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KVM funder takes a swing at desktop virtualization

Qumranet wants you hooked on SolidICE

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Qumranet, a rather small software company, wants to make a very large play in the virtualization market with a new product. It's looking for Solid ICE to go up against the desktop virtulization wares from VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and a host of start-ups.

Those of you in the open source kingdom will know Qumranet best as the corporate sponsor of KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine), which had made its way into major Linux operating systems as the default server virtualization package. Canonical, the, er, corporate sponsor of Ubuntu, is perhaps the most vocal backer of KVM.

Solid ICE (Independent Computing Environment) takes Qumranet to the next level by giving it an actual revenue-generating product to throw at businesses. Customers can use the software to create numerous virtual desktops per physical server.

You've, of course, been hearing about sending virtual desktops out from the data center for quite awhile, but Qumranet claims to have some advantages over, say, VMware's VDI approach or Citrix's new XenDesktop.

"Unlike Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), other retrofitted server virtualization solutions, and Terminal Services models, Solid ICE provides a complete desktop experience for end users running a thin client or repurposed PC," the company said in a statement. "Entire Windows and Linux desktop environments are hosted centrally and administered from a single control point. Leveraging the open-source KVM hypervisor, SPICE remote rendering technology, and a robust, purposefully built management system, Solid ICE delivers a superior desktop experience."

Again, you've heard similar claims from all the desktop virtualization players. Qumranet, however, insists that Solid ICE teamed with SPICE allows it to host more desktops per physical server, to save on storage costs and to shove out a proper user experience that exceeds the traits of rival products.

For example, Qumranet President Rami Tamir tells us that customers can put up to 50 desktops on a single physical server. That's well above the usual figures we hear from rivals, who shoot for less than 10 virtual desktops per box. In addition, Solid ICE lets customers create desktop templates which contain specific OS and application bundles. These templates can then be shared among numerous PCs or thin clients rather than pumping unique OS and application copies out to each machine. So, that helps companies save on back-end storage costs, since there's less software to manage.

For years, customers have complained that streamed apps fail to feel like PC-based apps. End users will experience lags that put them off the whole data center-based PC concept.

Qumranet gets around this via some rendering optimization software that checks the client and server devices to see which one can best handle a job at a given time.

"The SPICE software will look at the thin client and server to see how many cycles are available," Tamir said. "If the client has more cycles it will do the work, otherwise we'll start doing the rendering on the server."

Qumranet is joining a very crowded market. But, to the company's credit, it seems to have focused on all the right initial pieces of the virtual desktop challenge. It has centered on speedy LAN-based delivery of software rather than working off WAN technology as some have done. In addition, it appears to have solved some of the management issues associated with virtual desktops by going with the template approach. The company also offers another management piece that's billed as a Google-like search tool, which lets administrators pull data on CPU, memory, I/O and application performance across a network. All good stuff.

The company employs close to 50 people with main offices in Israel and Silicon Valley. And we'll be heading to the Silicon Valley shop for a demo of the software in short order. Hopefully, we'll learn how to pronounce the company's name during the visit.

Qumranet looks to sell Solid ICE for $200 per concurrent virtual desktop.

Those of you interested in Solid ICE can get a free 30-day trial here. ®

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