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Wanova promises virtual desktop you can use

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It would be interesting to see a variant of Mirage for shared high-performance computing clusters where customers want to change operating systems and workloads frequently and quickly. And in fact, Wanova has a few customers monkeying around with Mirage to provision servers.

You don't have to install a hypervisor to use Mirage, although if companies want to plunk Windows images and run them inside hypervisors for security reasons, the software will run in conjunction with either bare-metal (type 1) or hosted (types 2) hypervisors.

Mirage doesn't care, since it is a collection of software that gets embedded inside Windows. Exactly what this software is, Ben-Shaul is not saying, but it is definitely using sophisticated file system tricks to keep the gold and local cache copies of the Windows stack running on a laptop in synch. It has taken 18 months to develop the product, and a handful of customers have been putting it through the beta paces.

None of this is going to get chief information officers terribly excited. But their ears may prick up when they hear that Wanova thinks it can get a 1,000 to one ratio of laptops to management servers with Mirage.

That 35 to 40 times as many PCs per server that you can get with VDI, and that means the economics of centrally controlled laptop images is in the same ballpark as not trying to control them at all. If Wanova keeps the price reasonable, it will perhaps be able to make it up in volume.

Here's another neat trick of the software that CIOs might find appealing. Say you lose your laptop. The system admin back in the data center can fire up a virtual machine on the Mirage servers using something called Centralized Virtual Desktop and plunk the gold image of your desktop inside that and let you access it from a thin client or any other machine you can get your hands on.

The image will only be as good as the last time you were on the network, but that is better than where you'd be without the Mirage tool. And because the gold images are stored back in the data center, backups can be done centrally off the Mirage servers, not over the networks - another plus.

Linux and Mac, too?

Wanova Mirage will support laptops running Windows XP and the forthcoming Windows 7, but is skipping Windows Vista. "We see such a small deployment rate for Vista," says Ben-Shaul, something under 10 per cent in the customers they surveyed while developing the product.

The company does have a Windows Vista version of the Mirage tool working in the labs, and can roll it out if need be. Ben-Shaul says: "Windows 7 is a surprisingly good operating system - it is fast and it is light."

And while Mirage doesn't support Linux or Mac OS, the fact that the Mirage tool works down at the file system level to do its magic means that there is no technical reason why it can't if there is customer demand for such support.

To get the Wanova ball rolling, Greylock Partners, Carmel Ventures, and Opus Capital, have kicked in $13m in Series A venture funding. ®

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