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VMblog Expert Interview: A Conversation About the Latest in Parallels RAS 17.1 and Parallels in General

VMblog interview Parallels RAS 

Remote application delivery and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technologies are becoming more relevant than ever, what with the growing demand for remote work and mobility.  Parallels recently released version 17.1 of Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS), so we thought it would be a good time to catch up with them.  Parallels RAS is one of the (if not THE) fastest-growing remote application delivery and VDI solutions in the market today.

We reached out to Christian Aquilina, program manager at Parallels, to learn more.

VMblog:  For the benefit of those who aren't familiar with it yet, what is Parallels RAS in a nutshell? 

Christian Aquilina:  Parallels RAS is an all-in-one application delivery and VDI solution that allows users to securely access virtual workspaces from anywhere, on any device, anytime. Our cloud-ready software empowers organizations to embrace digital transformation by centralizing management of the IT infrastructure, streamlining multi-cloud deployment, reinforcing data security and improving process automation. Parallels RAS has platform-specific clients for Windows, macOS®, iOS, Android, Chrome OSTM, Linux and even clientless web access using HTML5 technology.

There are several advantages for organizations that leverage such technologies, especially those who support various devices for their application delivery. One of them is reduced administrative overhead. Instead of managing software on all these devices, you manage, upgrade and maintain your software in one place.

Secondly, because of this centralized architecture, it's much easier to deliver the tools your users require while maintaining security. You perform software installation and patches in one place, you harden your desktops in one place, and so on.

Thirdly, Parallels RAS allows employees and other authorized individuals to securely, instantly access corporate applications and data 24/7 from anywhere and from any device. This provides organizations with the agility and flexibility required in today's connected world. This also opens up new opportunities for organizations to embark on new strategies, such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) or choose-your-own-device (CYOD) initiatives.

VMblog:  These functions are similar to those offered by solutions from Citrix and VMware.  What are the key differentiators of Parallels RAS?

Aquilina:  Number one is the overall simplicity. From the IT admin side, Parallels RAS is much easier to install, setup, manage and maintain. Considering the typically complex nature of VDI environments, a simplified architecture can be a huge benefit from a total cost of ownership (TCO) standpoint. I'll elaborate on this shortly. Then on the user side, the client provides an excellent native-like user experience (UX). This can be easily seen in the Parallels mobile clients for Android and iOS. They both support native touch gestures of the devices along with Parallels proprietary features, making the delivery of applications and desktops so much easier to use.

Second is its flexibility from a deployment standpoint. Parallels RAS can be deployed on all major hypervisors. Parallels RAS can also be deployed on-premises, on major pubic clouds like Amazon Web ServicesTM (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, on hyperconverged infrastructures like Nutanix and Scale Computing, or even hybrid deployments.

Third is its affordability, especially from a TCO standpoint. We already mentioned its overall simplicity, which reduces administrative overhead. But it's not only that. Full training on Parallels RAS is provided free of charge. Furthermore, it doesn't require third party add-ons for load balancing, printing redirection, monitoring, reporting and so on. All that is built-in and available in a single pane of glass for administrators.

From a customer, reseller and distributor point of view, Parallels RAS licenses are very simple and flexible. All necessary features and functionality are already included out of the box, and Parallels provides pre- or post-paid billing with pay-as-you-go Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) licensing, depending on what the business requires.

VMblog:  Ok, so you've just released version 17.1.  What are the features in this new version?

Aquilina:  Parallels RAS 17.1 is primarily targeted for service providers (SPs) and enterprises. An area where we wanted to build on was multi-tenancy. Apart from the multi-tenant capabilities that Parallels RAS already offered (such as SPLA licensing and themes), a new multi-tenant architecture was introduced. This makes it possible for multiple organizations or customers to share Parallels RAS components in the Access Layer, such as Secure Client Gateways and High Availability Load Balancers (HALBs). This reduces management overhead, maximizes resource utilization, streamlines hardware footprint and enables faster onboarding for new customers or organizations.

We've also added support for Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) single sign-on (single sign-on) authentication. This allows SPs or enterprises to enable users to authenticate with a third-party identity provider (IdP)-such as Microsoft Azure, Okta and Ping Identity-to gain access to their published resources in a seamless SSO method. This extends the authentication capabilities offered by Parallels RAS and helps SPs focus on their offerings-they can provide better services since they're now freed from user identity management.

Additionally, we added support for Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) and VDI provisioning on Microsoft Azure. Parallels RAS VDI capabilities such as auto-provisioning and auto-scaling have been extended to the cloud, enabling faster deployments through built-in Microsoft Azure APIs that are all configured and managed from a single pane of glass.

With respect to the cloud, we've also added support for AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB)-as well as any other third-party load balancer-with the introduction of customizable web cookies and alternate addresses for Network Load Balancing (NLB) traffic.

