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InsightaaS.com works with 451 Research to bring occasional thought leadership pieces to our readers. In this report, we are privileged to present insight that looks at one of the critical issues in today’s client infrastructure stack — the migration of Windows-based applications to the cloud. 451 founder and distinguished analyst John Abbott examines how Numecent — successor company to app virtualization pioneer Endeavors Technologies — is working with ISVs to speed Windows client applications’ migration to SaaS. Abbott notes that this addresses key issues for ISVs: it allows them to avoid costly and time-consuming “wholesale recoding,” delivering “applications that appear to the user to be natively installed, and which can be charged for on a subscription basis, but without the developer having to make any changes to the source code.”
InsightaaS endorses the SWOT analysis at the end of this report. In particular, the “NaaS” — Native as a Service — approach addresses a need shared by many small ISVs, as well as by enterprise application developers who may constitute a secondary market for the product. However, the need to develop appropriate channels and the threat posed by larger firms (such as Citrix and VMware) can’t be overlooked. Successful offerings require a mix of unique technology and solid commercial strategies, and Abbott has done a good job of incorporating both perspectives into this analysis.
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When Numecent came out of stealth mode in March last year, it was obvious that the company’s application virtualization and streaming technologies were heading in the direction of the cloud. Of course, the core technologies aren’t new because Numecent is the successor company to long-standing app virtualizer Endeavors Technologies. But the Cloudpaging brand it introduced last year is now being applied to a newly launched white-label cloud application platform and delivery service, initially aimed at independent software vendors and developers. Numecent promises it can deliver applications that appear to the user to be natively installed, and which can be charged for on a subscription basis, but without the developer having to make any changes to the source code. It’s calling this (somewhat awkwardly, in our opinion) ‘Native as a Service,’ or NaaS.
Endeavors Technologies claimed to have invented application virtualization and streaming — it started as a spinoff from the University of California at Irvine. The original product, Magi, was a peer-to-peer data-distribution technology based on Apache and Java. Endeavors was acquired by the UK’s Tadpole Technology in 2001. Publicly listed Tadpole added Santa Clara, California-based Stream Theory, a game-oriented streaming vendor, to the mix in 2005. However, Endeavors never really succeeded in getting its technology out to the broader marketplace, perhaps because of the complexities of instantiating it on its internal systems — that problem goes away with a hosted service.
In 2011, Osman Kent, Numecent’s current CEO, came in with a $1m investment and spawned Numecent as an independent parent company of Endeavors. Kent is best known for founding graphics-acceleration company 3DLabs, sold off to Creative Labs in 2002 for $170m (with some of the assets recently sold on to Intel). Numecent raised $7.5m in seed funding, followed by a $2m series A round in February 2012 (from unnamed corporate investors), and a $13.6m round in May 2013, led by T-Venture, the VC arm of Deutsche Telekom.
The NaaS term is intended to imply a correspondence with SaaS. Both NaaS and SaaS sit on top of PaaS, in Numecent’s case the Cloudpaging Server Components, which, in turn, sit on top of the IaaS layer, initially provided by Amazon Web Services. The Naas Cloud Service is the services layer on top of the PaaS level, supporting multi-tenancy and license virtualization. Initially, it’s aimed at helping independent software vendors and developers to adapt their existing native Windows applications to the cloud without any recoding, but a broader service-provider remit is in the works.
The Naas Cloud Service is intended as an ‘instant enabler’ for ISVs to get their applications up onto the cloud. Cloudpaged applications behave just like locally installed instances, visible from the Windows start menu and programs list, and launch with all the usual file associations. They aren’t run inside a browser. Once on the cloud, the apps can take advantage of subscription licensing models and the elasticity and scalability of cloud infrastructure, including global delivery with the help of Amazon’s in-built CloudFront content delivery network. Web APIs can be used to integrate apps with e-commerce or CRM Web services. There’s no installation to do on client devices (a small, 25Mb agent provides the application sandbox), and Numecent touts protection from piracy as an additional benefit because there is never an unencrypted or persistent executable present on the client devices. However, data doesn’t have to be hosted on the cloud — it can remain local to the user, avoiding security and compliance issues. In the Numecent model, ‘datapaging’ servers are separate from the application servers, so that even if the apps are running on AWS, the data can be paged on demand from private servers.
NaaS is a white-label offering, enabling service providers to use their own branding. From the NaaS service, it becomes easier to provide free trials or beta programs to end users, improving conversion rates, and to deliver and maintain the software on both physical and virtual desktops. NaaS includes a self-hosting option for ISVs that want to leverage their existing IT infrastructures. It is available now on an invitation-only basis for qualifying ISVs that pay via subscription with pay-per-use pricing, metered and charged on a monthly or annual basis.
The initial launch of Naas — which has been piloted for the past six months — is aimed at persuading ISVs that they can deliver their native Windows apps and plug-ins from the cloud, with or without a subscription. Future releases will include editions specifically tailored for managed service providers, telcos and enterprises, many of which are likely to opt for the self-hosted model. Numecent has already made some inroads into the enterprise sector, with about 40 universities already using its on-premises technology. Additional client platforms will be added. As for cloud platforms, Amazon was both the easiest to onboard and the obvious place to start, but once the telco version comes out, there is likely to be support for alternative cloudstacks. Cloudbursting is another likely future option, and further out, virtualization of Android on the client.
Although NaaS sounds a bit like desktop as a service, there’s a fundamental difference. DaaS runs totally on the cloud and is analogous to video delivery. NVIDIA is addressing this problem with its Grid technology, but its grid appliances are primarily intended for on-premises use — Web-scale installations could be a problem. Numecent’s claimed advantages over DaaS and traditional VDI include a smaller server footprint, making it practical to use AWS and general-purpose CPUs with no GPUs needed; a small CPU footprint (because unlike VDI or DaaS, execution takes place on the client); and a small network footprint (because its method of streaming is more efficient than progressive downloads or pixel streaming, reducing IOPs). Also, Daas and VDI systems don’t typically allow for any user-installed applications — Numecent enables this as such applications can still be delivered without installation through its application virtualization technology.
Alternatives include VMware’s ThinApp (from its 2008 acquisition of Thinstall) and Microsoft’s App-V (from its 2006 Softricity acquisition). Symantec developed its Endpoint Virtualization Suite from technology first developed by Altiris, which it acquired in 2007. Citrix has been including application and streaming with XenApp as additional delivery mechanisms since 2007.
Smaller companies and products in this space include the UK’s 1E (Workspace), AppZero (which has just announced a service-provider edition for AWS), Israel’s Ceedo Technologies (Ceedo Enterprise Suite), Germany’s Evalaze, MokaFive (Player), Denmark’s Roozz.com (Cloud Platform) and Spoon (Virtual Application Studio, also used as the basis for application virtualization in Novell’s ZenWorks). Developer-oriented technology includes BoxedApp and the Cameyo open source application virtualization platform. Atlantis Computing has a storage optimization play with its ILIO for Virtual Desktops offering.
|Native as a Service is based on long experience and technically mature application virtualization and streaming technology.||Numecent’s technology was established (by Endeavors) as an on-premises enterprise product — it now has to seek out entirely new market channels.|
|There are plenty of independent software vendors out there with limited resources, still wondering how to get their applications onto the cloud.||Larger vendors such as Citrix and VMware are incorporating multiple delivery options within their products, including app virtualization and streaming.|