When an organisation virtualises its desktop environment, managing each individual user’s desktop profile becomes a centralised task. That has many benefits – IT policies can be enforced more easily that way, for example – but it can also be complex and time-consuming.
One way to ease this burden is to apply what has become known as ‘user virtualisation’. The technology creates an individual profile for each user, describing not only the applications and data that they use but also their history and customisations. This profile, or ‘user personality’, is separate from any particular operating system or desktop virtualisation platform, and can therefore be moved across devices.
AppSense, a company headquartered in Daresbury, Cheshire, is one of the leaders of the user virtualisation market. It was founded in 1999 by Charles Sharland, who had previously set up IT security vendor Vistorm, now part of Hewlett-Packard.
For most of its history, AppSense was focused on selling management tools for Citrix-based terminal services environments. Recently, though, it has expanded its reach to include virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) systems, and technology from Microsoft and VMware as well as Citrix.
AppSense’s 4,000 customers include BT, JPMorgan Chase and according to Darron Antill, CEO of AppSense and former CEO of Vistorm, demand for its user virtualisation tools is growing formidably. “We grew 60% last year [to $47 million], and we’re on track to grow 60% again this year,” he says.
That growth has not gone unnoticed. In February 2011, AppSense revealed that investment bank Goldman Sachs had acquired a minority stake in the company for $70 million – a remarkable figure for a company its size, and even more so for an enterprise software company based in the North East of England.
“We’ve been courted by many potential investors, including Goldman Sachs, for a number of years,” explains Antill. “We decided four or five months ago to consider our options. Our strategy is to accelerate growth into new markets, so we weighed up who we could partner with for that.”
AppSense will invest that money in its global presence, Antill says, including expanded operations in the US where nearly half of its business is now based. It will also invest in the infrastructure that supports its cloud-based user virtualisation service, as well as adding support for more mobile platforms.
The company, citing proprietary research by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, claims that the user virtualisation market could be worth $2 billion by 2015. That is quite a claim – the server virtualisation software market is not worth much more than that today.
But if that estimate proves to be anything approaching the truth, user virtualisation is not an opportunity the likes of VMware, Microsoft or even Citrix will be prepared to let slip without a fight. AppSense will therefore need all the help it can get if it plans to remain in control of the market it currently leads for much longer.