Last week I had the opportunity to talk to Parallels about what the company has been up to, specifically with regards to Parallels Remote Application Server (formerly 2X Remote Application Server). Parallels bought 2X just over a year ago, and since then they’ve been making strides modernizing the platform and fitting it into the Parallels ecosystem.
Before we start, let’s take a look at the aforementioned Parallels ecosystem. As Parallels has grown, they’ve split off a number of their core products into different companies. Last year, they renamed their service provider business to Odin and subsequently sold it to Ingram Micro, as well as wrapped their web hosting automation products up under the brand name Plesk. This year, they spun off Virtuozzo into its own company. All this activity is more or less off our radar, though, and Parallels remains the name of the company that is doing desktop virtualization, MDM, and OS X management through SCCM integration.
With regards to desktop virtualization, Parallels has a few offerings:
- Parallels Desktop for Mac (They hypervisor we all know and love)
- Parallels Desktop for Mac Business Edition (The enterprise version of the same hypervisor with more manageability and provisioning)
- Parallels MDM
- Parallels Mac Management for SCCM
- Parallels Remote Application Server
- Parallels Access
Parallels has had their Access product for a few years now, and while I loved the UI when it was released, it wasn’t the kind of product that I would use as my daily driver. It appears I’m not alone in that sentiment, because Parallels noted the same feedback from their customers. That doesn’t mean it’s not useful, but for Parallels to dig their heels into the remote application delivery world, they needed something more.
At first, they began to develop their own platform to deliver apps from servers. After they started, though, they made the decision to buy 2X rather than go through the effort of releasing a v1 product in a world dominated by Citrix, VMware, Microsoft, and Dell. You could argue they’re still being dominated, but the margin is significantly less than if they started from nothing.
Comparing Parallels Remote Application Server to XenApp, Horizon, RDS, or vWorkspace is a little unfair, though, because Parallels isn’t going after the same market. They know that if you’re a large, up-to-date Citrix or VMware customer that you’re not likely to be sold on a platform migration, so they’re targeting customers with older Citrix or RDS deployments that are in need of an upgrade, but are unwilling to spend the money it would take or go through the migration to get themselves up to speed. Based on conversations I’ve had with people in the last year, I’m certain that’s a large market!
What's new in v15?
If you’re at all familiar with the 2X product line, you’ll know that the product itself was pretty straightforward. They had a broker that supports VDI and RDSH workloads, load balancing and high availability (which was originally created by THE Cláudio Rodrigues, who took a deeper look at the acquisition on his site), some reporting, clients for various platforms, and peripheral redirection. But while Remote Application Server was a functional product, using and administering it wasn’t pretty, and Parallels has spent the time since the acquisition cleaning up the admin interface and adding some features.
Version 15, which is out now, includes an HTML5 client in addition to the existing native clients, which include Android, iOS, Linux, Windows, and ChromeOS. In the next release (v15.1, coming around May), they’ll be adding support for the Parallels Access Mobile Client, which will really help mobile user experience.
In addition to the clients, they’ve focused on making the overall product easier to setup and manage. They’ve added features like Smart Card redirection, URL publishing, and localized languages for the clients and admin interface. Installing PRAS on a server can be done from the PRAS Console simply be selecting a server from a list (it already has to have RDSH installed) and following a wizard. Adding users is as easy as sending them an email from the admin console that contains a link to download the client or to the HTML5 page.
They’ve also built in a feature called Centralized Hard Drives, which gives users a single location from which to access all of their files across multiple storage platforms. It looks like a typical file share to the users, and can currently aggregate data from file shares, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and SharePoint, with more platforms coming in the future.
Eval & Pricing
Parallels has an evaluation that you can download. They say it takes about two hours to get up and running, so you can do it some afternoon when you’re bored. It will run in Parallels Desktop even, and can place all the components on a single machine for testing purposes. It will even install alongside XenApp on the same server, so you could put it on your existing environment and see how it performs (I mean, if you were playing it fast and loose with your job…maybe do that in your lab). It supports Server 2003 through Server 2012, though support for Server 2003 will be pulled sooner than later.
Finally, Parallels Remote Application Server is licensed on a subscription basis for $99 per concurrent user, per year. Discounts are available for multi-year purchases, and existing customers can upgrade for $49 per concurrent user, per year. Competitive upgrade pricing is also available. There is no perpetual license, though I’m sure if you said that was a deal-breaker they might be able to work something out.
Is there room for another SMB-oriented desktop virtualization platform in the world? vWorkspace is often marketed that way (though I whole-heartedly believe it shouldn’t be), and the other players in that space are still around, too, like Ericom, DesktopSites, ProPalms, and even Jetro. The thing is, this isn’t a new product. 2X used to be in that list, and now they’re just part of Parallels. That means they have Parallels' resources behind them, which already shows in the updates they made in v15. They’re not trying to outdo the feature set offered by Citrix and VMware, but they are focused on making an easy to use desktop virtualization platform with modern features. That, combined with the fact that it meshes well with the rest of the Parallels product line, leads me to believe they can be successful.