Virtualization Technology News and Information
Parallels talks about 64 bits and the Mac VM market

Quoting from Ars Technica

One upside to Apple's transition to Intel has been the ability to run other operating systems on your Mac natively, with Windows being number one on the list. Boot Camp is one way to do it, but for those who don't like rebooting, virtualization is the way to go. At the moment, the Mac OS X virtualization market is owned by Parallels Desktop for Mac. It was the first commercial VM software to ship for Intel Macs, and it still has the market to itself, although virtualization powerhouse VMware is working on a version of their VM software for Mac OS X.

Unfortunately, one segment of Intel Mac owners have been left out in the cold when it comes to virtualization: Mac Pro owners. Trying to create a new virtual machine on Mac Pros results in kernel panics galore. Parallels promised a fix, and yesterday, that fix arrived.

While the 64-bit capable version of Parallels Desktop worked fine for some, it was a no-go for others, including myself. I got two kernel panics and then the VM just flat out refused to start up. Benjamin Rudolph, marketing manager for Parallels, took some time out of his schedule to chat with us not only about the issue with the Mac Pro, but the Mac VM market as a whole.

So far, Parallels is very happy with the performance of Parallels Desktop for Mac. "The market has been unbelievably responsive," Rudolph told us. "A conservative estimate would be that we are moving a rew thousand copies a week via retail and direct download." Being in the Apple Stores is helping as well, as Parallels sold nearly 2,000 copies via Apple's retail establishments last week.

Like the rest of us, Parallels found out about the Mac Pro when Steve Jobs announced it at WWDC. They scrambled to get their hands on a Mac Pro or two, because they were concerned about their VM's performance on the new hardware. "We knew there would be some tinkering," explained Rudolph. "But full 64-bit support was on our roadmap anyway." 

The beta update released yesterday supports all 64-bit Intel Macs with 3.5GB of RAM or less, but has received mixed reactions from early adopters. Some (including myself) have not been able to get it running successfully. "We tested it extensively and thought it was in a decent spot [for release] and we knew there were some issues with it," Rudolph told us. "We have a very vocal community—which is awesome, because it pushes us to work harder—and they tend to let us know when things aren't working right." He believes that the beta version is working well for most users, though. "The people for whom it is working are not as vocal, but I have gotten a number of e-mails commenting on how well the new release works," he said. Included in that group are those fortunate enough to get their hands on a new Core 2 Duo iMac.

One issue with the Mac Pro is that hardware VT support is currently disabled. Upon launching the application, users get the following message:

Your CPU supports Intel Virtualization Technology (VT-x) but it is currently disabled (locked by firmware). Virtual machine will be started without VT-x support (in software virtualization mode).

Rudolph lays the responsibility for that at the feet of Apple, telling us that "VT support is disabled because of an Apple bug." He told us that it is enabled on one core on not on other three. "It's the same issue [we saw] with the Mac minis. We have been talking to Apple about it and they are working on a fix."

In the meantime, Parallels hopes to get out another build of Desktop for Mac in the next week or two. "We don't want to hide from the problems that some users are having," Rudolph said, "but we don't have a hard and fast date for an update." Longer term, Parallels will offer full 64-bit compatibility, including support for up to 64GB of RAM in the next full version of Parallels Desktop. Users can expect a beta of Desktop 2.0 by the end of the year.

Eventually, Mac users will have more choice when it comes to virtualization, as VMware is working on a Mac OS X version of their VM software. Parallels isn't concerned by VMware's entry into the Mac space, according to Rudolph. "VMware is not a consumer-focused focused company; they focus more on server virtualization products," he said. "We are focused on end user products, for consumers and small-to-medium-size businesses. Having a shrink-wrapped box on a store shelf isn't their sweet spot, but it's good for the market overall," he continued. "Our usability, price point, and market penetration will keep us ahead."

Despite the speed bumps Parallels has encountered with the Mac Pro, the virtualization market for Mac users appears to be in promising shape. Hopefully, the competition between Parallels and VMware will keep both companies on their toes and solid products coming for Macs. In the meantime, some Mac Pro owners will have to be patient as Parallels gets the 64-bit bugs worked out.

Read and comment on the original, here.

Published Friday, September 08, 2006 12:51 PM by David Marshall
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