Virtual Iron on Tuesday rolled out a desktop virtualisation system in partnership with Provision Networks, designed to allow companies to deploy virtual images of all their desktops from centralised servers.

The system is Virtual Iron's entry into an area also being explored by rivals such as VMware, the dominant virtualisation player. It allows system administrators to be much more flexible about how desktops are managed, and even offers the prospect of deploying Windows Vista without having to break the bank on desktop hardware upgrades.

Users can access the virtual machines through thin clients, and administrators can allow each virtual system to be user-customised. The companies said they believe the system could be particularly attractive to call centres, and with companies who have offshore development operations or need to provide secure remote access.

The bundle can support around 10 virtual desktops per server CPU, depending on the services and applications required, Provision said.

The deal is unusual in that Virtual Iron has partnered with a particular company, tightly integrating its server-based system with Provision Networks' Virtual Access Suite, which turns the desktop into an on-demand service. Provision is also part of the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Alliance created last year by VMware to promote desktop virtualisation.

The bundle is available immediately from Provision and Virtual Iron's resellers, starting at $120 per desktop licence.

The bundle is designed to provide an alternative to more established products such as terminal services and fat-client desktop virtualisation, and to offer a low total cost of ownership. They claim the client experience is comparable to a dedicated PC, in a fully isolated, secure and customisable desktop.

From the administrator's point of view, tasks like deploying or upgrading software, patch management and load balancing should be simplified, the companies said. It is also designed to help enterprises protect their data and intellectual property from contract or outsourced employees.

Virtual Iron's software is based on the open source Xen software, with the company's own tools and services added on.