Red Hat open sources desktop application protocol

The company posits its SPICE protocol as a next-generation RDP or ICA

Red Hat has open sourced a virtual desktop protocol it acquired last year, called the Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environment (SPICE), in the hope of fostering its wider adoption.

Red Hat is using SPICE as one of the components of its Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Desktops application, which should be released within a few months, according to Jim Brennan, senior product marketing manager at Red Hat.

By making SPICE open source, the company hopes other vendors will use it for their own virtual desktop offerings. Red Hat has set up a Web site and a mailing list to try to foster community involvement.

Red Hat acquired SPICE in 2008 when it purchased Qumranet.

Qumranet used SPICE for its own commercial desktop-virtualization product, called SolidIce.

SPICE can be used to deploy virtual desktops from a server out to remote computers, such as desktop PCs and thin-client devices.

It resembles other rendering protocols used for remote desktop management and deployment, such as Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) or Citrix's Independent Computing Architecture (ICA).

Brennan said SPICE has advantages over those other protocols, in that SPICE can dynamically customize desktop instances to fit specific operating environments.

"It was designed with a tiered architecture," he said. Processing can be divided between the remote device and the server, either at the hypervisor or the virtual desktop level.

If the protocol senses that the remote client has some excess graphics processing capability, for instance, it will dynamically offload some of the visualization work to that device, freeing up capacity on the server.

At present, SPICE will support rendering virtual instances of Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 7, as well as Red Hat Enterprise Linux. At the server level, it runs on 64-bit Linux platforms.

As more companies participate in SPICE, more OSes should be made available at both the client and server level, Brennan predicted.

In addition to SPICE, the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Desktops package will also include a stripped-down version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 5.4, with the KVM virtualization module compiled in, as well as desktop management software called the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Desktops.

Red Hat placed most of the SPICE code under the GNU General Public License version 2, though parts are also licensed under Lesser GPL (LGPL) and BSD-styled licenses.

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