Earlier this week the US startup Virtual Computer announced the availability of NxTop 3.0.
Like Neocleus (just acquired by Intel), Virtual Computer pioneered the use of a client hypervisor to enhance the enterprise desktop management. While Neocleus focused on platform security, Virtual Computer focused on virtual machines software and user management.
The solution includes two tiers: NxTop Center and the actual client hypervisor, NxTop Client.
The marketing investment made by Citrix to promote the upcoming XenClient, and the now-postponed launch of VMware Client Virtualization Platform (CVP), helped to increase a lot the attention for NxTop. So Virtual Computer recently decided to offer a scaled down free version of its platform.
Such free version of NxTop still required the centralized management component, but the interest for a client hypervisor from system administrators pushed the startup to release the NxTop Client as a stand-alone, completely free product: NxTop Workstation.
So the biggest part of NxTop 3.0 is the first, free, general purpose client hypervisor on the market. And quite remarkably, it doesn’t require the Intel vPro technology at all.
NxTop Workstation has a notable support for industry standard hardware, including all Intel and AMD CPUs that feature VT-X and AMD-V, GPUs from Intel, NVIDIA and AMD, 3G/4G USB modems, USB peripherals like webcams, and even serial ports.
Best of all, the client hypervisor supports both 32 and 64bit versions of Windows as guest operating systems.
As already said, the platform is completely stand-alone, and this means that users can create new virtual machines from the local control panel.
The GUI that glues together the different VMs is well done, even if there’s still a lot of room for improvement in the user experience: the biggest challenge in the area is to intercept and block the users attempts to interact with the Windows control panel inside the VMs.
Another area of improvement for NxTop Workstation is the backup and restore of VMs. Without the NxTop Center component this task may become fairly complex to accomplish.
Virtual Computer is already working to address this challenge: in future releases uses will be able to plug an external hard drive in the USB port and seamlessly backup their VMs.
Of course NxTop 3.0 also introduces major features on the server side of the suite:
- A new hierarchical architecture, where large organizations can deploy a secondary copy of NxTop Center in each of their branch offices
- The capability for system administrators to remotely control end-user virtual desktops
- A new policy-based bandwidth throttling to control traffic between NxTop Center and NxTop Workstation
Virtual Computer has reshaped its offering in three editions: Enterprise, Business and Express.
The Express edition is free of charge, capped to 5 users. The Business one is capped to 500 users, while the Enterprise edition is unlimited.
Virtual Computer also announced a strategic alliance with Quest.
The agreement basically implies that the Quest vWorkspace connector will be shipped out-of-the-box as part of NxTop Workstation starting this October.
The Quest connector improves the Microsoft RDP performance thanks to the Experience Optimized Protocol (EOP) developed by Provision Networks.
The client is installed in the small footprint virtual appliance that Virtual Computer uses to host the platform management tools (like the control panel) and a bunch of utilities: NxTop Connect.
NxTop Connect is a customized Linux distribution, that Virtual Computer turned into a lightweight operating system with essential programs for the users that don’t want to power on their bulky Windows virtual machines.
It currently includes Chrome, Skype, and the Linux implementation of the RDP client.
Any additional software partnership that Virtual Computer will be able to close, will probably translate in a new component inside Connect.
The idea of a speedy, lightweight and extensible virtual machine that can be used for quick operations, is pretty much the same approach that Phoenix Technologies tried to bring to the market with their now defunct HyperCore. HP acquired that asset from Phoenix in June for $12M, and it’s not clear what it plans to do with it.
The idea of a minimal operating system, with just browsing, remote access and communication capabilities is also shared with Google which is expected to launch its Chorme OS before the end of the year.
It’s entirely possible that Virtual Computer will drop the currently used Linux distro to adopt and extend the Google platform to further reduce the NxTop Connect footprint.
Virtual Computer released NxTop 2.0 in March. Despite its size and the limited resources available, the company managed to deliver a remarkable product, beating on time all major players in the space.
virtualization.info had the opportunity to try NxTop Workstation 3.0 and had a very positive impression.
Virtual Computer has been rated as “Worth Watching” on the Virtualization Industry Radar.