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Pano Logic Co-Founder and CTO interviewed; Desktop Virtualization discussed

Pano Logic came to VMworld 2007 and was heralded as the "sexiest thing that could have happened to your desktop". The cube does something to you, but the value-add, while you subtract the thick desktop out of your corporate strategy, is just massive!

I speak to Dione, VP Services and Alliances, regularly and we agree on one thing (among a lot of other things around Virtualosphere) is: Desktop Virtualization is a top priority for organizations!

A little bit about Aly (quoting his profile from Pano Logic) :

Aly Orady - Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer

Aly is co-founder and CTO of Pano Logic where he is leading current and future technology direction. Aly has previously held engineering leadership positions at Silicon Valley start-up Kealia, Inc. (acquired by Sun Microsystems) where he architected the world's highest capacity video-on-demand distribution platform. Aly began his career at HP designing high-performance I/O and network sub-systems. He earned an M.S.E.E. from Stanford University and a B.Eng. in computer engineering from McMaster University.

And here are the Q&As:

Please tell us about Pano Logic?

Nils and I founded Pano in early 2006 because we felt that server based computing had a lot to offer in terms of manageability and security, but that all of the solutions on the market had serious short comings. We wanted to create something that was applicable to the masses, not just to a niche segment of the market – something without compromise. The timing couldn’t have been better – everybody was starting to take a second look at server based computing because costs were getting out of control, and virtualization was emerging as a force to be reckoned with. We knew that we had something special when our zero client technology met virtualization – so we built a client device specifically for the virtualized desktop. But, we quickly realized that Pano had to be about a lot more than just new technology – we had to make desktop virtualization easy. There are many early adopters out there that have cobbled together desktop virtualization solutions, which is not for the faint of heart. We on the other hand have bundled it all into a single easy to deploy solution.

Tell us about your product, we have seen the sexy cube, how does it all work?

The “sexy cube” as you call it is about giving the end user the same experience they always had with a desktop PC, but giving the administrator all the benefits of centralized computing and virtualization. The Pano is a simple device – it has no CPU, software, firmware, or anything of the likes. It is a pure hardware device that the user plugs his keyboard, monitor, mouse, and whatever USB devices he has, then plugs it into the network, and gets a Windows XP or Vista session running on a centralized server. It just works; the administrator never has to manage the device in any way because it has no software or state on it. All the software runs inside a virtual machine in the data center. The end user uses the device just like a desktop PC – everything works the same way because at the end of the day, it’s still Windows XP or Vista, the only thing we have done is moved it from physically running on the desktop to running in the server room. Everything still works the same way, including USB devices.

The advantage, of course, is that instead of hundreds or thousands of individually deployed PCs, sized for maximum single thread performance consuming power while idling 90% of the time and requiring expensive management and support, the problem is moved to a datacenter where virtualization advancements dramatically increase compute utilization and, of course, slash power, support, and maintenance costs.

Administrators are now very well versed with the power and benefits of server virtualization – Pano is a way for them to get those same benefits on their desktops as well.

In addition to the device I’ve described and the software in the desktop virtual machine to facilitate all the communication between the VM and the device, a very important aspect of our product is the management server. It is delivered in the form of a virtual appliance, ready to load on top of your VMware hypervisor. Once you power it up, it becomes the central point of managing your deployment. It will keep track of all Pano devices, desktop virtual machines, and will even automatically deploy new virtual machines for you based on policy.

A lot of people ask us why the device looks the way it does. We worked hard to make the Pano device sexy, almost like a trophy, so that people would want it on their desk instead of the old grey PC humming away. It’s amazing how many people say they want one without even knowing what it is. This will make change acceptance a lot easier for IT departments as they roll this out.

What would make a customer go for Pano Logic instead of standard terminal services kind of solutions?

Terminal services are used very widely to publish individual applications, but are rarely used to publish full desktops. What I mean by this is, today most people have full blown PCs on their desks and will log in to a terminal server usually to access a specialized application such as a legacy billing or ordering system. On the other hand, it is rare that you will find somebody that has no PC at all and instead of a thin client that connects to a terminal server where the user’s primary desktop session lives. This is what I meant earlier when I said that existing server based computing solutions were only used in niche segments of the market. The reason why it isn’t widely applicable is because terminal servers have a number of limitations – firstly, a user gets a session on a shared server, not their own operating system image. As a result, they are usually very locked down because one user doing something bad can affects tens or hundreds of other users on the same server. Also, many applications are simply not written keeping terminal servers in mind, and as a result, they just don’t work.

Pano utilizes desktop virtualization, which is about giving the user the same operating system they have always used – only it’s running in a different place. This benefits administrators as much as end users because it means they are administrating the same operating system they have always administered – only it’s now running in a virtual environment, which makes it even easier to administer. There is no need for them to learn the new skill set required with terminal services.

It’s funny, but compared to terminal services, we are really getting attraction from a different kind of customer. Our customers have typically had some type of good experience with server virtualization and are now looking for ways to extend that experience to solve more problems. When they see the simplicity of our solution, they realize how easy it is to get started and get immediate benefits.

