to track down a copy to test out... At this point corporate fluff is not going to compete with what your product has the promise of delivering... And I would be more then willing to give you a fair shake if it were a bit more accessible...


Also if anyone is reading at this point Doug explained the Nxtop stance on 3d graphics extremely well... And in their defense I got my hopes up pretty high that I would be able to use the client hyperviser portion a bit more independent of the central management...


Keep in mind I really appreciate the fact that these folks representing these companies are paying attention to these forums... I guess it just gets kind of irritating it takes these kind of statements to get some sort of response... And if you are interested in letting me have a look at your product please feel free to add a coment to my profile...


I guess my wet dream is a Client Hypervisor (type 1) with built in management... This seems to me like a pretty simple side step as with these existing companies they have built just that... But they are requiring central management... Which is nice and all but I can't see many environments that this will have a real impact in... On one side you have the market who still uses a traditional installed desktop and are not purchasing a ton of computers... (Probably the best case for this because the hardware is more robust)... But convincing a company to pour out that kind of investment is highly unlikely... The other side is thin computing... In this case the hardware is not powerful enough to host multiple OS's... So that would lead me to believe a consumer market would be a great option..."Hey I got a new machine with (insert the winner hear) client hypervisor that I payed for... can you send me the corporate image so I can have both my personal and corporate workstations.. when I work at home or go on the road" ... "Or I am really tired of this hardware... I'll just buy a new PC and copy my VM's to my newly purchased hardware with (XX) Hypervisor..." I mean call me crazy but the consumer market seems like a great place to attack... Just my opinion...


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I think what many people fail to realize is how exponentially more complex the concept of an “ecosystem” has become in our space with the introduction of hypervisor-based client virtualization.  When our world revolved around one sun (MetaFrame and TS), there was only one platform to develop to and life was easy.  A very healthy ecosystem formed around Citrix and Microsoft and solutions for printing, profiles,etc. were cost-effective and relatively easy to integrate.  In fact, Softricity (where I worked) was the first company to successfully break out of this ecosystem and show the world that client virtualization was more than just a centralized, shared services model.


Fast forward to now – hypervisors support delivery of full Windows client environments with both centralized and distributed execution and we are seeing the introduction of technologies that are themselves new suns with the potential of their own ecosystems.  However, many of these technologies, whether client hypervisors or Windows state separation products by their nature bump up against players in the much larger world of “the desktop”, such as all the PC lifecycle management vendors (including Microsoft itself), not to mention the virtualization platform players like Citrix and VMware.  This makes it much more difficult to stay under the radar and capitalize on an opportunity before other, larger competitors jump in.  In addition, these new hypervisor and layering solutions require integration with other management and virtualization technologies to truly make them effective.  However, the integration is far more complex and the range of integration points/platforms much more diverse.  Finally, the aforementioned head start and integration challenges today’s vendors face makes getting distribution and market acceptance much more difficult.  And in the end, it’s distribution and market acceptance that drive value.


What this all means, IMO, is that the current breed of client virtualization startups need to be able to run faster, partner better and distribute more effectively than any of their forbearers.  Not impossible but certainly much harder than it was 5 or 10 years ago.


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@Bill Corrigan - Consider my response pretty much everything that willirob said.  I work for multiple clients (one of which is close to 20k desktops), but much like Willirob, I won't even mention your companies name until I've installed the product, understand the product, and are willing to stick my neck on the line because I truly believe that your product is a good fit for the customer.  Short of those things, it won't even be on that customer's radar.  It's that simple.


Shawn


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Hi all,


 Lots of great dialog here and it's exciting to see.  For Shawn and Will (and others who wish to start impementing / recommending NeoSphere to their customers), please just contact me directly at bcorrigan@neocleus.com.  We will work with you to create a Partner offering that might be able to help you accomplish your goals while also aligning with ours.


Cheers,


Bill Corrigan


CMO, Neocleus


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@Bill Until Neoclues starts to manage inside the guest VM as well and goes beyond a commodity Hypervisor security play, I see limited value, although I like the fact you are out here building a non VPro solution which is good to enable broader choice.


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@Bill Corrigan I have to agree with WillRob and Shawn Bass here, without any hands on with the product, there is no chance of a recommendation.  Mind you I've had terrible response from Virtual Computer this way too.....


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@JimMoyle - I'm surprised to hear that about VirtualComputer.  I'd recommend reaching out to Doug Lane.  They are very cooperative.


Shawn


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@Jim Moyle


Apologies if Virtual Computer dropped the ball at some point.  I just sent you an e-mail to see how I might be able to help.


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For anyone still checking this forum, I emailed Bill and we have since been in correspondence... So anyone who is interested I encourage you to take him up on his offer...


I am looking forward to checking out Neocleus product.. And I will report back when I have information...


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Just to update my earlier comment, Virtual Computer have contacted me and resolved any issues. Thanks Doug!


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