Client software creates portable virtual desktop

RingCube says MojoPac simplifies desktop access and management

RingCube Technologies has launched software that lets you package an entire corporate PC desktop as a single, self-contained, managed software image that can be downloaded over the Internet or run from a USB storage device.

MojoPac Enterprise is a revamped version of the consumer product introduced by RingCube two years ago. The enterprise edition includes a battery of new security and management features that let network administrators create, store and manage what RingCube executives call a "virtual workspace" for users.

The workspace is the user's complete set of Windows applications, network and security settings, all encapsulated with the MojoPac virtual runtime environment, and independent of the underlying operating system of the host PC. The resulting software image can be thought of as a kind of a benign parasite: the applications, settings, connectivity, and security policies use the resources of the host PC without ever actually being installed on it.

A growing array of vendors are vying for the desktop virtualization space, but with varying approaches. Overall, the idea is to unmoor PC applications from specific client computers, so they can be centrally managed, secured and updated, while allowing more flexibility in how and from where users can access them.

Unlike its rivals, RingCube says, MojoPac is client software only, requires no complex server infrastructure nor additional client or server software licenses, and works without having to recompile applications. But currently MojoPac is limited to Windows XP and Vista clients, while some rivals will work with a wider range of operating systems.

Vendors tackling one or another part of this challenge include Citrix, start-up Kidaro, VMware and others.

Santa Clara-based RingCube, founded in 2004, earlier this year raised another US$12 million in second-round financing.

RingCube offers two enterprise products, with a third in beta, all three the result of continued prodding from network IT professionals who wanted the consumer product adapted for the more demanding enterprise computing world, says Srihari Kumar, the company's vice president of enterprise business.

MojoDrive is closest to the original consumer product. The IT group can create one or more standard desktop images, loading the MojoPac virtual runtime environment onto a USB storage device, along with regular desktop applications such as Microsoft Office and a VPN client. Users plug the MojoDrive into a stripped down corporate notebook, a personal computer at home, or an open computer at a library or other public location. After entering their username and password, they can work with their full desktop suite as if they were sitting at their office PC.

MojoStation can set up a similar kind of standard image, which is stored on a corporate Web server where teleworkers can log in, authenticate, and then download the image to whatever PC they're using at home.

In both case, the MojoPac software is encrypted, completely separate from the host PC's operating system, and leaves behind no data or changes when the session is ended. New security features let the IT group allow or block printing from the host computer, and copy files, either by type or by specific filenames.

Currently in beta test is a third product, MojoNet, which stores and runs the MojoPac images on a network-attached storage device. If clients log in via an Ethernet or other broadband connection, MojoNet downloads the virtual runtime's executable to the client and then streams the application's executable files to it. If the connection won't support streaming, MojoNet can download the entire runtime plus applications and settings to the remote client.

As with the other versions, none of software goes through a formal installation process on the host PC. The MojoPac runtime, about 30 MB, typically runs in RAM.

The enterprise MojoPac products can be set up to automatically scan the host PC to confirm that antivirus, antiphishing or antispyware applications or firewalls are present and active. Any host-based viruses, spy software or other malware is blocked from moving to the USB device where MojoPac resides.

MojoPac Enterprise can be configured to block the use of the host's optical drives or even network drives, as well as to disable the Windows Clipboard. The software can also be set up to either allow or forbid users from loading applications of their choice into the MojoPac runtime.

Other changes introduced with MojoPac Enterprise include integration with Microsoft Active Directory, and preinstallation of a range of popular VPN clients.

Both MojoStation and MojoDrive are priced respectively at US$50 and US$100 per seat.

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