That said, we expect many of our customers that have deployed ICA or Terminal Services to centrally push some applications to continue to do so using the same client they always have built into their XP or Vista desktop.

Can you tell us about your deployments, how successful are they?

As mentioned before, this has been a very exciting win for us. We have done all of our customer’s installs remotely over the web. We have a team of engineers who send some documentation beforehand, and then set up a remote web session where we let the customer drive, as we ‘coach’ them throughout the installation. Often times, the customer does it himself just by reading the documentation! We want to make sure the customer experience is excellent so we want to provide that help and training. We plan to continue to build tools and computer based trainings to allow anyone to be able to install the Pano System by themselves. For larger deployments, we leverage our partners to do the implementations, as they involve scoping and sizing, desktop management best practices, etc. Our customers seem thrilled with the fact that they don’t need any new skill sets to be successful. They need desktop IT skill sets which they have, and they need virtualization skill sets which most already have as well or are getting because of server consolidation projects underway.

What efforts do you take to educate your clients?

Our product has only been on the market for a few months and we are amazed at the demand we have seen. Interestingly, we have done very little to educate our customers. Many of them are already very familiar with server virtualization, so our product appears as a natural extension. More importantly, our customers can spend around $1500 to purchase a 5 seat system, have it up and running in an hour, and experience the solution for themselves, in their environment. Either we or our partners assign customers a support engineer, who can remotely guide them through an online installation process, but we find that most of our customers don’t need this. We also have an aggressive program in place to produce new whitepapers, webinars and on-line demos over the next few months to help educate prospective customers.

What is your strategy for EMEA and Asia? Do you intend to do work via channel partners/distributors or go direct to consumer?

We’ve had tremendous interest from Partners and other hardware vendors to assist us in localization, distribution and marketing in these regions. Pano Logic is still assessing the market needs in these regions and developing a go-to-market plan, but we are very interested in bringing Pano to International customers and partners in the near future. We believe our ease of use, ease of deployment is a huge advantage that makes it even easier to go International quickly.

How are you coping with the demand/supply equation? I can imagine that the cube has to be manufactured first and then shipped.

Yes, unfortunately the device does have to be manufactured before it can be shipped, but we are hoping to find some “virtual manufacturing” technologies to take care of that problem! (let us know if you hear of anything out there). We currently have over 80 customers that have received product with a healthy demand pipeline. We are now ramping to volume production utilizing best of breed supply chain management systems and suppliers to predicatively and efficiently manage supply.

Who is your direct competitor in this "Zero desktop" game?

What’s interesting is that so far, is that the biggest competitor that we’ve seen in our deals has been to just keep the fat desktop. One of our customers was in the process of moving from thin clients back to fat desktops when they heard about Pano Logic. I do believe that we will start to run in to some of the thin client vendors out there, but we also know that our value add is not just the device – it’s in the protocol and the software that connects the virtualized environment to the endpoint. It’s the entire solution that leverages virtualization, so we may run in to other solutions that believe in leveraging virtualization as well.

What are you doing to market/evangelize Pano Logic? We understand that you have some good clients but the outside world is not hearing anything about it, is that acceptable at Pano HQ?

Pano Logic is still early in its lifecycle. The initial product solution was introduced at VMworld in September, 2007. Following the product launch the Company received a tremendous amount of interest and much of the marketing over the past few months has been targeted at cultivating this interest. The plan for 2008 is to ramp up marketplace awareness but do so in a cost-effective and targeted manner. We hope that much of the VMware installed base – a natural for Pano Logic pilots and broader scale adoption – will become far more aware of the Pano Logic solution. It is not the Company’s intention to develop a broad, horizontal or consumer oriented marketing campaign in 2008. But don’t worry… you will start to hear more and more about us. We are on fire, we have a huge demand and we are focused on bringing lots of partners in to the Pano fold over the next year.

Virtualization is scorching hot and is drawing everyone's attention, what kind of 2008 are you expecting and how do you plan to cope with the disruptions across various domains in the Data Center? For instance, a lot of clients will soon go for mobile desktops/laptops/pdas, will we see a little Pano USB, Wireless Panocards etc?

We are on fire and really excited about the coming year. We have a great lineup of customers and a solid technology roadmap, which I’m afraid I can’t completely share publicly for this interview (yet). I will say that we are focused on wireless and WAN and some other interesting ways to work with different types of mobile users. Today, many of our customers are using our web interface to access their virtual desktops from the home, and using the Pano at the desk at work. Many of our customers are focused on bringing Pano in to immediately replace all of their fixed desktop users. As our capabilities expand over the next 3-6 months, they will be able to extend our solutions to the other users as well.

Another important point to remember is that we are simply trying to extend the values of server virtualization out to include the desktop. 2008 is going to be an exciting year – virtualization is become more and more main steam and as more and more people virtualize their servers, they will only realize that the logical next step is to virtualize their desktops as well, and Pano is the way to do that.


  1. What about NComputing? Surely they must be the biggest competitors with their virtual terminals?


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