We have also introduced a dedicated pane for SSL/TLS certificate management. An administrator can centrally deploy, manage and monitor all SSL/TLS certificates for the Secure Client Gateways and HALBs. Along with the introduction of bidirectional drag-and-drop capabilities, this provides an even better native-like user experience when working with virtual applications and desktops.

In addition, we've further improved the UX on mobile devices through the support for Apple Slide Over and Split View as well as support for Samsung DeX. We expect these improvements in the UX to boost user productivity.

VMblog:  You mentioned that the new features in 17.1 are great for service providers.  But who else can benefit from Parallels RAS?

Aquilina:  Parallels RAS itself already has a broad and varied customer base. We are experiencing a consistent growth in our customer base which is helping us focus beyond the needs of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to several larger enterprises as well. Most of the new features are geared toward this market. Of course, we never forget where we've come from and will continue to actively address the needs of SMEs.

We've been particularly successful in education, healthcare and manufacturing. That doesn't mean Parallels RAS isn't suitable for other industries. Our strategy is building on and enhancing the native Microsoft RDS solution capabilities as well as addressing business needs that other players in the market have not. This has contributed to our continued growth in various industries and verticals.

VMblog:  Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) became generally available a couple of months ago.  What does this mean for Parallels RAS?

Aquilina:  As our track record shows, we have always worked closely with Microsoft to deliver a richer application and desktop delivery solution. And with this regard, WVD is no different. We're again working with Microsoft to make Parallels RAS support, extend and enrich WVD capabilities.

While we can't provide any detailed info until everything is finalized, our goal is to deliver a "unified" experience from both the admin and user side. Regardless of where resources are hosted-on-premises or though cloud services such as WVD-users can gain access to their resources in the most efficient way.

VMblog:  More people are using phones and tablets for work.  But using full-sized desktops in such very limited screen real estate might not be easy.  Does Parallels RAS have provisions to address those limitations?

Aquilina:  As briefly mentioned earlier, one of the advantages of Parallels RAS is its excellent UX on mobile devices. It supports native touch gestures like swipe, drag, tap-to-click and pinch-and-zoom. It also features Quick Keypads. These are custom keys that simplify common keystrokes and appear above the standard keyboard in iOS and Android.

There's also the App Switcher, which enables users to easily switch between applications or even between instances of the same application (for example, different documents from the same published Word application). Another feature promoting productivity is Parallels Lock'n'Go Magnifying Glass, which provides users with a precise selection capability to carry out actions such as resizing images and text effortlessly, even on smaller screen devices.

When we incorporate new features into the Parallels RAS clients, we always bear in mind the device capabilities and physical constraints. We don't just think about application and desktop delivery. Rather, we put a lot of thought into usability as well. It is always our goal to provide a platform where user productivity can be improved regardless of the device being used.

Now, in cases where you need a larger screen to see full-sized applications or desktops, Parallels RAS 17.1 supports Samsung DeX. This allows users to connect an external monitor so you can interface with full-sized applications or desktops even if they're running on your mobile device. Parallels RAS even allows you to use a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard for your user input. Effectively, your mobile device can now serve as your workstation.

It's also worth mentioning that Parallels RAS simplifies printing, one of the major pain points hounding other virtual application and desktop delivery solutions. Parallels RAS Universal Printing technology allows our customers and users to print from any device to any printer.

VMblog:  Before we end, I know you guys get asked about this a lot, but how have things been going since joining Corel?

Aquilina:  Everything's going smoothly. Parallels RAS has been on a growing streak, and with Parallels joining Corel in late 2018, this increased. Last year alone, we managed to deliver two main releases. These can be considered as major releases, not only because of the number of new features included but also because of their level of sophistication.

For example, in addition to these new features we already mentioned earlier, we also introduced elaborate and innovative capabilities back in June, including granular administrative permissions, AI-based session pre-launch, Google Authenticator-or any time-based one-time password (TOTP)-for multifactor authentication (MFA), just-in-time VDI access and REST API, to mention a few.

From our end, we're able to meet market needs faster simply because we're more agile. Corel has seen Parallels' success and potential and decided to invest in us while also pushing us to achieve even more-an expectation which we are proudly meeting. Our core values align and our focus on the knowledge worker is paying off.

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About Christian Aquilina

With experience complementing his studies in both Information Technology and Business Administration, Christian marries technical expertise with excellent business acumen. His years spent designing and implementing virtualization solutions, based on Microsoft, Citrix, and VMware technologies, across different verticals, have strengthened Christian's application and desktop virtualization expertise and allow him to understand and solve complex problems with ease.

Published Tuesday, February 04, 2020 7:36 AM by David Marshall
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