Cloudy with a Chance of (Great) Performance: Neverware Heads to the Cloud

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Cloudy with a Chance of (Great) Performance: Neverware Heads to the Cloud

By Betsy Corcoran (Columnist)     Feb 4, 2015

Cloudy with a Chance of (Great) Performance: Neverware Heads to the Cloud

Forget about snow. Neverware’s Jonathan Hefter wants to bring a generous helping of New York cloud action to Texas.

Hefter’s New York City-based company, Neverware, today launches a its first pure software product at the TCEA conference in Austin. For $15 a year (and a $35 setup fee), Hefter believes he can speed up almost any computer in a school by a measurable amount—and consequently radically reduce the dollars that schools spend buying and even maintaining computers. Neverware does this by adding a thin slip of an operating system that connects a computer directly to the cloud—something that can make plodding, older desktop computers function with the zip of more up-to-date machines.

“Schools have a lot to gain by using technology—but [keeping computers running] is a major expense and requires constant maintenance,” Hefter notes.

Other industries have come up with smart workarounds to reducing how many computers they have to buy. In the late 1990s, VMWare became a corporate—and stock market—darling by pioneering the idea of “virtualization,” nifty techniques to get a computer to run multiple operating systems at the same time—effectively juicing the performance of the machine.

New York City-based Neverware got its start around 2011 with the idea of building a specially tailored virtualization approach for schools. It rolled out its devices two years later primarily in New York City schools. Fast forward: Hefter reports that almost 10% of New York City schools—and 10,000 students—are using Neverware’s boxes to get more performance out of their computers. “All [schools] are paying customers,” says Hefter. Each school has at least 35 active computers per school, he says.

Schools paid a per-computer cost to use Neverware's "Juiceboxes." And at $149 a computer per year, Neverware was far cheaper than buying a new fresh fleet of computers--but the costs still add up.

Now Neverware has jumped to the cloud. Its new "CloudReady" operating system is based on Google’s open source Chromium operating system. Install CloudReady on any just about any computer, Hefter promises, and you can improve the performance of that machine. “It follows Google’s lead on how to create a simpler and more reliable infrastructure,” he says.

The price is also significantly trimmed: Installing CloudReady involves a $35 set up fee—then a $15 (per machine) annual maintenance fee. IT specialists also gain the same maintenance dashboard that Google offers, enabling them to manage a school’s software in the cloud, rather than individually updating and managing independent computers.

“Our purpose is to bring the benefits that many school are realizing with products like Chromebooks to a much wider group of schools for a lower price,” Hefter says.

CloudyReady will run on Intel-based computers from the past seven or eight years (but not on non-Intel Macintosh computers). And while CloudReady and Google’s Chrome operating system are similar, they’re not twins, Hefter notes. “CloudReady and Chrome OS are two completely separate OS's.” In addition, CloudyReady doesn’t store any data—instead, that work, again, happens in the cloud.

Neverware has won support from some tech-savvy investors. It has raised approximately $6.6 million in funding from ReThink Education, Thrive Capital, Rapture Ventures, Nihal Mehta, General Catalyst Partners, The Collaborative Fund, Khosla Ventures and Mark Suster and OurCrowd.

What Hefter and his 21-person team aim to do, he says, is save schools money. And that's no pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking.

Editor's note: The price of Neverware's CloudReady was incorrectly reported in an earlier version of this piece.

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