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vThere: A Fine Model Mashup

Sentillion saw a business opportunity, talked to its customers, and mashed up a novel solution to a problem that already had a couple of "answers."
Most big companies still roll their own desktop deployments via homegrown solutions, ghosting, Windows imaging, or some variation of vendor partnering. Maintaining IP security policy compliance for remote user desktops and field locations can be daunting. Many organizations address user desktop delivery via Citrix or other terminal- or presentation-server solutions. Big back-end investment, mildly tricky networking and performance issues for greedy apps, but thin-client Windows solutions work for a range of low-horsepower environments. Anyway you slice it, crafting, deploying, patching, and supporting user desktops is a pain.

Desktop virtualization is just starting to gain speed as an alternate deployment strategy. What could be simpler than rolling out a prepacked ISO bundled with all your corporate goodies? How about simple AD authentication, user-type customization, and end-user lockdowns. Hmmm... you still have those pesky deployment, patching, and support hassles with VMs, too.

Sentillion is a VC-backed HP spinoff in Andover, Mass., with a hundred-odd employees. It posted 2006 revenue of $29 million; 2007 numbers aren't out yet. Sentillion runs a number of business lines, including a single-signon solution, context management, and other health care specific services. According to David Fusari, CTO at Sentillion, the company launched its vThere product as a "virtualized remote access" solution in 2006 to give customers a simple deployment tool "inside and outside the four walls."

What's vThere, aside from a fairly catchy brand name? I'd say it's a mashup in the best possible sense. Sentillion leverages Parallels virtualization technology, Cisco VPN, Amazon S3 storage hosting, NaviSite hosting, custom packaging tools, and a firm understanding of niche markets to deliver a packaged desktop virtualization solution.

vThere has three primary components: an admin station/Image Creator for generating customer VMs; to host customer VM image repositories; and the vThere player, a tweaked instance of Parallels workstation running on top of a Windows platform.

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