The sudden transition to remote work has created a demand for application and desktop virtualization products that, like Parallels Remote Application Server, will work with whatever device an employee has on hand.
Representatives from the application and desktop virtualization vendor said the COVID-19 outbreak has pushed both new and existing customers to seek flexibility as they strive to handle the unprecedented work-from-home situation.
The Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS) software can be deployed on multiple types of devices -- from Macs to Chromebooks and from iPads to Android phones. The company released Parallels RAS 17.1 in December 2019, updating provisioning options and including new multi-tenant architecture possibilities.
John Uppendahl, vice president of communications at Parallels, said the product compares to offerings from Citrix and VMware.
"You can be up and running in less than an hour and deploying virtual Windows desktop applications to any device in less than a day," Uppendahl said.
Shannon Kalvar, research manager at IDC, listed Parallels among the virtual client computing market's major players in his 2019-2020 vendor assessment, noting that customers praised its ease of management and ability to work across a range of devices. He said the sudden interest in remote work technology is driving up demand for the companies that provide it.
"Everybody's phone is ringing off the hook," he said. "Everybody's flat out."
A need for flexibility
Victor Fiss, director of sales engineering at Parallels, said COVID-19 drove many of its customers to seek temporary licenses for hundreds of additional employees. Parallels RAS can run on premises, on the Azure and AWS public clouds and in a hybrid environment, he said, giving existing customers flexibility in expanding.
"A lot of our customers that are running on-prem are now adding 300, 400 users out of the blue because of COVID-19," he said, adding that hybrid options have been enticing because they provide capacity without affecting the employee's experience.
With Parallels RAS, he said, deployment is not only fast, according to the vendor, but it also allows for more ways to get work done -- like support for native touch gestures in virtual desktop environments.
"If you're using a mobile device -- iOS or Android -- you're not getting a shrunken-down desktop that's screaming for a keyboard and mouse you don't have," Uppendahl said. "Instead, you're seeing application shortcuts -- you can add or remove shortcuts to any application that runs on Windows -- and, when you launch it, it will launch in full screen."
Wayne Hunter, CEO of managed service provider AvTek Solutions, Inc., said he had used Parallels RAS to enable remote work for a client of his. He said that client, a bank, went from zero remote users to 150 in two days.
"The main thing that makes it easy to use is that it's easy to install, easy to configure, easy to set up," he said. "You can go from having nothing installed to having a working system up in just a couple hours."
Hunter said several factors make Parallels RAS advantageous for IT professionals. The product's ease of deployment and management, he said, would be especially beneficial to small IT teams managing many users.
For end users, Hunter said, the ability of Parallels RAS to work on a variety of devices without hassle was a key selling point.
"It's just like logging in at their office," he said, noting that users would find their profiles, desktop backgrounds and files unaffected by remote access. "It's all there, just like it looked at the office."
It can be challenging, Hunter noted, to ensure users have a proper device and high-speed internet connection at home to enable remote work. Parallels RAS, he said, eased those concerns.
"The beautiful part of Parallels RAS is [that] it doesn't take much resources," he said. "The software is very lightweight, so even some folks who didn't have very good internet didn't have any problems."
An evolution of the virtualization market
Kalvar has spoken of a split in the virtualization market between the hosting of a desktop or application and fuller-featured workspace products. The pandemic's work-from-home orders have furthered that divide; companies that are just beginning their efforts to change workflows through technology, he said, are more apt to explore traditional virtualization.
"For those [not far along with their business continuity plans], this is going to be an 18-month business continuity disaster," he said. "If you're in a continuity situation, and you don't already have a solution in play -- because, if you did, the first thing you would do is try to expand it -- I think you're looking more at the vendors who went down the virtualization side of the road … just because their technology matches up with what you need."
"What [those] people need is a really fast, really cheap way to get people working from home quickly," he added.
Kalvar said businesses -- especially those just looking to maintain continuity through the crisis -- must seek products that are both easy to stand up and manage.
"You have to be flexible, particularly when you're in that business continuity situation," he said. "In operations, you're always looking for good enough, not perfect."
"You're looking for, 'This solution meets enough of my criteria … at the lowest cost,'" he added.