Red Hat Acquires Desktop Virtualization Specialist Qumranet

Red Hat is jumping into the desktop virtualization market with its acquisition of Qumranet, which leverages the open-source KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) hypervisor for its Solid ICE desktop virtualization platform. The Red Hat acquisition of Qumranet will put Red Hat in a position to offer its own virtual desktop infrastructure product that is integrated with its own operating system and can compete against Citrix XenDesktop and VMware's VDI.

Red Hat is looking to jump into the desktop virtualization market and announced Sept. 4 that it would acquire startup Qumranet for $107 million.

Red Hat, which is developing its own embedded hypervisor, is clearly targeting the emerging desktop virtualization market, which is beginning to take shape with products such as Citrix XenDesktop and VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure suite.

On the same day Red Hat announced its acquisition, Sun Microsystems announced the 2.0 version of its xVM Virtual Box software now includes support for 64-bit Microsoft Windows Vista and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

However, it's not clear if enterprises are ready to travel down the virtual desktop route with concerns from IT managers that range from cost to how they manage the operating system licenses. Still, Red Hat's acquisition shows that vendors are making sure that if the desktop is the next great step for virtualization, they are not left behind.

In Qumranet, Red Hat is buying a startup that recently came out of stealth mode with a desktop virtualization product that leverages the open-source KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) hypervisor. The product, called Solid ICE (Independent Computing Environment), includes a Web-based management console and the company's own rendering technology called the SPICE (Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments) protocol.

The protocol is a key component to delivering desktop images to users and it's a technology that all the major vendors have looked to improve as they build these virtual desktop infrastructures.

In June, Red Hat officially announced that it would move away from Xen, which forms that basis of the Citrix XenDesktop solution, and to KVM. This shift from the Xen hypervisor to the KVM hypervisor appears to have made the acquisition of Qumranet a more natural fit for Red Hat and it also allows Red Hat to offer a desktop virtualization solution that is both open source and not based on the Xen hypervisor, which is closely tied to Citrix's acquisition of XenSource from 2007.

For now, Qumranet maintains and develops KVM.

"Qumranet's technologies, when combined with Red Hat's business, product and channel capabilities, will be well-positioned to provide virtualization solutions that really meet customers' business needs - for the server and the desktop," Benny Schnaider, the CEO of Qumranet, said in a statement. "Red Hat's commitment to open source means that our technologies can be shared, improved and enjoyed by the entire open-source industry."

Red Hat is looking to offer a hypervisor that supports all the major operating systems, which would cover Linux and Microsoft, along with a management platform for both the physical and virtual machines within an IT infrastructure. The fact that it's open source also holds the possibility of creating a less expensive virtual desktop infrastructure compared to VMware and what Microsoft can now offer with Hyper-V.

Red Hat did not specifically announce when it would finalize the Qumranet deal, but Red Hat did announce that the company's approximately 60 employees would join Red Hat.