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If you've ever remotely operated one computer from another, you've used desktop virtualization. It's been built into Linux, Mac OS X and Windows for years, but recent moves by Red Hat could signal that it's about to go mainstream. The Linux company late last week announced that it was opening the source code for SPICE, the Simple Protocol forIndependent Computing Environment it inherited along with its acquisition of virtualization tools maker Qumranet in 2008.

Once proprietary, SPICE is the transport protocol used by Qumranet's Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM), the open-source hypervisor for Linux that has been part the kernel since version 2.6.20. In a statement announcing the move, Red Hat said that opening the protocol's source code to partners and the open source community is intended to "expand the development of the protocol in an effort to help break down barriers to virtualization adoption."

Indeed, for compute-intensive applications that require powerful hardware, deployment options can be somewhat limited. But with a tool that enables computations to take place on a powerful, remote system, deployment of the app's user interface can provide adequate performance even on the thinnest of clients. To learn more, take a look at Spice for Nubies, a 12-page PDF that does a pretty good job of explaining the technology in layman's terms.

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