Sunday, April 6, 2008

MokaFive moves desktop virtualization into the cloud

MokaFive, a three-year-old company from Redwood City, Calif., has driven a stake in the ground in the virtualization market with the introduction of its desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) innovation Virtual Desktop Solution.

Combining cloud computing with local execution on a variety of platforms, including a USB flash drive, the solution allows administrators to centrally manage desktops for thousands of employees worldwide.

By creating a "Live PC" desktop, which contains the operating system and application stack, and having it hosted by MokaFive, administrators can distribute, manage, and update the desktop from a single copy on the host computer. Large companies can host the LivePCs on their own servers, if they desire.

Users sync their local desktop with the copy in the cloud, allowing them to always be able to access the latest pristine version. When synced with the Live PC, the desktop is loaded onto the local device, whether a PC or even a flash drive. It then runs as a virtual machine on that device and users can work online or offline. Because execution is local, it reduces the demand on servers and networks.

Changes made by administrators are reflected in the local device whenever users connect to the Live PC. By using a flash drive, users can access their desktop on any x86 -based machine, having all their productivity tools at their fingertips, but leaving no footprint behind once the flash device is unplugged.

While not a household world yet, DaaS isn't brand new. I wrote about it last summer when Desktone announced its virtual desktop platform, with its emphasis on service providers. However, the MokaFive offering focuses on the longstanding problem of managing desktops in mid-sized to large organizations, especially those with remote employees.

The DaaS approach means that companies no longer need to set up their own desktop management infrastructure. MokaFive Virtual Desktop Solution is already in use by customers for disaster recovery, software testing in sandbox environments, secure remote access and lab management. Features of the MokaFive solution include:
  • Faster launches: Predictive Fetch technology makes virtual computers start up faster and update quicker, and users can start using a LivePC before it has finished downloading.

  • Automatic updates: Auto Subscription pushes administrator security updates and application patches to users in a process similar to subscribing to RSS feeds.

  • Self-healing: "Rejuvenation" technology allows users to recover from malware by simply shutting down and restarting a LivePC. On reboot, the operating system and all applications are automatically restored to their original, clean state.

  • Cross-platform and OS flexibility: LivePCs can be installed on a desktop, laptop or any portable storage device like an encrypted flash drive or even an iPod.

  • Enhanced security with BareMetal: This customized Linux distribution runs on bare computer hardware without an underlying operating system, making it optimal for security-critical applications.
Administrators can also send "poison pills" to individual remote devices, allowing them to remove the virtual machine in the case of machines that are lost or stolen, or to remove functionality from contract workers when the contract has finished.

MokaFive offers the product in two flavors: Express Solution is free and gives users an opportunity to create and use public desktops from the MokaFive community lab. The Professional Solution is designed for enterprise use to allow companies to create and distribute private desktops. It also provides technical support.

Pricing, still pending, will be on a per-user basis. A 30-day free trial is available from the MokaFive site.

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