Propalms talks up a $10 million deal

U.S. network management firm OptiCon Systems made an $10 million offer last week to buy Propalms, a U.K.-based Terminal Services specialist that has set itself up as a competitor to Citrix.

OptiCon's offer appears to be driven by positivity at a time when many tech buyouts and mergers are accepted more by desperation than choice. And if there's one thing Propalms' CEO Owen Dukes is not lacking, it is a certain sense of chutzpah. Dukes originally rescued his firm's flagship product, Propalms TSE (Terminal Services Extended), from the doldrums at Sun Microsystems when it was known as Tarantella. Having bought, renamed and revamped the software under the Propalms banner, his firm now has 2000 customers, 43 distributors selling into 50 countries and offices in the U.K., the U.S. and India.

Propalms TSE is a server-based management solution that extends Microsoft Terminal Services 2000/2003 and 2008 and offers features such as application publishing, a virtual desktop broker, resource-based load balancing and session management. As such, Dukes makes no bones about the competition.

"With TSE we’ve just had our two best quarters ever and probably the reason is that server- based computing saves people a huge amount of money and I think in times of hardship when people are looking to save money, they actually look more closely at the alternatives in the market," he told Windows IT Pro earlier this month before news of the deal broke. "We have lots of companies who’ve actually moved recently from Citrix to TSE and the reason is that when Citrix renewals come up we give a 60% discount against our product if they’ve got Citrix and we are taking business from Citrix all the time, in all areas of the world. In the next two-to-three years, we’d like to try to get as much market share as we possibly can."

Quite what ten million dollars will do for Propalms plans for global Terminal Services domination remains to be seen, but, according to Dukes, the company doesn't plan to win on price-point alone. When we spoke, he was talking up the most recent Windows Server 2008-compatible, 64-bit version of his solution which is backward-compatible with Windows Sever 2003 and even 2000.

Dukes said: "We give you the ability to build server farms so you can resource-base load balance servers within a farm. So if one server goes down it won’t connect you to the next server with the most people on, it will look intelligently at how many CPU cycles and how much memory’s being used on each of the servers and reconnect the user to the server with the least usage on it to give the user the fastest connection time. So, basically, we now have the ability to load balance Windows 2000, Windows 2003 and Windows 2008 in the same server farm."

Among other Propalms TSE version 6.0 features is a tool companies can use for compliance. Dukes used the example of a bank that wants to record every session on its network. Perhaps incidentally, Propalms says 23 of the 35 regional banks in the U.S. are customers.

"If somebody opens, say, Word, it only records activity, so if you’ve got Word open and you’ve got Word open for 20 minutes but you’ve not typed anything, it won’t actually record anything," he explained. "Then it compresses that and it’s stored on a storage network. There are two reasons for doing that. One is a lot of companies want to be compliant and, two, it’s very good for support. So if you’ve got a user who’s having lots of issues you can actually record what they actually do and you can actually at the same time-stamp and date it and look what was happening on the Windows 2000 server as well in the event logs. It’s quite a powerful tool."

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