Parallels has unveiled an updated version of its Remote Application Server (RAS) platform which it claims can offer remote desktop services at a lower cost and greatly reduced complexity when compared with alternatives from firms such as Citrix, enabling even small businesses to take advantage of the technology.
Available immediately, Parallels RAS v15 is the first release of the software since Parallels acquired the platform with the purchase of 2X Software a year ago.
Parallels has used the intervening period to enhance the platform and make it easier to deploy and manage, and has combined it with Parallels Access technology to enable users to access virtual desktop sessions and remote applications from a variety of endpoint devices, including Apple iPad, Android devices and Google Chromebooks. Licensing starts at £66.66 a year for each concurrent user.
Parallels claims to have reduced the cost and complexity to the point where even small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) could provide Citrix-like remote access to desktops and applications for workers, increasing flexibility while keeping applications data securely in the data centre.
"We saw a growing need from customers to deliver applications and desktops to any device, but we also felt that it ought to be a lot simpler and more affordable, so we've spent the year since we acquired 2X blending the RAS with Parallels Access and enhancing it to make the best experience possible," said Parallels vice president of communications John Uppendahl.
For end users, this means being able to access server-hosted desktop applications such as Microsoft Word as if they were running natively on their endpoint device, with touch support for devices such as tablets. Meanwhile, a simple wizard-driven set-up and configuration process means that Parallels RAS can be up and running within a day or two rather than weeks or months, according to the firm.
"If you're using Citrix XenApp or VMware's Horizon, and you don't have infrastructure yet, you're looking at weeks to months and probably bringing in a consultant to get up and running. Parallels RAS does not require any special infrastructure, and you can literally download it and install it and be up and running in 15 minutes," Uppendahl claimed.
Crucially, Parallels RAS is an all-inclusive solution that comes with load balancing and high availability support for multi-server deployments built into the licensing costs, plus out-of-the-box support for universal printing and scanning.
But the price could be a real eye opener for many customers running Citrix or VMware for remote desktop delivery. Parallels claims that a firm looking to license and operate 1,000 concurrent seats can expect to see savings of 60 to 70 percent when choosing this solution.
The ease of use even extends to automatically updating the firewall rules when provisioning a new RAS server, and automatically configuring the downloaded client when enrolling a new user, if required.
Taken together, these benefits could see virtual desktop infrastructure and remote application access opened up as a viable option for smaller companies for the first time, while being able to handle up to 10,000 concurrent seats if required.
"I think this is a tipping point that will have a cascading effect, benefiting SMBs and SMEs and businesses of all sizes by commoditising remote application and desktop delivery to any device, and making it portable and easy to use, but also providing the best performance," said Uppendahl.
While remote access to desktops and applications may seem a little outdated in today's mobile-focused world, IDC analyst Robert Young said there is still a place for what he dubs virtual client computing (VCC) in enabling business users to securely access corporate apps across the disparate platforms in use.
"Parallels' RAS enables IT to address the pain point of efficiently delivering common business applications across a wide range of device types," he said.
"Additionally, the offering's quick time to implement, competitive price point, and advanced capabilities for leveraging native gestures across a wide range of disparate hardware and software platforms, stands to resonate with customers, particularly in the midmarket," Young added.
Parallels is offering a 30-day free trial version of RAS that allows customers to evaluate it with up to 50 concurrent users. The firm is also working with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure to make it easier for customers to optionally deploy RAS running from their respective public cloud platforms rather than hosting it on the customer's own servers.
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