Start-up Numecent has taken the wraps off a new cloud-based technology that aims to dramatically reduce software application download times while giving customers complete control over app licensing as well as the real-time delivery of software patches and upgrades.
Called cloudpaging, the new offering promises to transform the ways in which native software apps, an entire operating system or even a large virtual machine can be delivered, deployed and provisioned from public, private or on-premises cloud environments.
Numecent claims cloudpaging can reduce app download times by 20 to 100 times. The company is capable of delivering a complete end-to-end solution for virtualized application deployment for consumers and enterprises alike, said Numecent CEO Osman Kent.
"We want to be to software what Dropbox is to data -- but with secure yet friction-free license control so the rights-holders can protect their assets," Kent said Monday.
Fetching Virtual Pages
Once they have installed Numecent's Jukebox Studio tool on their servers, service administrators and ISVs will be able to take any licensed app and pre-virtualize or "cloudify" it. This near automatic process produces small encrypted fragments of the original app called "pages."
To read these encrypted fragments, a software client called a virtual memory manager unit, or MMU, must be installed on the computing devices of all authorized users. The virtual MMU, which is installed on each device within a virtualization sandbox, fetches the cloudified app one page at a time over a secure HTTP connection.
"In modern computer architectures an MMU is used to virtualize RAM to reduce the memory footprint of an application," said Numecent CTO Art Hitomi. "By deploying a virtual MMU in the communication path, we are in essence reducing the network footprint of the deliverable."
The good news for users is that there are no installation issues or resource conflicts for them to deal with. What's more, as soon as enough pages have been fetched -- just 6.5 percent for a cloudified version of Photoshop to perform basic imaging tasks -- the cloudified app starts executing inside the client's virtualized sandbox.
Even better, previously fetched pages are stored locally in an encrypted cache to enable subsequent accesses immediately. Numecent said this allows cloudpaged apps and content to be off-lined and even used without a network connection -- all still under license control.
Numecent's cloudpaging pricing policies are still evolving to meet needs from different sectors. "As a general guideline however, we take a small cut from the ISVs revenues for retail-facing sales," Kent said in an e-mail Monday.
"For enterprises that are deploying it in-house, pricing models are similar to anti-virus software -- a fixed fee per seat per year," Kent added.
The Proof of the Pudding
Being able to virtualize the native apps of one platform for delivery and execution on another is in principle a very attractive proposition, said Al Hilwa, director of applications development software at IDC.
"As with prior ways this type of technology has been made available in the past, however, the proof of the pudding is in the eating," Hilwa said.
A functional system capable of virtualizing the native apps of one platform for delivery and execution on another could in theory see considerable demand given that platforms have proliferated and enterprises are increasingly drifting to a multi-platform world, Hilwa said.
"This technology competes with multi-platform application development tools," he said. "But for large enterprises who have to deal with existing application portfolios, it is not always possible to go back to the drawing board and redevelop an app."
Users generally set a high bar for how responsive apps are and how well they execute, Hilwa said. "So a technology like this is successful to the extent that users are able have an acceptable user experience," he said.