Start-up promises streaming desktop apps

Softricity looks to reduce the cost of managing desktop Windows applications with a software product the company says takes a step toward an industrywide vision of utility computing.

Start-up Softricity is looking to reduce the cost of managing desktop Windows applications with a server software product the company says takes a step toward an industrywide vision of utility computing.

The Boston-based company on Monday introduced an update to its management software, called SoftGrid, that is designed to help companies administer and install desktop Windows applications. The company has about 70 corporate customers for the software.

Softricity's software is designed to improve desktop software maintenance by running desktop applications from a server. Rather than configuring, installing and testing software for each individual PC, companies can use SoftGrid to create a central store for applications that are sent over in piece parts, or "streamed," to end users over company networks.

The SoftGrid software stores a local "cache" of each application, which doesn't affect the desktop machines' configuration. Eliminating the need to manually set up PCs will save companies money when they install new applications or need to introduce changes to existing software, Softricity executives said.


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Softricity said its server software offers "application virtualization" because it allows customers to create a pool of several applications that can be tapped into as needed. Larger companies such as IBM and Sun Microsystems are investing heavily in virtualization technology, which is considered a key component to the notion of utility computing. Virtualization allows companies to combine resources--such as storage, servers or applications--so that computing services can be purchased according to how much they are used.

Softricity's software offers a potential alternative to other server-based software delivery systems, notably Microsoft's Terminal Server and Citrix MetraFrame, said Forrester analyst Richard Fichera in a recent research note on Softricity.

"While Softricity carries with it all the attendant risks of a small company, its solution seems to answer a compelling need for efficient desktop operations around widely deployed enterprise applications," Fichera wrote. "(It) merits a serious look for anyone with a need to deploy a highly managed enterprise application in a Windows environment."

SoftGrid version 3.0 is designed to allow people to use the software when they are not connected to company networks. The update also can work with Microsoft's Active Directory to authenticate people's network logon information and automatically send out software patches. Pricing starts at about $15,000.

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