Startup Numecent has come out of stealth mode today with some of the most impressive enterprise technology we've seen in a decade.
Plus the company is interesting for other reasons, like its business model and its founder.
Numecent offers something it calls "cloud paging" and, if successful, it could be a game-changer for enterprise software, video gaming, and smartphone apps. Red Hat thinks so. It has already partnered with the company to help it offer Windows software to Linux users.
"Cloud paging" instantly "cloudifies" any software, even an operating system like Windows itself, says founder and CEO Osman Kent. It lets any software, with no modification, be delivered from the cloud and run as fast or faster than if the app was on your desktop.
Lots of so-called "desktop virtualization" services work fast. But cloud-paging can even operate the cloud software if the PC gets disconnected from the network or Internet.
It can also turn a smartphone into a server. That means a bunch of devices like tablets can run the software -- like a game -- off of the smartphone.
Imagine showing up to a party and letting all your friends play the latest version of Halo from your phone. That's crazy cool.
Cloudpaging can do all this because it doesn't use "pixel-streaming" technology like other virtualization tech. Instead it temporarily downloads bits of the application itself (instructions) and runs them on the device. It can almost magically predict which parts of the app the user will need, and downloads only those parts.
For business owners, that's not even the best part.
It also helps enterprises sidestep extra licensing fees associated with the cloud. For instance, Microsoft licenses its software by the device, not by the user, and, in many cases, charges a "Virtual Desktop Access" fee for each device using a virtual version of Windows. (For a bit of light reading, check out the Microsoft virtual desktop licensing white paper: PDF)
Cloudpaging has what Kent calls "full license control," which lets user do things like check out software as if it were a book in the library. Some of the company's beta users at 11 universities in UK are doing this.
"Students bring their own machines and with cloudpaging everything becomes IT free. Because of license management, universities can maximize use of licenses," he says. "It lets students check out and check in licenses. For instance, it allows them to use Photoshop for an hour and then check back in to the system."
Numecent is not operating its own cloud, but is selling its software to hosting providers and enterprises. It plans to create a series of spin-off companies that use cloudpaging. This way, Numecent can push its tech into a lot of industries without running lots of clouds itself (and competing with potential customers).
In the meantime, Numecent is already getting noticed by big players. Red Hat has signed on. It will embed Numecent's tech into its Linux servers -- which will easily serve up Windows applications onto a virtual Linux desktop.
Numecent has one more thing going for it: its founder. Kent is the co-founder of 3Dlabs which he sold to Creative Labs in 2002 for about $170 million.
Having made his millions, he became an aspiring music mogul with his own record label, Songphonic Records. The label operates from a studio in an English mansion formerly owned by Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera.
The cloudpaging technology was originally created by a company called Tadpole Technology "which went bust in 2008" and resurfaced as Endeavers, Kent says. He saw the technology and was so blown away he formed Numecent and acquired Endeavers.
"After I sold 3Dlabs, I did the rock and roll thing. This technology was so extraordinary, it took me out of semi-retirement," he laughs.
Numecent has raised $17.5 million so far mostly from angel investors.
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