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MokaFive Joins Red Hot Desktop Virtualization Market

Three-year-old start-up MokaFive entered the hosted desktop virtualization fray Monday, joining a growing crowd of competitors out to make enterprise and eventually consumer computing more manageable and flexible by offering virtual desktops as a service or as compressed images that can fit on even a USB stick.

This is largely different than software like Parallels Desktop for Mac, which fully installs two operating systems on the same PC. Instead, virtual images are streamed or partially downloaded from a server in a local data center or on the Internet, which in some cases requires nothing more than a thin client. Start-ups like MokaFive, InstallFree, and Desktone are looking to make a mark in this market, as are larger competitors like Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware as well as thin client advocates like Sun and Wyse.

Most of MokaFive's competitors require dedicated virtualization servers that can only host about 10 desktop images, but MokaFive streams its images from a Web server -- representing the ability to scale to hundreds of users on a single server -- or allows users to carry images in a USB stick. "All you need is a regular Web server," John Whaley, co-founder and principal engineer of MokaFive, said in an interview.

However, that comes with a significant trade-off. While software from companies like Citrix, Microsoft, and Desktone largely need to download little permanent software onto PCs and thus take up few local computing resources, MokaFive's LivePC virtual machines gradually download to the PC, so they still take up significant hard drive space.

The heavily compressed operating system image can be up and running after downloading about 100 Mbytes. The res t of the image will be downloaded in the background as needed using a technology MokaFive calls predictive fetching that tries to anticipate what a user might need next. When an admin installs new service packs on the server-based image, applications or hot fixes to the server-based image, the LivePC player downloads only the necessary changes.

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