Every once in a while, you see an impressive tech arrive on the market. Usually the engineer in me is blown away by its elegance and/or the freshness of the technical approach to a problem. But my inner businessman wonders whether the company founders will manage to propose a compelling business case to their customer base.
Cloud paging is one of those impressive techs.
Released in 2012 by company Numecent, cloud paging was heralding truly seamless software delivery. They had a demo where you could use Adobe Photoshop on any device, streamed from an iPhone. What was interesting is that it wasn’t about streaming video from another device where Photoshop was running. The client device still had to be compatible with the software (the right OS), but Numecent tech would stream CPU instructions to the device, from the cloud paging server. This means the instructions actually executed on your client device (which means no latency etc), unlike classic pixel-streaming technology.
When you think of it, this is amazing from an operational point of view: you could have a central applications repository, that would enable empty/clean client devices to run all the apps without installation apart from the Numecent client (which receives and executes the streamed CPU instructions).
In a way this is, to some extent, an alternative approach to virtual cloud desktops, or even containerization in terms of devices and servers management: you are free of painful local installation scripts and dependencies hell. This is a totally new and generic way to tackle a well-known problem for any CTO, which is configuration management.
It has been now 6 years and it seems that Numecent has lost the PR battle: there was absolutely no tech media follow up after the initial press releases, and very few people have heard about their tech. Even worse, when you go to Numecent website, you see a lot of technical jargon with many acronyms, without any compelling use case.
When you think of it, even though the tech is in itself impressive, what business value does it bring, compared to other existing, in-place alternatives? Cloud desktops with video streaming may be less sexy, but it works, mostly. Same for servers, with Docker and all its CLI tools, or Ansible etc.
There might be particular situations where this particular tech could shine, unfortunately Numecent has yet to explain the world what those situations could be.
Of course, despite the cryptic website, it seems Numecent has managed to snatch some big contracts and their tech lives on, but personally I feel like there has been a missed opportunity for this tech to spread in the tech world.
**Edit July 31st 2019: I was contacted by Numecent team for a 1:1 demo (they had contacted me months ago but I hadn’t noticed so the blame is on me). I had a very interesting chat and since 2013 it seems they’ve changed the tech quite a bit. From what I could see, it’s now basically a native windows container technology, turbocharged with management features (users management, usage control etc). The tech is quite similar to the one I described in a previous article about a competitor. You have the studio, which is basically a sandbox where you run your software installer to build a complete standalone executable that contains everything (dependencies in a virtual file system, a virtual windows registry etc). You then have the application server, where you push your standalone exe, and then the client, that users use to access the exe stored on the central server. From a pure tech standpoint, I think it’s quite similar to the new windows native Docker implementation (you have a virtual file system and registry as well). The main differentiation seems to be in the management features, and all bells and whistles for large corporations that need extensive management capabilities.