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Will anyone buy Moka5?

Client-side virtualization company Moka5 has laid off most of its staff, and word is that the company is looking to be acquired. Because of overlap, VMware and Citrix are non-factors, which leaves companies like Dell and ThinSpace as prime suspects.

If you're familiar with some of the more fringe areas of desktop virtualization (i.e., not VDI or RDSH), you're likely aware of a company called Moka5.

Moka5 has been around since 2006, though it stepped into the spotlight around 2008 with a product that let customers centrally manage deployment of client-side virtual machines to VMware Player through layering.

Since then, Moka5 has added a bare-metal client hypervisor, which is not quite Type 1 but does blur the lines between Types 1 and 2, as well as a mobile data product. The technology has always been well-implemented and full of potential, but the client-side virtualization market is tough to move around in. Client hypervisors and layering are fairly niche use cases, and any mobility product can easily get lost in the sea of all the different enterprise mobility management products available.

What's up with Moka5?

A few times per year I'm asked two questions. The first is usually about why Moka5 is still around. My answer is always that the technology is good, and a company that's the right size can exist delivering excellent products to niche use cases. Moka5 keeps up with the times, but hasn't tried to expand massively. It doesn't have grandiose visions of ruling the end-user computing (EUC) market.

Usually that leads to a follow up question, such as if the technology is so good, why hasn't Moka5 been acquired yet? The answer there is that Moka5 has taken on a lot of funding over the years. Investors require a certain return on their investment, so if a company has taken on $100 million, they might be expected to sell for $200 or $300 million. What company would pay that much for a handful of niche products?

All that has apparently come to a head in the last week or so. Over the last two weeks, Moka5 has all but shut the doors on its business operations, remaining open with a skeleton crew of developers and support staff while it tries to find a buyer. A company that CrunchBase values at over $100 million (though Brian Madden learned that number is more likely $60 million) is now for sale, for what we can assume is significantly less than that.

Though Moka5 customers have a right to be concerned, there are a handful of suitors out there that could take the technology and run with it. And they're not the normal ones you might expect, like VMware or Citrix. Odds are that Moka5 was approached by VMware and/or Citrix long ago. There has probably been a dialog between those companies and Moka5 over the years, but there is either too much overlap or not enough demand to make an acquisition worthwhile.

With them out of the way, here are a few companies I can see making a move for Moka5:

Dell

The largest company on this list by far, Dell is in a unique position because it actually uses Moka5's layering as part of vWorkspace. Originally from a partnership struck between Quest Software and Moka5 before the Dell acquisition, Dell continues to maintain vWorkspace with Moka5. The most recent version, 3.17, was released in September 2014.

Dell could easily add Moka5's technology to its expanding software business unit and expand its offering to match those of VMware and Citrix even more closely.

ThinSpace

You probably haven't heard of ThinSpace, and you probably didn't know it offers a desktop virtualization platform that includes VDI, Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) and thin clients. Originally called ProPalms, ThinSpace has acquired two other notable companies that had desktop virtualization products over the years. The first acquisition -- the one that set the company's desktop virtualization plan in motion -- was a product called Secure Global Desktop from Sun Microsystems before Oracle bought Sun. Secure Global Desktop was one of the early Citrix competitors, and though it never achieved widespread adoption, it was suitable in many use cases.

The second acquisition ThinSpace made was for the assets of Pano Logic, makers of "zero client" thin clients. You might remember Pano Logic from trade shows; the company had cool, shiny, silver cube thin clients.

At this point the playbook is shaping up similar to the Pano Logic situation, where Pano similarly closed its doors and then sold what was left to ThinSpace. It's the parallels here that have me thinking ThinSpace is a candidate. The company recently rebranded, and it's clear that it's positioning itself as an end-to-end EUC platform.

It's likely there are other companies interested in Moka5, too. There's always someone looking to acquire technology, patents or customers at a bargain. I just hope whichever company buys Moka5 continues to use the technology, and I hope those that were involved with Moka5 land on their feet and make more great products.

In the meantime, if you're a Moka5 customer I wouldn't blame you for looking at alternatives, but do know that there is still support for you, should you need it.

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