Parallels Containers 4.6 is released with no fanfare. Are they still relevant in the VDI space?

I was having a conversation with some folks from Quest Software today about the 7.2 version of vWorkspace (which is supposed to RTM any day now), and the the topic of Parallels Virtuozzo Containers came up.

I was having a conversation with some folks from Quest Software today about the 7.2 version of vWorkspace (which is supposed to RTM any day now), and the the topic of Parallels Virtuozzo Containers came up. Quest vWorkspace, as you may recall, is the only major desktop virtualization product that supports desktops running on Parallels Containers as seamlessly as it supports VDI and Terminal Server-based desktops.

One of the Quest folks mentioned that it was weird that Parallels sort of stealthily released Containers 4.6, based on Windows Server 2008 R2, with nary a peep. No press release... No big splash... Nothing!?!

For those not familiar with Parallels Containers, it's a product that runs on Windows Server that splits a single server into multiple OS partitions. Parallels calls this "OS Virtualization," and in practical terms it falls somewhere between full hardware virtualization of a hypervisor and the session virtualization of Terminal Server. The selling point is that you get isolation that's more like VDI with user density that's more like Terminal Server. Parallels Containers is hugely popular in the website hosting world, with most of those "Windows-based virtual private server for $9.99 per month" solutions running on Containers.

(Another benefit of Containers is that in VDI world, you don't need a VECD or VDA CAL since it's based on a single Datacenter Edition of Windows Server.)

But Containers never really took off in the VDI world. Theories abound as to why not, but most center around (1) lack of marketing by Parallels, and (2) lack of support from Microsoft or Citrix. The other problem with Containers was (is?) that it's still kind of "weird" (like Terminal Server), so if customers want a "simple" VDI solution with personal image support then they'll probably just go with regular VDI with regular Windows XP or 7, and if they want a high-density pooled-disk model then they'll probably go with the much more proven (and easily supported) Terminal Server.

Nevertheless, Parallels Containers did have some cool advantages over Terminal Server (like real per-user USB device isolation, which to quote one Quest engineer, "is a better solution than throwing a platform at the problem (i.e. VDI)." But other than that, it's kind of sad that v4.6 just slipped out unnoticed. (After all, Containers 4.6 is based on 2008 R2 is the "Windows 7" version of Windows Server, complete with the Windows 7 UI for Containers-based desktop virtualization solutions.)

So now that Containers 4.6 is out, does it even matter in the desktop virtualization space? I kind of equate it to 89 octane gas -- You're gonna sell a lot of the 87 for people who are cheap (Terminal Server), and you're gonna sell a lot of 93 for people who are high end (VDI), but who really buys 89?

Where do you stand with Parallels Containers? Do you use it for your datacenter-hosted virtual desktops? Are you considering it? Would you ever consider it? Or will Moore's law mean that you don't have to mess with a new kind of non-standard platform? (In that you can just run normal VDI?)

[Note: Thursday is the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, so our next new article will be Monday, Nov 29.]

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