In a surprise move, hyperconverged systems startup NIMBOXX has acquired Virtual Bridges’ VERDE VDI platform. NIMBOXX has received some early acclaim for its MeshOS™ hyperconverged appliance. This appliance takes a “simpler is better” approach to converged infrastructure platforms. NIMBOXX claims that customers can be up and running in as little as seven minutes after powering on its appliance. The company’s real business is its KVM-based MeshOS, delivered on a commodity hardware platform, with the business aim of keeping purchasing and installation as simple as possible.
Virtual Bridges had early success with VERDE, including a 2008 partnership with IBM that saw VERDE incorporated into IBM’s now-defunct Virtual Desktop for Smart Business solution. This partnership stemmed from close ties between Virtual Bridges CEO Jim Curtain and his former employer. In 2012, Virtual Bridges made a change at the top, introducing new CEO Sam Cece, who made the strategic decision to distance the company from IBM and to focus efforts on developing VERDE as a VDI platform to compete against Citrix and VMware. By late 2013, it looked as though Virtual Bridges’ focus had shifted back to DaaS service providers with the release of VERDE 7.0, which had improved support for delegated administration and multi-tenancy via a RESTful API. Minor updates came in April and December 2014 with the introduction of support for the GlusterFS clustered file system (VERDE 7.1) and HTML5-based clientless access (VERDE 7.2).
Most significantly, 2014 also saw the release of Virtual Bridges’ Bridgepoint cloud orchestration system. Described as a platform-agnostic solution specifically intended for deploying and managing virtual desktops, Bridgepoint has the ability to leverage existing VMware and OpenStack infrastructures in mixed public, private, and hybrid cloud environments. It isn’t just a cloud orchestration system, but comes complete with its own location-aware connection broker. Like VERDE, the connection broker ensures that users are routed to the nearest available host server to ensure the best possible user experience. The connection broker, management service, and workload controller are delivered as virtual appliances for vSphere and OpenStack. As befits Virtual Bridges’ Linux background, Bridgepoint supports Linux desktops running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5, 5.6, 6, Centos 6.1+, Ubuntu 10.04, and 12.04 as guest OSes, alongside the expected Windows 7 and 8. Bridgepoint also supports Windows Server 2008 and 2012 instantiations to allow service providers to take advantage of SPLA licensing.
The sale of VERDE to NIMBOXX should work out well for Virtual Bridges. It allows Virtual Bridges to focus its efforts exclusively on Bridgepoint while raising more capital to support Bridgepoint’s development without the uncertainty and dilution of a new funding round. While the terms of the NIMBOXX deal weren’t published, the value of the deal can’t have been that high. NIMBOXX announced that it raised $12 million in Series A funding from Hong Kong–based SMC Holdings in June 2014. It is unlikely to have been willing to part with much of that to acquire VERDE.
The benefits for NIMBOXX are not quite as clear-cut. While the deal will bring revenue from software licensing renewals to NIMBOXX, it isn’t clear what else it will bring. In a prepared statement, CEO Rocky Bullock said, “The combination of VERDE and NIMBOXX will give customers unprecedented VM density, deployment simplicity and affordability. At the same time, this is only one workload where our technology is making a huge impact. We will continue to grow our footprint in the hyperconverged infrastructure space, making software-defined data centers more accessible to resource-constrained organizations.”
While I agree with NIMBOXX that hyperconverged infrastructure offers significant advantages over other approaches to delivering virtual desktops, NIMBOXX’s entering an already crowded field with a far-from-mainstream Linux-based platform looks like a big gamble to me.