Parallels takes Mac virtualization enterprise wide

Will Kelly takes a look at Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac and updates to their enterprise Mac management tools.

Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac

After writing "VMware Fusion 6 Professional virtualizes the enterprise Mac," the folks at Parallels offered me an evaluation of the new version of Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac. I also looked into Parallels Business Suite, including Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac Enterprise Edition, Parallels Management - Mac for Microsoft SCCM (2007/2012), and Parallels Access, which should be appealing to enterprises with a growing Mac population.

Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac

Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac ($79.99 full version/$49.99 upgrade) is the latest update of the venerable Parallels Desktop that became a standard when Intel-based Macs first launched. If you’ve strayed from Parallels Desktop as a virtualization solution for your enterprise Macs, Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac touts some significant performance improvements and other new features that might give you cause to come back as a customer.

The Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac installation is simple and quick, and it doesn't require much IT intervention. When the install completes, the New Virtual Machine dialog box will appear (Figure A):

Figure A

Figure A
New Virtual Machine.

For this post, I chose to download Ubuntu Linux 13.04 desktop for my virtual machine (VM). The download screen was well laid out, but the last two minutes of the download were extremely slow.

Interestingly enough, the New Virtual Machine wizard in Parallels Desktop picked up the VMs I had previously created during my VMware Fusion review. When I opened the Ubuntu Linux 13.04 VM, I was asked to enter a password. Figure B shows Ubuntu Linux appliance running in Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac.

Figure B

Figure B

Ubuntu Linux 13.04.

When you start a VM for the first time, Parallels installs a set of tools inside the VM after you've entered your Linux password. I was also given the opportunity to upgrade Ubuntu to 13.10 when I was completing the VM setup.

Figure C

Figure C
Getting started with the Linux virtual appliance.

Once you install Ubuntu Linux 13.04, Linux applications are available from your OS X dock (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D
Linux apps available on the OS X dock.

It doesn’t get easier than this when installing a VM. I also tested an installation with Windows 8.1 Preview and experienced similar results. You even get the option to run Windows 8.1 like a Mac (Windows apps appear without the Windows desktop) or like a PC (keeps Windows apps and files in one window). In my mind, this point-and-click setup of VMs on a Mac is a must for enterprises of all sizes. Figure E shows Windows 8.1 running in full-screen mode via Parallels Desktop.

Figure E

Figure E
Windows 8.1 running in Parallels Desktop.

Mavericks support

Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac packs in some serious Mavericks support, including:

  • Mavericks VM support using the install OS X Mavericks apps in the Mac App Store, which will appeal to those who need OS X test environments (and it's something I plan to check out in the future)
  • Mavericks Finder Tabs work with your Windows applications
  • Mavericks Multiple Display support extends to Windows VMs, giving each one a menu bar and dock

Parallels extends into the enterprise

Parallels Desktop for Mac Enterprise Edition ($100.00/per Mac, per year) is an enterprise version of Parallels Desktop that includes backend administrative tools. These administrative features include:

  • Set expiration date for a VM to stop functioning on a specific date, which has use cases for customer demos and proof of concepts along with contractors and freelancers who need temporary access to corporate resources
  • Configure a VM to start in automatically (called “Headless Mode”) when the Mac boots, without an admin needing to login to the Mac to start the VM
  • Command line support for Parallels Desktop and VM settings and for the changing/resetting of user passwords
  • Remote Password Reset for VMs when a user forgets their Windows VM credentials
  • Administrators also gain enhanced deployment tools for more granular control over the deployment of VMs
  • Administrators can set a Windows lock screen that requires a user name and password when resuming from suspend

Parallels Management - Mac for Microsoft SCCM (2007/2012)

Backing up Parallels Desktop for Mac Enterprise Edition is Parallels Management Suite for Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager ($30.00 per Mac, per year). IT administrators with growing a Mac user base can use it keep Macs in compliance with IT policies. It enables the following:

  • Deploy Mac software and patches
  • Deploy OS X images through Microsoft SCCM 2007/2012
  • Use Microsoft SCCM reports to view details about Windows PCs and Macs on your network

Parallels Access

Parallels Access ($49.00 per PC, per year) is about the most robust remote access solution I’ve seen yet. It enables iPad users to access PC and Mac applications and use the apps as if they are native iPad apps. Look for a full review of Parallels Access from me in the near future.

Final thoughts

I rank Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac fairly high for its usability and feature set. They also have a common sense enterprise Mac virtualization and management strategy. The Parallels Business Solutions Suite brings flexibility and necessary management tools to enterprises that need to support a growing Mac user base.

What VM tools do you use in your organization? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.