Gray-haired desktop virtualization specialists may remember Parallels as the developer of Virtuozzo Containers, a containerized application hosting solution for Windows Server that provides a halfway house between RDSH sessions and full server virtualization. Parallels is back in the desktop virtualization news after having announced its acquisition of 2X Software. This move brings mobile device management, VDI, and RDSH to the company’s current portfolio of Linux and Windows containers, a Type 2 hypervisor for OS X, and service provider–focused web server management tools. In a prepared statement announcing the acquisition, Parallels President Jack Zubarev said, “We see huge synergies with Parallels Access and Parallels Desktop products and are excited about the potential 2X solutions brings to us.”
I can’t help but feel that this is a misstep for Parallels. 2X Software’s products consist of 2X Remote Application Server (a basic VDI and RDSH broker/management service) and 2X Mobile Device Management (MDM). Bringing 2X and Parallels together doesn’t add enough to create a viable workspace suite, and looked at individually, they don’t do enough to ignite the marketplace. While there is nothing wrong with either product per se, both exist in extremely competitive markets and have little with which to differentiate themselves from better-known alternatives. 2X Remote Application Server (RAS) must compete not only with the out-of-the-box Microsoft VDI and RDSH implementations, but also against vWorkspace, Dell’s enterprise-class but budget-priced VDI/RDSH platform, and against Virtual Bridges’ VERDE, which has recently been sold to converged infrastructure appliance startup NIMBOXX. At a time when an experienced VDI software vendor such as NComputing can find itself in trouble and up for sale, it’s hard to see how Parallels can make it work. The growing DaaS market does not hold out much of a lifeline either; 2X RAS lacks essential support for multi-tenancy, creating significant management overhead for anyone attempting to implement it as a DaaS platform.
In a similar vein, 2X MDM has a small and shrinking opportunity. Mobile device management in general has been superseded by the richer enterprise mobility management platforms that better suit mixed enterprise and employee owned devices. For 2X MDM to compete, it will have to gain new features and transition to a cloud services model in short order.
Rather than following the acquisitions track and diluting its focus, I think Parallels would have been better off focusing its resources on riding the containerization trend. While Virtuozzo Containers has disappeared from view among enterprise customers, supplanted by full hypervisor-based virtualization, Parallels has thrived in the service provider market. There, its containers technology provides the backbone for many hosting providers’ virtual private server (VPS) offerings. Its support for both Windows and Linux hosts is a strength. Parallels understands containerization, and its container implementation is arguably superior to that of RHEL. With both Linux and Windows containerization solutions, Parallels is well placed to capitalize on the adoption of containers by enterprise customers looking to contain the growing costs of hypervisor-based virtualization.
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