[thinnews] Article: Virtualization startup Propero thinks big

  • From: "Jim Kenzig http://kenzig.com" <jimkenz@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: thin@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Thinnews <thinnews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, virtualize <virtualize@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2005 15:43:50 -0700 (PDT)

Virtualization startup Propero thinks big 
 virtualization vendor to release workSpace 5.0

By China Martens, IDG News Service
October 24, 2005
Desktop virtualization startup Propero is due to release version 5.0 of its 
workSpace virtualization software Monday. The software enables users to access 
any application from any computer in any location, according to Propero's 
co-founders, helping companies to significantly lower their IT costs. The 
startup is also to announce that European investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort 
Wasserstein will roll out workSpace to 7,000 employes worldwide. 
"We provide a single management point for a hybrid of applications," Steve 
Peskin, Propero's co-founder and co-chief executive officer, said in an 
interview Friday. The company doesn't believe corporations will virtualize all 
their applications, but will instead maintain a mix of local, Web-based and 
centralized software. 

"Our strategy is to build a big software company," Peskin said. "Our biggest 
competitor is buy versus build," meaning whether corporations opt for workSpace 
or develop virtualization capabilities inhouse.


Peskin estimates that the average user costs their employer around $800 
annually in what he terms "adds, moves and changes" in relation to their 
computer, for instance, changing location and needing a new PC to be set up for 
their specific needs. Using workSpace, users can log on to any machine and have 
it automatically configured so it looks and acts like their own PC. Companies 
can reduce the number of adds, moves and changes from four per year to one, 
saving $600 per employee, he said. 

Propero's workSpace software consists of three pieces -- Analyzer, Manager and 
Server. The Analyzer component enables companies to determine what applications 
their users are running and how they're deploying them as well as how those 
applications behave, according to Peskin. The Manager piece virtualizes the 
company's IT application infrastructure, delivers the applications to users 
wherever they're located and configures the applications in a personalized way. 
The Server piece enables the company's IT department to centralize all 
operations, including security, management and load balancing. Propero uses a 
subscription model for its software, with all three pieces of workSpace costing 
around $20 per user per month, Peskin said. 

Co-founders and Co-Chief Executive Officers Peskin and Robin Crewe established 
Propero in late 2000 in the U.K. The company came about as a result of two 
challenges Crewe received while deputy chief information officer at what was 
then known as Dresdner Kleinwort Benson. 

Crewe was asked to come up with a way to drastically reduce the amount of money 
the investment bank was spending on IT as well as making the organization's 
systems more manageable pending a merger, later abandoned, with Deutsche Bank, 
Crewe said in an interview Friday. Meanwhile, Peskin was working at the company 
he founded, Pontis Consulting, advising financial services companies on 
integration projects or as he joked to his children "robbing banks for a 
living." Crewe was one of Peskin's largest customers. 

Crewe came up with a way to solve both of his problems with a plan to create 
desktop virtualization software that would provide organizations with a single 
management point for applications while enabling users to access applications 
securely from any machine, anywhere. He went to Dresdner management with the 
plan and asked for £20 million ($35.3 million) to develop the software. They 
said they'd give him £2 million pounds to come up with a proof of concept. 
Crewe left the investment bank to found Propero with Peskin who'd sold off his 
consulting business. 

Dresdner worked on the proof of concept to develop its own inhouse product, but 
it has now abandoned that effort in favor of Propero's workSpace, according to 
Crewe, as the bank concentrates on its core business, not developing software 
infrastructure. Dresdner's New York operation will go live with workSpace in 
February 2006 with 1,500 users, Peskin said, with the software being rolled out 
over the coming year to all 7,000 users. 

Back in 2000, Crewe and Peskin took the virtualization software idea to 3i 
Group, the largest early startup venture capitalist in Europe, and to Catalyst 
Fund Management & Research, a U.K. VC focused on the financial sector. The 
companies funded what became Propero, a Latin verb meaning to accelerate. To 
date, Propero has received £11 million in funding from 3i and Catalyst. 

Last month, Propero opened its U.S. headquarters in New York. "We are 
potentially looking at U.S. investors," Peskin said. "When we gain traction in 
the U.S. market and we start to scale rapidly, we'll begin to look at financing 
options." The company currently employs 35 people, with seven in the U.S. 
Peskin expects headcount to double over the next 12 to 15 months with all the 
growth taking place in the U.S. "The U.S. represents 60 to 70 percent of the 
potential market for us," he added. 

The startup already has a strong partner in IBM (Profile, Products, Articles). 
The IT giant is also a workSpace customer, having deployed it to 4,000 staff in 
Europe, the Middle East and Africa. IBM (Profile, Products, Articles) is in the 
process of setting up what it terms a "human grid" across its Integrated 
Development Centers, according to Peskin, so that any employee can support any 

Propero has seven customers to date, with the other publicly named firms being 
H.J. Heinz Co. with 5,000 workSpace users in 23 European sites, and American 
Express Co. with 6,000 workSpace users in Europe. 

Looking ahead, Propero is investigating how best to provide virtualization to 
facilitate access from non-PC devices including PDAs (personal digital 
assistants) and mobile phones, according to Peskin. The company also intends to 
make a P-to-P (peer-to-peer) announcement next year, Crewe said. 

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