Parallels is an application and desktop virtualization software vendor that offers management and delivery platforms for Apple macOS and Microsoft Windows desktop deployments.

The company, based in Bellevue, Wash., was founded in 1999 by Nikolay Dobrovolskiy, Serguei Beloussov and three others. In 2004, SWsoft acquired Parallels to expand its virtualization software offerings. SWsoft went on to change its name to Parallels in 2008.

Parallels allows organizations to deploy third-party operating systems (OSes), such as Windows and Linux, to macOS desktops as virtual machines (VMs). Organizations can also use the company's software to manage macOS desktops and other OSes with a single management console.

Key products 

Parallels Desktop for Mac. With Parallels Desktop for Mac IT professionals can deploy Windows or other OSes to Apple devices as VMs that interact natively with the endpoints. For users that work with macOS on their Apple devices, Parallels Desktop for Mac delivers the Windows applications in a side-by-side VM that runs at the same time as the macOS desktop. The VM accesses the company network through a virtual private network (VPN) to ensure that the macOS and Windows VMs both have access to the organization's resources. 

Users access these applications from the Finder tool, the Launchpad or other native macOS applications. The compatibility extends to the file-sharing process as well; users can drag and drop files from Windows Explorer to Finder and back without excessive load time. Users can copy and paste text, including font type, color and style formatting from a Windows application in the VM and paste it in a native macOS application.  

This product provides a single console from which IT professionals can manage both macOS and Windows desktops with utilities such as centralized patch and update deployment.  

Parallels offers several editions of Desktop for Mac. The standard version is for individual use. Organizations with a few power users who require access to macOS or developers testing the compatibility and performance of Parallels' VMs for the entire organization's desktop deployment are a fit for the Pro Edition. The Business Edition is for organization-wide deployments and provides a monitoring and management console for IT. The standard edition costs $79.99 per license, per year, and the Pro and Business Editions are $99.99 per license, per year.

Parallels Remote Application Server. In 2015, Parallels bought the Remote Application Server (RAS) platform as part of its acquisition of 2X Software. Parallels RAS delivers virtual applications to users regardless of what devices they work with, but it also can deliver full Windows virtual desktops in deployments that use Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESXi hypervisors.

Organizations that use the RAS platform instead of a Citrix, VMware or Microsoft delivery platform cannot publish applications. RAS makes up for this, however, with a lower price tag: $99 per year, per concurrent user license. The other vendors' virtual application and desktop delivery platforms range from $250 to $535 per year, per concurrent user license.

Parallels RAS gives IT professionals the ability to deliver Windows business applications to users running macOS, Linux OS and Oracle Solaris. RAS also accommodates mobile devices, which tend to have issues running remote desktops.

Parallels Mac Management for SCCM. Parallels offers the Mac Management for System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) plug-in to enroll masOS desktops in SCCM.

IT professionals can enforce security rules such as password length, password cycles and the number of failed password attempts before a device lockout. Mac Management for SCCM also offers inventory for hardware and software and tracking of user sessions for metrics such as session duration. 

The SCCM utilities for managing, scheduling and deploying patches and updates also extend to macOS desktops. Mac Management for SCCM cannot provide performance monitoring for virtual desktops and applications for Mac devices, so organizations must find an additional platform for desktop and application monitoring.

This was last updated in November 2018

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