Startup XDS: Beaming Computer Services to PCs

Imagine being able to walk into a corporate sister company and get your computing services magically beamed to any device as an on-demand service. XDS is doing it.
Mario Dal Canto Imagine being able to walk into a corporate sister company and get your computing services magically beamed to any device as an on-demand service.

Startup XDS is doing it. But it isn't magic; it's just a nifty new networking technology.

The company makes SIMtone (Secure Interactive Mobile Tone), which works like a dial tone to beam computing services to PCs, thin clients, PDAs and cell phones. SIMtone enables a virtualized PC environment where desktop, applications, e-mail, and audio and video streams may be accessed on demand.

SIMtone delivers such services to machines using LAN, WAN or Internet connectivity, all without a local copy of the data, application or supporting servers.

Instead, pixels comprising a screen image, or a digital audio or video stream, are transferred in encrypted format and delivered locally to a SIMtone access device (SNAP), which is a $99 desktop appliance.

The company's first service, SIMtone Virtual Desktop utility, is essentially a virtualized PC, delivering Windows desktop sessions to corporate employees in real-time across the business network or via the Internet.

XDS CEO Mario Dal Canto discussed the company's premise and services during a recent interview with

Q: With virtualization being all the rage these days, what does XDS aim to do that others don't?

Most of the efforts so far enable the hosting of clients in a very efficient way, in a centralized way on a server -- the ability to manage those clients and connect them to the appropriate user on demand. There are all kinds of very important technology focused on the server and making it valuable for hosting, creating and making it usable.

A few years ago, XDS looked at a different problem that eventually got reconnected to the virtualization issue because bandwidth and latency are going to go to a different world in a short time.

The PC as a physical entity will probably go away. The logical entity will not. The issue standing here is, since people will try to use bandwidth to leverage a centralized, hosted virtual server world, we should radically simplify the technology required to make those sessions deliverable anywhere, anytime, and usable in a simple way.

If you have a virtual server, you literally plug it into the SIMTone, and it does not require any special configuration on the server itself. It securely delivers, on-demand, that Windows session to any corporate network or Internet access point on demand. Then we make sure it has a dial tone kind of experience, which is the simplest thing you could find from the user perspective.

Q: So while VMware is focused on virtualization operating systems, are you are virtualizing the actual PC?

In many ways, yes. The simplest way to describe it is this is a virtual VGA cable that is available on demand anywhere that is extremely secure and requires no customer premises equipment or configuration by the user. Aside from reducing the costs of building any infrastructure to deliver virtualized desktops to people inside the corporation, we have focused heavily on making sure the end user can access these sessions.

Analysts said that only 10 percent of virtual and centralized desktop servers reached the physical desktop of people because it was too complex, too insecure, too costly and therefore was a big roadblock to virtualization becoming mainstream. Essentially, this is what we fixed. You have no installation, no investment to make. You just plug your SNAP server in and those sessions are delivered.

Q: How do you secure the SIMtone sessions?

With the dial tone, you don't actually connect to a virtual server -- it's the other way around. You identify yourself to the dial tone, the dial tone finds out who owns the SNAP server you should be connected to, tells the server where you are and the server connects to you.

This means you close your inbound ports on the firewall, hide the server on your LAN and at the same time you can be anywhere you want on the intranet or Internet and you will get to your session. No data comes out, all the pixels are encrypted and they don't flow through our infrastructure because the connection is directly from the virtual server to the thin client, so nobody sees anything.

It eliminates the data-loss risk because one of the big drivers for virtualization in the enterprise is that companies don't want to give PCs to employees anymore. With HIPAA and financial services regulations, you lose PCs and you can lose the company. With this, you eliminate the risk.

Q: What you're talking about sounds like other PC virtualization products from Citrix, or VMware's ACE product, which allows users to virtualize a PC by taking it anywhere on a USB or disk.

That's an excellent point but here is the difference: We do not allow any data to move across the firewall. Only the pixels get sent out. This is important from a security perspective.

We actually allow people to hide their servers behind a closed firewall in a stealth IP address and deliver access to the Windows sessions from any point inside or outside the company. You don't download your PC data or take it with you; you have it available everywhere all the time from any device.

You don't have to configure anything. We're the only ones that let you plug and play a thin client on the Internet from home behind the firewall. You power it on, you get the dial tone, you type in your user name and password and there's your PC.

Q: Some analysts peg this virtualized PC space to be a multi-billion-dollar market. Is XDS's plan to get in early the way VMware did with server virtualization and gradually build momentum?

Competition is there no matter what you're business, but as long as you are different and can fit and fulfill a good portion of the market requirements, you will do well. We're not going to take over the world and neither will Citrix. There are customers that like to build their own infrastructure; they have VPN infrastructure, Web servers and they spend the money to do all that, and that's quite fine.

We eliminate all of that. We make it an on-demand, real-time experience for the user and the IT department. We see this as the way to go, but we're not going to be the only ones.

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