Virty boys Parallels bring machine learning, Windows Server 2019 support to RAS VDI line

AI know what you did last summer

Windows-on-Mac flinger Parallels gave its Remote Application Server (RAS) a slapping with the wet fish of AI this morning with the release of version 17, featuring Session Pre-Launch.

RAS is the company's take on the increasingly crowded Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Desktop-as-a-Server (DaaS) space and is happy to run on-premises or in the cloud. Azure and AWS are among the cloud providers supported, while the platform will equally squat happily atop the likes of Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Hypervisor or VMware.

Of course, Microsoft's forever-in-preview Windows Virtual Desktop lurks in the shadows, tempting users with a tweaked Office 365 and a migration path from Windows 7 that will see the venerable OS receive "free" extended security updates.

"Free" as long as you're paying for the necessary Azure services to run the thing.

It is against this backdrop that Parallels is attempting to remain relevant differentiate itself with all manner of toys in version 17 of RAS.

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The dead hand of AI comes into play with Session Pre-Launch, which uses machine learning to monitor the habits of a user and ensure that apps are launched ahead of time, thus cutting down the amount of time a user must spend twiddling thumbs while things spin up.

While it seems even more of a stretch than usual to call such log monitoring "AI", it does result in a snappier startup, and Parallels reckons it will also avoid login storms during peak hours.

Parallels has also hooked up with Google to make use of the search giant's MFA authentication service and added granular permissions to delegate control of RAS objects, session management and so on. Windows Server 2019 support is also present, meaning customers can take advantage of the Microsoft's latest take on RDS and Hyper-V.

The existing PowerShell API is joined by a REST API to make the thing easier to integrate into enterprise workflows and the ecosystems of vendors. There is also a web-based Helpdesk Console to deal with applications and VDI.

More significantly is a simplification of VDI and RDSH deployment, aimed at getting enterprise admins to fling out fleets of the things over their end-user computing environments. Support for Scale Computing's KVM-based hypervisor, HC3, has also been added.

Parallels was snapped up by Corel last year and is better known for its virtualization tools aimed at letting customers run the likes of Windows and Linux on a macOS computer, as well as a handy toolbox of utilities for both Windows and Mac users.

RAS is the company's pitch at taking its virtualization smarts and turning them onto the application delivery and VDI market dominated by the likes of Citrix. Anything running a HTML5 browser (including iOS and Android) gets a native-ish experience. And, of course, the service runs in plenty of places. Even in the buzzword du jour, the Multi Cloud.

Priced at £79.99 per year - although you'll naturally need your own licences - Parallels has a fight on its hands to win hearts and minds. Big Daddy VMware has been in the VDI game for quite a while, and Citrix has been working hard to hammer the square peg of its on-premises lineup into the round hole of the cloud.

Parallels will point to its cloudy credentials, but with an evolutionary rather than revolutionary release, it still faces a struggle to unseat the incumbents. Even with an AI sticker plastered on the thing. ®

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