Numecent revisits old technology for the new web world

Numecent, a semi-stealthy startup, is talking a blast from the past with a service that offers clients the ability to split their applications between the server and a local device — a strategy used in the early days of the mobile web to boost download speeds over anemic connections for devices without much processing oomph.It also plans to spin off a company to help do for gaming what Numecent does for enterprises.

Numecent claims virtualization technology will make it much faster to run remote server-based applications on local PCs, tablets, even smartphones. The problem with running big, resource-intensive applications remotely is that performance can be slow as mud because of bandwidth issues as the app sends huge amounts of bits across the network and the local device struggles to download and process those it needs to execute.

Numecent, an Irvine, Calif.-based startup, says its “cloudpaging” technology divvies up the server-side application —  Microsoft Office(s msft) or AutoCAD(s adsk), etc. — into small pieces and then fetches only the pieces needed by the user.  A virtual memory management unit (MMU) on the client then executes those pieces without having to install any software locally and without having to stream the full application down in order to use just the relevant pieces.

This is what is different from earlier iterations, which did all the processing on the server-side. But in today’s dynamic web world, with apps that need constant communication back to the server and social media buttons that need updating, pre-processing something and then sending it over in a bite-sized package makes no sense.

Some of this technology surfaced in January in the company’s Application Jukebox for Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, but now Numecent is talking about a far broader deployment model.

“Our server component basically cloudifies the software there and delivers it back to you 20 to 100 times faster than today’s digital downloads,” Numecent CEO Osman Kent said in a recent interview.

“We want to be to software what Dropbox is to data,” Kent added. Dropbox is a popular cloud-storage application that makes it very easy for users to move their digital files from PC to the cloud and access them from any device.

Karin Kelly, analyst with The 451 group was impressed that the technology works not just between server and local device but also streams applications between devices — even to smartphones or tablets.

The technology will be sold to software vendors, hardware makers and businesses. Engineering firm Parsons has been using cloudpaging to speed remote use of AutoCAD applications for more than a year, Numecent said.

The technology competes with application virtualization technologies, but Kent said cloudpaging does a much better job. He maintains that many companies that have tried application virtualization were underwhelmed with the result.

Numecent is also spinning off a new company, Approxy, to bring cloudpaging to the computer gaming market, enabling people to play even the biggest, most graphics-intensive online games on their handheld devices. News of the Approxy spinout leaked earlier this month.

While Numecent has been operating mostly in stealth mode, it did announce $2 million in Series A funding earlier this year when it also named Kent, who was co-founder of 3Dlabs, a pioneer in 3D graphics cards for PCs, as its CEO. That funding comes in addition to $7.5 million in seed money.

Analysts who’ve seen the technology in action agreed that cloudpaging is a slick solution to a real problem. The issue here will be in how the technology is delivered. The real hurdle here is getting this out to market broadly and getting third parties to incorporate it in their products.