If you were to believe everything you read, you’d think that downloading was about to be usurped by streaming. Whilst we wouldn’t dare attempt to pour cold water on this notion, there’s one company that reckons it already has a contender lined up to knock streaming, as we know it, into oblivion.
Numecent is a startup that has been pioneering “friction-free digital software delivery” through virtualization. And today it arrived out of stealth, releasing full details of its patented ‘cloudpaging’ technology.
The technology has been shrouded in mystery since the company announced last month that it had received the first $2m chunk in a $10m Series-A funding round, from unnamed investors. This was in addition to the $7.5m of seed funding it had received from private investors since the company’s inception.
All that was really revealed at the time was that Numecent had been developing a patented “push-pull paging technology which allows software instructions and data to be demand-paged from the Cloud – all in real-time.”
The promise of cloudpaging
Earlier today, we reported on a Microsoft-commissioned study which said that spending on public and private IT cloud services will create 14 million new jobs by 2015. Where does cloudpaging fit in to all this and, perhaps more importantly, what exactly is cloudpaging?
Cloudpaging promises to reduce the digital delivery time of any native software and non-linear content by between twenty and one hundred times, by ‘virtualizing’ the asset to be delivered. Huh?
This virtualizing means that the process divides the asset into small fragments called ‘pages’ on the server-side which are then fetched ‘on demand’ over HTTP/HTTPS by a Virtual Memory Management unit (MMU) on the client. It then begins executing inside a sandbox without installation.
For example, in customer trials the company says it deployed a 66GB Hyper-V virtual machine by fetching only 900Mb – a sixty-times reduction in time. Here’s the company’s official demo video:
Consequently, users don’t have to wait for, say, a 10GB download and can start consuming the content in as little as 100Mb and never have to confront installation or network resource issues. Subsequent access to the same page are locally cached, so that the experience becomes as seamless as a local installation, and allows the content to be ‘off-lined’ and even used without a network connection.
The implications of this are pretty big, when you consider the mass of bandwidth needed to download or stream, say, computer games or movies.
“In modern computer architectures an MMU is used to virtualize RAM (random access memory) to reduce the memory footprint of an application,” says Dr. Art Hitomi, co-founder and CTO of Numecent. “By deploying a Virtual MMU in the communication path, we are in essence reducing the network footprint of the deliverable.”
Here’s Numecent’s demo video, showing a game being delivered to a local PC first using cloudpaging, and then “pixel streamed” to a tablet over WiFi with gesture virtualization. None of the devices had the game installed – the local PC is essentially being used as a proxy GPU server:
Cloudpaging also brings another patented technology to the table, which is the learning behavior whereby the system creates a “statistical tree” of page requests for a given asset from multiple users, and begins ‘pushing’ pages to the client in advance of the request. This basically reduces the network footprint even further, with the ‘push-pull’ paging mechanism “decoding the genome” of a piece of software.
Numecent’s CEO Osman Kent says that this is a valuable instrumentation tool for independent software vendors (ISVs), and notes that cloudpaging technology could have far-reaching use-cases for all connected devices. During its demonstrations, Osman says that “very large applications” were delivered from a smartphone (used as a proxy microserver) to a local PC and also from a PC to a tablet, all at full-frame rates:
“The industry is littered with customers who have tried legacy application virtualization, block-streaming or progressive download solutions and who became disbelievers.
These approaches failed to live up to their promise by delivering only 50% of the applications and managed to confuse the terminology of streaming along the way. With cloudpaging, we not only address the digital transport issue which has long been ignored, but also deliver a complete end-to-end solution for virtualized application deployment for consumers and enterprises alike. We want to be to software what Dropbox is to data – but with a secure yet friction-free license control the rights-holders need.”
Numecent is targeting this technology to ISVs, aggregators, SMBs, enterprises and other service providers, who need super-fast software delivery, deployment and provisioning across any physical client or even through a virtual desktop. The company recently announced a partnership with Red Hat, where its cloudpaging technology will be used to deliver applications to virtual RHEV3 desktops.
Most aspects of cloudpaging are already shipping to customers in Numecent’s Application Jukebox product line, and today the technology can cloudify 100% of Microsoft Windows applications – even those with plugins – and the operating system itself. These applications are then published on a scalable server component and delivered back to client-devices in a virtualized and encrypted form with full license control. This process doesn’t need access to the software source code and the resulting packages execute on the client-device at full speed, without installation, and run offline.
Approxy spin-out for cloud-gaming
In related news, Numecent has also spun out Approxy, a new firm focused on leveraging Numecent’s cloudpaging technology in the emerging field of cloud-gaming. Approxy was incubated as a joint venture between Numecent and Dr. Yavuz Ahiska (co-founder of 3Dlabs) and is already in Beta with its instant HD game delivery service. Approxy will be offering its technology as a white-label service to game developers, publishers and aggregators.
“We plan to do further incubations and spin-outs in well-defined vertical use cases,” Kent added. “Cloudpaging is a very broad and fundamental technology foundation with far-reaching applications. As the Approxy example has shown, cloudpaging can jump-start a young company with 90% of the R&D complete and enable them to apply a very sharp marketing focus.”
The company indicated that it is in conversations with a number of organizations that are interested in funding future incubations.