A tool that lets developers turn existing software into fully functional browser-based applications is becoming an increasingly popular way to make business applications accessible via the Web.
Visual WebGui, an application originally run on a Web server using virtualization software and a layer of code that renders its interface functional in the modern Web standard HTML5, lets companies offer Web access to their applications without completely rewriting the code.
While it is possible to access applications through a browser using just virtualization, this can be slow for data-heavy business applications such as those used by banks and insurance companies. It also requires installing an application on the user’s computer.
Made by Gizmox, of Tel Aviv, Israel, Visual WebGui is being used by companies and institutions such as SAP, IBM, Visa, Thomson Reuters, Shell, Texas Instruments, and Goodyear. So far, the company says, 35,000 apps built using its platform are in production. In June, Citrix, a major supplier of remote-desktop software, announced an investment of $2.5 million. The Gizmox platform works with Microsoft’s .Net development, and Microsoft is partnering with Gizmox by promoting the software through its marketing platform.
“We decided we were going to look at the basic architecture of the Web and change whatever [was] necessary to reproduce the experience of the desktop in terms of richness, performance, user experience, and security,” says Gizmox CEO Navot Peled. “We call it transposition. We can take a code that was written basically for an architecture that was targeting the desktop, put it through some processes and some tools, and generate code from the other side that can run on top of a Web server and be a Web application, cloud application, or mobile application.”
Gizmox generates income by charging about 20 cents per line of code to use the company’s code-conversion tools. The largest program so far had 7.5 million lines.
The technology requires 10 percent of the bandwidth and 50 percent of processing power of other virtualization-based solutions, enabling it to function on tablets and smart phones with lower-power CPUs.
“Anyone who can take corporate applications built on Microsoft tools and turn them into Web apps in a secure way—that’s important,” says Jonathan Medved, a venture capitalist turned mobile entrepreneur. “Anything that keeps them in the game relative to the burgeoning world of Web apps is very strategic for Microsoft, and for players like Citrix who have built themselves on Microsoft foundations.”
MIT Technology Review, August 12, 2011