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Parallels RAS 15 targets price-conscious Citrix, VMware shops

Parallels Remote Application Server 15 automates several tasks that frustrate IT, and it includes many of the same features as Citrix and VMware's app publishing products.

The new version of Parallels' app publishing platform offers improved management capabilities to entice IT shops...

frustrated with the cost and complexity of Citrix and VMware's tools.

Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS) 15 added new features, such as configuration wizards and an HTML5 browser client, which could broaden its appeal to small and medium-sized businesses that can't afford to get bogged down with advanced configurations. The combination of affordability, simplified management and device-agnostic end-user access could even lure Citrix and VMware shops interested in basic VDI and app publishing, said Robert Young, a research analyst at IDC.

Awana Clubs International, a nonprofit organization in Streamwood, Ill., supported Citrix XenApp for 12 years, but found it difficult to migrate from XenApp 6 to version 7. Instead, the company deployed Parallels RAS in an hour.

"We publish the exact same applications out to our workforce that we had on Citrix, and we've been very pleased with it -- ease of use, ease of administration [and the] ability to deploy fairly seamlessly," said Jason Stevenson, manager of network services at the company.

Deploying Parallels RAS cost about $5,000 less than the company's license renewal with Citrix would have, Stevenson said.

Where Parallels fits into the VDI market

The long-expected virtualized computing boom hasn't happened yet because of the cost and complexity of deploying VDI, in addition to a user experience that doesn't match workers' consumer expectations, IDC's Young said.

"I just don't think the value proposition was enough," he said.

But there's an opportunity for a vendor, such as Parallels, to find a happy medium between those competing interests, he added. Parallels RAS is by no means a full end-user computing suite, but some organizations only need basic features for virtual app delivery, such as peripheral device support and server monitoring -- which RAS includes.

Benefits of Parallels RAS

Parallels, a desktop and application virtualization provider most known for its Mac virtualization software, acquired Remote Application Server from 2X Software last year. Although RAS is often identified as an app publishing platform, customers can also use it to deliver full Windows virtual desktops using Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and VMware ESXi hypervisors. Competing products, such as Citrix XenDesktop and VMware Horizon, include app publishing capabilities, but RAS offers it at a much lower license cost.

Parallels RAS costs $99 per year, per concurrent user license. Citrix XenDesktop Enterprise edition costs $250 per concurrent user, or $535 per concurrent user for a perpetual license. VMware Horizon 7 Advanced starts at $484 per concurrent user for a perpetual license.

One of the other factors attracting customers to RAS is its uptime, which, in turn, improves employee productivity, said David Litt, CEO and co-owner of Blue Star Tec LLC, a managed IT services company in Bloomingdale, Ill., and a RAS customer.

"It's been fantastic for us to use," Litt said. "It seems very normal for Citrix to break easily, and it's not just a five-minute fix. We just haven't experienced that [with Parallels RAS]."

Aspire, a nonprofit that works with children and adults with developmental disabilities, switched from a legacy physical desktop and server setup to Google Chromebooks and RAS in 2014. The company wanted to update to a more modern work environment, but it was hamstrung by a small, inflexible IT budget, said John McIlwain, vice president for advancement.

With RAS, Aspire's employees are no longer locked to their desks. Many workers make visits to clients in their homes, and they used to have to come back to the office at the end of the workday to file reports based on notes and memory. Now, employees can use RAS on their Chromebooks to access relevant files in the field.

The cost of operations has come down a great deal.
John McIlwainvice president for advancement at Aspire

Parallels RAS has also opened Aspire up to a wider range of potential employees, many of whom are attracted by the option to work from home using VDI or published apps, McIlwain said.

"It's really liberating for us," he said. "And the cost of operations has come down a great deal."

With Parallels RAS 15, admins can publish an application to a Remote Desktop Session Host server in four steps, and then deliver the remote app to workers through Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol. The latest update also added several setup wizards for automated Windows Server, firewall and load balancer configuration.

RAS offers client apps for Apple iOS, Google Android and ChromeOS, Windows and Linux. The new HTML5 client in version 15 allows users to access their virtual desktops and published apps through a Web browser.

"It allows [users] to have the same experience across any device ... and to deliver the same services to them no matter where they are," said Shaun Crawford, CIO at Blue Star Tec.

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