Today, NComputing is announcing the acquisition of VERDE Workspaces, a company reborn from the ashes of Virtual Bridges. The acquisition fills a gap in NComputing’s offerings, and should strengthen them in the higher reaches of the market.
NComputing has been the number three player – albeit a distant third – behind Citrix and VMware – in the desktop virtualization space for years. The company they are acquiring had long had a reputation for having interesting technology, but had been beset by other issues.
“Our VERDE VDI offering went head to head with VMware and Citrix, and was distinct in treating Windows and Linux as equal citizens,” said Jim Curtin, who was Virtual Bridges’ original CEO and co-founder, later became the CEO of VERDE Workspaces, and with the acquisition, is now VP and GM of Global Software at NComputing. “It’s amazing how much Linux is out there. We were also purpose-built for desktop managing and provisioning, whereas Citrix was focused on shared services and VMware was server consolidation. Neither one was purpose-built for desktop competing like we are. We sold into markets like higher education and defense, including the NSA. That led to us having very hardened security.”
Curtin had sold an earlier company, enterprise security vendor DASCOM, to IBM, and had strong connections there, and so Virtual Bridges entered a key strategic relationship with IBM.
“We also went to IBM because Citrix and VMware had locked up the other vendors with their marketing dollars,” Curtin said.
IBM were themselves relatively small players in desktop virtualization, but Curtin said that the agreement was a successful one. The problem, which undid the deal, his tenure at Virtual Bridges, and ultimately the company itself, lay in investor impatience.
“The venture capital guys had a three year clock, so they made a change,” Curtin said. “The new CEO had no experience with IBM, and told IBM they wanted to hit the pause button on the relationship. Instead, IBM, which had a different clock speed, and didn’t react well to the idea of a pause, ended the relationship.”
After that, Curtin said the company tried several strategies, none of which worked.
“They tried to shift into OpenStack, at a time when this was premature,” he said. “Ultimately, they started to sell off assets, and finally in February 2015, they sold off the VERDE VDI platform to NIMBOXX, which was a hyper-converged startup.” The old Virtual Bridges company sold off other assets elsewhere, and was eventually closed up.
“NIMBOXX’s problem was that they were late to the market, didn’t have table stakes and their investors pulled out a year later,” Curtin said. “At that point I was getting calls from customers and partners about what was happening. I then negotiated with the NIMBOXX investors and bought all the assets back.
The new company was named VERDE Workspaces, which Curtin said both preserved their heritage and points to the way the market is evolving. As a small company – three full time and about nine on an individual job basis – they faced new challenges however.
“Virtual Bridges had about 120 partners, of which 80 did one order and 10 did dozens of orders, and pretty much all the core stayed despite the company’s problems because they had to provide for continued support and maintenance of customers,” Curtin said. “The partners were in fact a stimulus behind the creation of VERDE Workspaces because they had customers to support. Beyond that however, we had an issue in that nobody had heard of VERDE Workspaces.”
An encounter with Young Song, NComputing’s CEO, led to a solution.
“Young had also founded his company, took a hiatus, and then come back to the company two plus years ago, returning it to profitability,” Curtin said. “So we really have parallel stories. We are also both committed to the same model of virtual computing.”
Becoming part of NComputing solves all of VERDE Workspaces’ teething issues.
“This is our funding,” Curtin stated. “It gives us credibility, reach, marketing and extended engineering. We are plugging into what it would take millions to create.”
Curtin stressed that VERDE’s technology also fills a major void for NComputing.
“Ncomputing has been successful largely in K-12, which has a lot of isolated classrooms,” he said. “They are strong at the low end, with low cost and highly efficient products. NComputing has really been a sessional virtualization vendor though, and when they get tenders for VDI, they couldn’t really address that. Now they can. NComputing will be able to compete at the higher end, and will thus be able to offer an end-to-end solution.”
Curtin stated that NComputing’s market strategy won’t change fundamentally going forward.
“We won’t be trying to compete head to head with Citrix, although we will go after the disgruntled elements in their market,” he said. “We will aggressively target the Linux market, and the 1000-10,000 seat market. We think the midmarket is wide open for us. This is really one plus one equals three.”
Curtin said the strengthened company is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities in VDI which have never really been there until now.
“We see a lot of enterprise going through a refresh cycle, which has typically been a 5-8 year refresh cycle. We think that now, with the organic stack we have, we will be credible. In addition, the whole midmarket is now more open to VDI than it was before. It all adds up to a big picture of VDI finally hitting its stride and overcoming legacy baggage.”