Parallels releases Remote Application Server 17

Not to be confused with Parallels Desktop.

Today, Parallels released the latest version of their VDI and RDSH product, Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS) 17.

RAS 17 includes a lot of modern new features, but the bigger story is that Parallels is all in on being one of the cheaper and easier desktop virtualization products on the market.

Parallels RAS background

For some context, over the last few years I’ve definitely run across a portion of the desktop virtualization community that isn’t aware of Parallels RAS. When you say “Parallels,” some people think of Parallels Desktop, the type-2 hypervisor that competes with VMware Fusion.

Parallels Remote Application Server, the VDI and RDSH product, came from 2X Software, which Parallels acquired back in 2015; 2X had previously acquired Terminal-Services.NET, founded by Cláudio Rodrigues, back in 2005. In the latest turn of events, Parallels was acquired by Corel last December.

Parallels RAS is one of many desktop virtualization products that’s aiming to take market share from Citrix. When I spoke to Parallels president Jack Zubarev last year on the occasion of RAS 16.5, he said that RAS was growing 25% a year and that 80% of their new customers had been coming from Citrix.

Sure, there are a lot of use cases that require the enterprise platforms of the big desktop virtualization players, but if you were in the camp of just thinking of Parallels as a type-2 hypervisor, now you know about Parallels Remote Application Server, too.

Updates in Parallels RAS 17

Last week I spoke to Victor Fiss, Director of Sales Engineering, to get a tour of all the new features coming out. (Corel’s EVP of Global Product, Gerard Metrailler, also joined the call to talk about how excited they were to have Parallels onboard.)

The highlights of Remote Application Server 17 include a web-based admin console, which is built on a new REST API. (Parallels RAS also has a PowerShell API.) They’re building the web console and REST API from the ground up, and the goal is to have parity with the traditional console. This is going to take a couple of versions, so for now it’s oriented at helpdesk-level tasks. To go along with this, they’ve also added a whole new granular admin permission system.

Another big feature is their new machine learning-based session pre-launch capability. The idea is that RAS can learn your usage habits (i.e., user X logs into app Y at time Z every morning), and then pre-launch the app a few minutes before it thinks you usually log in. They also have another pre-launch option that will start the app as soon as the user launches the client, so it has at least had a bit of a head start by the time the user actually connects. The pre-launch features can talk to their session cloning engine, and can be linked to group roles; and it supports published apps and desktops, as well as VDI.

There’s a lot more in RAS 17, so I’ll let you head to the press release for more details, but for now I’ll also mention that they’re adding support for Windows Server 2019; support for Google Authenticator; more logging options; and more branding options in the HTML5 client.

In a related announcement which came later in the day, Parallels and Scale Computing announced support for RAS 17 on Scale Computing HC3.

Future plans

Parallels blogged about Windows Virtual Desktop several times since it was first announced, including back in the days when we weren’t exactly sure how Microsoft would allow different vendors to use it.

Early on, there was some confusion, as the Parallels blog mentioned what sounded like the idea of running Windows 10 multi-session VMs in RAS (on Azure, of course). So, I was curious to hear their exact plans.

On our call, Victor clarified that Parallels is planning to use RAS to front-end WVD, with WVD-hosted VMs and apps running on the full WVD infrastructure stack. This will be coming in a future release; they’re also planning on integrating with Azure APIs to provision workloads.

Also down the road (Victor mentioned RAS 17.1, planned for October), Parallels will support third-party SAML identity providers. As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited about this one.

(This article was updated at 12pm PT on Tuesday, June 18, to add the Scale Computing announcement and clarify the availability of session pre-launch.)

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