Virtual Computer Secures $15 Million, Makes Real Friends with Citrix

1/26/09Follow @wroush

Virtual Computer, a Westford, MA, PC virtualization startup that has been gradually decloaking since last fall, today announced that it’s raised a Series B funding round totaling $15 million. The surprisingly large round was led by Highland Capital Partners of Lexington, MA, and Flybridge Capital Partners of Boston, the same investors who put up the company’s $6 million Series A round one year ago. But the round also includes a new strategic investor, Fort Lauderdale, FL-based Citrix Systems, which just unveiled its own PC virtualization strategy and says it expects to build a “mutually beneficial” relationship with Virtual Computer.

The startup, which operated under the stealth name Old Road Computing Corporation until September, is developing a system called “NxTop” that will allow corporate IT administrators to outfit all of its employees’ Windows desktop and laptop PCs with centrally managed and backed-up operating systems and applications. That, in itself, is nothing new—there are plenty of companies that offer technology for centralized hosting of virtual desktop environments or centralized installation, updating, and backup of Windows applications and data. But the way Virtual Computer pulls this off may be simpler, cheaper, more secure, and more scalable than older approaches—at least, that’s the aim.

As Virtual Computer’s website explains, the company is building a virtualization program called the NxTop Engine that is installed on laptop or desktop hard drives and runs below the level of the usual Windows operating system. It is also building a management system called NxTop Center that maintains copies of the operating system, applications, and user data needed by each individual PC user. Whenever a NxTop PC has a network connection, NxTop Engine grabs the appropriate OS, applications, and data from NxTop Center. If the machine is a laptop and doesn’t have a network connection, NxTop Engine uses the most recent copies and operates the machine just as if it were an independent Windows PC.

The company believes this approach has several advantages over other desktop virtualization methods such as server-based remote hosting. Servers can only host 20 to 30 users simultaneously, meaning large companies have to buy lots of servers in addition to the client machines. And hosted systems don’t work for laptops, which don’t always have a network connection.

“There is unprecedented pressure on corporate IT teams in 2009 to reduce costs and increase employee productivity,” Highland general partner Peter Bell said in a statement. “Our increased investment is a vote of confidence that Virtual Computer’s unique capability to deliver the cost saving benefits of desktop virtualization without the need for significant data center investments is a winner in any economic climate.”

Virtual Computer hasn’t revealed much about how NxTop actually works, but today’s announcement made it clear that … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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