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Is Teradici's PC-Over-IP The Next Big Thing?

A fabless start-up hidden away out of sight in British Columbia that been rethinking the problem of thin clients

There's a fabless semiconductor start-up hidden away out of sight in Vancouver, British Columbia that been rethinking the problem of thin clients and the so-called PC Blade for the last three years.

And now that it's got the necessary silicon, firmware and fancy signal processing algorithms in hand - along with a couple of early adopters like IBM and ClearCube - and it's shipping pre-production product ahead of initial volumes in August - it's ready to come out from under the radar and lay its cards on the table, so to speak.

The name of this prodigy is Teradici Corporation and it calls its widgetry PC-over-IP technology, meaning it can physically separate the computer from the user long distance.

It claims it can deliver a true PC experience from the data center - where it puts the guts of the enterprise PC - over any IP network to the desktop - which it reduces to a display, a keyboard, a mouse and a gismo that, being Canadian, it calls a puck 'cause, well, it looks like a puck.

It says it's even solved the thin client's notorious problems with printing let alone mastering the computer display compression and low latency propagation over IP networks that have evaded thin clients, reproducing a real PC experience complete with sophisticated graphics and surround sound.

The solution basically consists of two Teradici chips - one PC-over-IP processor at the host, which can be a workstation, a rack-mounted server or more likely a blade server, and the other in the puck.

Since the Teradici chip goes on the host's motherboard sandwiched in between the Southbridge and the GPU so the host thinks it's a USB controller, you can see why this is an OEM play. Teradici won't be selling direct.

For starters, IBM is going to ship a Teradici-based BladeCenter "Workstation Blade" it previewed in May at PartnerWorld this month and ClearCube, which has been laboring in the PC blade vineyards for the last seven years and says it suddenly finds it hot on the back of Teradici whispers, says it's going to add Teradici widgetry starting next quarter and use its own Sentral management software.

Now, saying Teradici's solution comes down to two high-speed slivers of silicon makes it sound like a piece of cake. Well, as you might imagine, in wrestling its widgetry into two chips, Teradici has wrestled more than a few bears including a law of nature that may not make the solution viable at distances of greater than 2,500 miles between host and client.

Not and still fool the user into thinking he's working locally - (your basic "is it real or is it Memorex" test, according to Teradici finance VP Sam Davison).

Teradici will have to see what can be done to extend the IP conversion and compression/decompression algorithms in its Tera Image Engine, but 2,500 miles is a vast improvement over what's been available - sometimes a short thousand feet - and as a proof point, Teradici can wave around the 28 patent filings it's made with the US Patent office and the 20 others it's got in process.

Other than that it's promising the rich media experience of a local PC and limitless USB peripherals without the typical security and compliance issues, data management headaches, support and maintenance hurdles and newfound power and heat concerns that go with a free-standing PC.

Teradici's operating system-indifferent approach turns the desktop into a completely driver-less, stateless device with no fan that takes a comparatively little 15W of power to run (down from your typical 300W). The user is provided with HD audio and can have four monitors on his desk if he likes. But the desktop's real working parts are back in a secure cage in the data center, which send out packets over a 10/100/1000 Ethernet link to the client.

Teradici's algorithms de-tox the impact of dropped packets.

The start-up says the natural customer for its technology is the company that want to gain "complete control over its entire PC and workstation deployment," which of course is pretty much everybody in the universe, but it figures first takers will be traders, banks, manufacturers and designers, entertainment and animation folk, healthcare professionals and government agencies that for practical reasons like securing their data, eliminating malware and alleviating the heat and noise at their desks.

The advantages are of course in aggregating individual desktops and gathering all of one's applications and data storage in a single location.

Teradici has collected $34 million in funding - that's in US greenbacks, by the way - across two rounds led by Alloy Venture and says it's got enough money to last into 2009. And it has great expectations since 90 million PCs are supposed to ship worldwide next year.

It didn't call itself "monster" for nothing.

Apparently we can expect Teradici to turn up in some of those HDTV home media solutions.

The Teradici team, now up to 55 people, includes CEO Dan Cordingley, an Intel refugee; sales, marketing and business development VP Mike DeNeffe, who hails from Wyse, Transmeta, NEC and Epson; silicon engineering VP Maher Fahmi, who came out of PMC-Sierra; chief architect Dave Hobbs, who used to be CTO at Spectrum Signal Processing; and software engineering VP Ken Unger, who used to be director of engineering for VoIP products at Broadcom.

Kevin Huscroft, the founder of PMC-Sierra, is chairman and Dell's former CTO Randy Grove is on the board. So is the managing director of Merrill Lynch's global infrastructure solutions Jim Noble. One of the company's advisors is Chris Hipp, the guy who co-founded RLX, the first blade company.

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