Qumranet, the start-up behind the increasingly popular KVM kernel-level virtualisation technology, has thrown its hat into the desktop virtualisation ring with a system it promises can deliver an experience indistinguishable from a conventional desktop.

The centrally hosted desktop has long been a dream of IT managers, and the goal has become ever more urgent as security concerns make desktops ever more complex to manage.

So far, performance and usability limitations have kept thin clients or virtualised desktops from gaining much popularity, but Qumranet said it has advanced the game a step beyond systems such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and terminal services models.

The company's new product, Solid ICE, is built on KVM and a custom-built remote rendering technology called SPICE, along with a management system, Qumranet said.

The company's exclusive focus on desktop virtualisation has allowed it to develop a system that can be "indistinguishable" from a physical desktop, with features including multiple monitors, bi-directional audio and video, streaming video and support for USB devices, the company said.

Each Linux or Windows desktop is run in a KVM virtual machine on a server in a data centre, which the user accesses via a thin client or repurposed PC using SPICE.

KVM, an open source project of which Qumranet is the sponsor and maintainer, is based on a loadable kernel module and is compatible with AMD's and Intel's hardware virtualisation technologies.

Qumranet's closest competitors are those offering VDI systems, including Quest's Provision Networks, Citrix, VMware and Ericom.

Usability concerns aside, desktop virtualisation promises benefits such as the ability to access the desktop from anywhere, the ability to call up multiple desktops as needed, self-provisioning of desktops and built-in disaster recovery, Qumranet said.

From the IT manager point of view, the benefits include centralised management, disaster recovery and reduced costs, including up to two-thirds reduced power consumption, according to Qumranet.

Solid ICE is priced per concurrent desktop, with pricing information available directly from the company.