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Low-cost app publishing alternative to Citrix and VMware emerges

Parallels acquired 2X Software to add app publishing, but faces a difficult battle with entrenched virtual desktop vendors Citrix and VMware.

A newly formed remote desktop and application delivery tool gives IT pros a low-cost alternative to app publishing...

technologies from VMware and Citrix.

This week Parallels IP Holdings GmbH, a Seattle-based company that provides Mac-based virtualization software, purchased 2X Software, a Maltese application publishing and mobile device management (MDM) vendor, for an undisclosed sum.

[Parallels] needed this to round out their offering of a digital workspace portfolio.
David Johnsonanalyst, Forrester Research

Parallels has several products that provide desktop access to a wide range of devices. Parallels Desktop for Mac allows users to run Windows on a Mac without rebooting, while Parallels Access provides Windows desktop access on Apple iOS and Google Android mobile devices. The company also has a Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) plug-in to manage Macs in Microsoft SCCM 2012.

With 2X, Parallels adds its Remote Application Server (RAS) product that publishes applications and delivers remote desktops and VDI to any device. RAS includes workload-based balancing, real-time monitoring, and universal printing and scanning. 2X also has an MDM product that either complements an existing 2X deployment or is available standalone and manages company and corporate-owned devices. Those products can now be bought through Parallels.

RAS can be described as a "lightweight version of XenApp," said Simon Bramfitt, virtualization analyst with Entelechy Associates in Concord, Calif.

The move to buy a company like 2X made perfect sense for Parallels, said David Johnson, analyst with Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

"Parallels hasn't had a VDI offering and 2X has been a differentiator as an inexpensive VDI platform," Johnson said. "[Parallels] needed this to round out their offering of a digital workspace portfolio."

RAS from 2X cost $75 per concurrent user (CCU) for a minimum of 15 users. Citrix XenApp, meanwhile, costs $350 per CCU while VMware Horizon Advanced (which includes Remote Desktop Session Host, remote app and vSAN support as well as VDI) is $400 per CCU.

VMware offers similar options for running Windows on Macs including Fusion and the new Horizon FLEX, while Citrix also has Desktop Player for Mac and GoToMyPC.

Citrix and VMware stand as the titans in the space Parallels and 2X look to occupy, with both companies rounding out their virtualization portfolios in the last year; VMware got into app publishing in Horizon 6 and Citrix made acquisitions such as Sanbolic for virtual storage.

Pricing and performance are areas where a company like Parallels can compete with those rivals, Johnson said.

"Parallels can, for example, provide a specific level of performance for workloads where they target engineering or design companies," he said. "They'll need to pick their battles wisely."

A disadvantage Parallels faces is the lack of a broad, encompassing suite of products VMware and Citrix  offer, Bramfitt said. For example, those companies offer a feature-rich end-user computing suite including a full enterprise mobility management platform through AirWatch or XenMobile, respectively.

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