Wanova raises $13 M for a new breed of desktop virtualization software

Desktop virtualization is a pretty hot area as corporations use the technology to manage remote computers and reduce security risks. Wanova, a new startup in the field, is emerging from stealth today and announcing it has riased $13 million in funding.

The startups looks promising because it delivers something makes everyone happy in a corporation. Usually, it’s one or the other: the information technology managers may be happy, but the users are not. With Wanova’s software, the company says that IT managers can centrally manage a fleet of desktops and laptops, even those in remote locations. The software doesn’t strain the network because it taps the computing power of the remote devices. (Network strain is a typical byproduct of thin clients, which are dumb terminals that access centralized servers to do computing tasks.) And the remote users are happy because they get fast desktop-like performance even as they tap into a company’s central data center.

Wanova’s product is called Distributed Desktop Virtualization. It competes against established players such as Citrix and VMWare. But the company says it can do better because it has focused on keeping its infrastructure costs low and addressing the needs of mobile and remote workers.

The software works by storing a primary copy of an operating system image — a master copy — in a central data center. Cached copies are stored on endpoints — remote desktops or laptops. That allows workers to use their machines offline, even when they’re not connected to the data center. It also provides more security because the central information technology managers can authenticate the users as they log into the data center.

Users find it convenient because they can easily switch from one machine to another by simply logging into a desktop. They can access all of their applications and their data via the data center. Wanova says its software doesn’t require a lot of new hardware, since it can control more than 1,000 devices via a single server, and because it uses the computing power of the remote devices to handle a variety of processing needs.

The technology is used to treat desktops and laptops as if they were dumb terminals, or thin clients, but the software cannot be used to control actual thin clients. Since the software taps the computing power of the remote computers, it doesn’t require as much bandwidth to the data center as actual thin clients, which rely almost entirely on data center computing.

As such, the company says it combines the best of both worlds: it uses the flexibility and computing power of remote desktops and laptops, but it also delivers the benefits of centralized management, such as user authentication. Users get the benefits of having fast performance. And IT managers can restore a system to its original settings in just a matter of minutes, rather than hours.

Market researchers such as Gartner believe that desktop virtualization is a multibillion-dollar market, with licenses for virtual desktops expected to rise from 300,000 in 2008 to 50 million by 2013.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company was founded in 2008 by chief executive Ilan Kessler and chief technology officer Issy Ben-Shaul. Both previously founded Actona, which made backup software for remote offices and was purchased by Cisco in 2004 for $82 million.

Investors in the first institutional round of funding include Greylock Partners, Carmel Ventures, and Opus Capital.  Wanova has 30 employees in San Jose and at an engineering center in Netanya, Israel. The company says it has a pipeline of customers, some of whom have been working with Wanova for a year. The software is in field testing.

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