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Desktop virtualization start-up Wanova emerges from stealth mode

A desktop virtualization start-up called Wanova is emerging from stealth mode Wednesday having secured $13 million in funding to build technology for managing and protecting mobile and remote desktops.

Wanova was founded last year by CEO Ilan Kessler and CTO Issy Ben-Shaul, who previously co-founded Actona, which made software that manages the backup and storage of files from remote offices and was purchased by Cisco in 2004 for $82 million.

Wanova’s Distributed Desktop Virtualization (DDV) software provides centralized management by storing a primary copy of an operating system image in the data center, while storing a cached copy on endpoints to boost performance and provide offline desktop use.

Burton Group analyst Chris Wolf is optimistic about Wanova, saying it combines the benefits of centralized management, including the ability to quickly provision new desktops, with an offline VDI experience delivered transparently to end users.

“If [DDV] does everything they’re saying it can do, it’s certainly unique and borderline groundbreaking,” Wolf says. “It combines the best of a lot of worlds.”

Many desktop virtualization deployments have been plagued by negative ROI, but Wanova requires minimal upfront investment in new hardware, Wolf says.

“Desktop management for distributed enterprises is a big problem,” Ben-Shaul says. “The problem we solve is the management, protection and support of mobile and remote endpoints.”

Although the technology cannot be used on thin clients, DDV lowers overall cost by offloading compute tasks to endpoints, such as laptops and netbooks, according to Ben-Shaul. The goal is to provide the security and management benefits of centralization without impacting user experience.

Up to 1,000 end points can be managed from a single 1U server, with storage needs minimized by de-duplication and the use of a single operating system image for many users, he says. IT administrators just have to support the primary OS image in the data center, while the cached copies on endpoints let individuals personalize their desktops by installing their own applications.

“User experience is the major impediment to the deployment of [desktop virtualization] on a wide scale,” Ben-Shaul says.

Wanova, based in San Jose, Calif., with facilities in Israel, has received $13 million in first-round funding from Greylock Partners, Carmel Ventures, and Opus Capital.

DDV is being tested in trials by enterprise customers, and could become generally available in early 2010, or sometime this year. Wanova said it expects to make another product announcement next quarter.

The company’s technology supports Windows XP and Windows 7, and Wanova plans to support Linux in the future. Ben-Shaul says Wanova decided not to support Vista because it hasn’t been deployed much in enterprises and many Vista users will move to Windows 7 anyway.

DDV itself is not a hypervisor, although it can work with either Type 1 or Type 2 desktop hypervisors from other vendors, Ben-Shaul says. If the customer doesn’t use a hypervisor, DDV runs on bare metal.

Wanova will be competing against established virtualization companies like VMware and Citrix, as well as a raft of start-ups targeting the desktop market. Although Wanova’s core architecture is impressive, the company will have work to do in lining up desktop application vendors to support its platform, Wolf says.

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