Swedish carrier Telia AB this week announced it is using a unique piece of software to deliver Windows applications over broadband.
Telia is using EXEtender from Exent Technologies Ltd., which in effect carves an application into pieces and then streams just the needed pieces over a high-bandwidth link to a client PC. There, the pieces are cached on a hard disk, but they are not actually installed.
What this means is that large companies or application service providers can install EXEtender on a server and serve full Windows applications, including multimedia programs, over a WAN to PCs. Telia is using EXEtender to offer its "Games on Demand" service, securely streaming multimedia Windows gaming applications to client PCs. Working with Microsoft Corp., Telia also will use EXEtender to offer home users a full range of Microsoft office and entertainment applications.
The Exent software is based on a complex set of algorithms that, among other things, predicts what functions a user is likely to need next and transmits these to the client ahead of time.
EXEtender combines many of the virtues of thin client computing - such as no local installation, and centralized management - with the local processing power and full Windows graphical user interface of the desktop PC.
"If people have desktop processors, storage, graphics accelerators and all the rest, let's use them," says Zvi Levgoren, founder and CEO of Exent Technologies, which created the software.
End users log on to a Web site, click on an application link, and EXEtender starts streaming the initial parts of the application to the PC. Levgoren says users can start working with an application about eight seconds after clicking on it. In most cases, users will need a minimum 512K bit/sec connection via digital subscriber line, cable modem or other broadband links.
Big service providers will prefer EXEtender to a system based on Citrix Systems' MetaFrame software with Windows 2000 Terminal Services, Levgoren contends. The reason: The Citrix software runs all the applications on Wintel servers, which have limits in the number of users and connections they can support. Adding lots more users means adding lots more servers. EXEtender, on the other hand, delivers the code to the client where it executes.
Citrix can support scores of users on a server, but EXEtender can support hundreds or even thousands, Levgoren says.
"It's a very interesting technology," says Philip Mendoza, analyst with market researcher IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts. "But there are some limitations.
They need a lot of bandwidth. And each time you need additional pieces of an application, you have to go online to get them. It might not be suitable for enterprise applications that are mission critical and heavily and frequently used."