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Tuesday night, I drew a monocle on VentureBeat founder Matt Marshall. But this was no ordinary monocle, as the Adobe software I used to create it ran on servers 3,000 miles away and redirected directly to my web browser.
This Photoshop demo offered a preview of the technology Mainframe2 will unveil when it comes out of stealth mode this week at DEMO 2013. At Wednesday’s conference, the startup will discuss its ambitious cloud computing offering, which promises to run no any Windows application and transport it. to HTML5-enabled web browsers anywhere in the world.
Like many cloud computing startups, Mainframe2 has a big vision: it hopes to make scientific and technical applications accessible to anyone connected to the Internet, no matter how graphically complex the application is or how weak the network connection is.
“Software has become the cornerstone of our civilization and the most important tool we have,” Mainframe2 founder and CEO Nikola Bozinovic told VentureBeat in a conversation Tuesday. “But we don’t have an easy way to get software tools into the hands of the next billion people, and this is the best chance we have to drive innovation and move us all forward.”
Mainframe2 supports native Windows applications, so software vendors don’t need to rebuild or port their applications to run on Mainframe2 servers. Instead, they log into a self-service portal and install them as they would on a single computer. Mainframe2 handles everything else, from orchestration and deployment to geographic scaling.
And the whole process only takes about 10 minutes, claims Bozinovic.
Mainframe2 allows “developers to move [their apps] to the cloud almost instantly,” he said. “It’s much easier than trying to do it with conventional solutions, like [those offered by] Citrix and VMware.
To deliver software to users’ web browsers, Mainframe2 runs the applications in its data centers, then converts each frame to H.264 video, using the latest encoding technology from Nvidia, Intel and AMD. Its proprietary networking and HTML5 technologies guarantee high performance without the need for plugins such as Java or Flash.
There was some latency when I tested the Photoshop demo – nothing too bad, but the 100 millisecond delay destroyed the illusion of local computing. But I’m in New York, so if the data center hosting the app was on the East Coast, my photo editing experience would have been a lot smoother — in theory, at least.
I asked fellow VentureBeat reporter, West Coast-based Meghan Kelly, to try the demo, and she seemed to have more serious issues.
“It was slow,” she said after trying it out in the Bay Area. “When I used the brush, the color was definitely following my cursor and not following it. But that wasn’t the only problem I had with it. When I tried to draw a mustache on Matt, it l drew on his shoulder, not under his nose.
It should be noted that we tested a preliminary demo of an unfinished product. Currently, Mainframe2’s only operational data centers are on the West Coast, but it plans to switch to “worldwide” servers when the product launches in Q4. The company declined to provide more specific location details, but the promised latency won’t be an issue at launch.
“We do absolutely everything to minimize latency,” Bozinovic said. “Even if you’re connecting from a slower network, you’ll still have a great experience. You don’t need a LAN connection; if you are connecting from 3G or 4G, it will optimize for that connection.
Bozinovic says now is the time to launch a cloud computing startup. GPU virtualization has arrived, networks are improving daily, and browser-based technologies are changing rapidly.
“The same way you can check Gmail or play Angry Birds anywhere, now you can use the best tools on any device, even if it only works in the browser,” he said. he declares.
Mainframe2 faces fierce competition from major enterprise software vendors such as Citrix and VMware, but Bozinovic believes Mainframe2 can outperform its competitors as they focus more on selling on-premises virtualization solutions.
Although Mainframe2 could theoretically run any Windows application, Bozinovic intends to steer clear of cloud gaming, which is an increasingly crowded market with tighter monetization margins. He declined to discuss Mainframe2’s pricing details beyond pointing to an upcoming press release, which says the service will offer “on-demand pricing.”
Founded in the summer of 2012, Mainframe2 is based in Menlo Park, Calif., and currently has 10 full-time employees. It raised a seed round this spring with participation from Columbus Nova Technology Partners, the Plug and Play Tech Center and a few Silicon Valley-based angel investors.
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