The Parallels roadmap

Posted by virtualization.info Staff   |   Monday, January 9th, 2006

virtualization.info starts 2006 with an exclusive interview to Benjamin Rudolph, Marketing Manager at Parallels.

Parallels officially released its Workstation 2.0 product at the end of 2005, entering in the desktop virtualization market where VMware, Microsoft and Serenity Systems International are already.

In the following interview Benjamin Rudolph talks about Parallels 2006 roadmap, mentioning enterprise virtualization products and touching hot topics like Microsoft Vista Aero support and Apple MacOS x86 virtualization.


virtualization.info: In a previous post virtualization.info reported that Parallels was eventually involved in the development of a virtualization project launched at the beginning of 2004, known as TwoOSTwo and then renamed SVISTA, owned by a company called Serenity Systems International. Would you spend some words to describe the company history and explain this mystery?

Benjamin Rudolph: Parallels has its own, proprietary code base and an independently developed product line. We have no current relationship with Serenity.

VI: You just hit the market with a new product: Parallels Workstation 2.0. It seems to have two interesting features to compete: a very cheap pricing and the technology primacy of embedding a hypervisor in a desktop product. How the hypervisor distinguish Parallels product from competitors?

BR: During Parallels Workstation’s development cycle, we took the hypervisor concept from server virtualization and made it work on the desktop, and the result was the world’s first hypervisor-powered desktop virtualization solution. Parallels Workstation’s lightweight hypervisor inserts a thin layer of software between the host computer’s hardware resources and the primary OS that directly controls some of the host machine’s hardware profiles. This technology significantly improves virtual machine stability, performance and isolation by enabling virtual machines to directly access hardware resources, rather than having to first pass through the primary operating system.

Also, Parallels’ lightweight hypervisor also enables Parallels Workstation to be the first desktop virtualization solution that fully supports all of the features and benefits provided by Intel Virtualization Technology (“VT”). Intel VT is a “built-in” hardware virtualization technology that optimizes a CPU for virtualization. Intel VT will soon be a standard component of Intel’s CPU offerings, which indicates just how important virtualization solutions, like Parallels products, are to the future of computing. When using Parallels Workstation on VT powered system versus a standard system, users will find that virtual machine performance can increase several times!
AMD is also developing its own hardware virtualization technology, which is code-named “Pacifica.” Parallels products will also offer full support for this technology when it becomes available to the general public.

I think it’s important to note that Parallels Workstation’s hypervisor is just one of many important features that users will find very useful. The product also offers one-click installation and setup, an intuitive web-like control panel that anyone can easily use, strong primary and guest OS support that includes Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, OS/2, eComStation, and MS-DOS, a compact, resource-friendly download and installation package, and an industry leading price of $49 per license. All in all, the product is the easiest to use, most cost effective, high-performing solution available today.

VI: A great missing of today virtualization products is offering host OS support for Sun Solaris 10 operating system. Is Parallels Server going to provide such a support from the beginning?

BR: We are currently discussing the possibility of including Solaris 10 as a primary OS. We would definitely be interested in talking to Sun about building Parallels products that work seamlessly with this important operating system.

Parallels Server will definitely offer support for Windows and Linux primary OSes, as well as all of the guest operating systems that are currently supported by Workstation (Windows 3.1 – XP/2003, Linux, FreeBSD, OS/2, eComStation, DOS). Parallels Server will also offer guest OS support for Novell Netware, MacOS x and of course, Sun Solaris.

VI: The next big step about guest OS virtualization could be providing support for the expected MacOS for x86 architecture. You just said Parallels plans future support for it: are you talking with Apple to achieve this big mission?

BR: We are planning to support MacOS X as a primary and guest operating system in upcoming versions of Parallels Workstation. Unfortunately, I’m unable to discuss any technical or business relationships relating to this support.

VI: Apart MacOS for x86 another very expected OS for virtualization is the upcoming Microsoft Vista. As you know the new GUI environment, Aero, will require a lot of video RAM, which virtualized video cards actually don’t have. So a Vista guest OS won’t show you all new graphical enhancements everybody’s waiting. Are you planning something to solve this?

BR: We plan to offer support for Microsoft Vista as a primary and guest OS in the very near future and support for the new “Aero” GUI will not be a problem. Parallels virtualizes generic VESA 3.0 video card in which video memory isn’t fixed in a guest card specifications. Rather, it is allocated dynamically based on the demand of the appropriate guest video mode. Because of this capability, Parallels’ VESA 3.0 emulation can be easily adjusted to suppport “Aero”.

VI: Talking about competitors: Parallels just entered in one of the most hot IT market of the coming years and need to immediately face two huge animals. One a side you have a fast and furious gorillas, VMware, who is on this segment since ever and is actually the most innovative and recognized virtualization company around. On the other side you have a huge elephant, Microsoft, who is moving very slowly but with a powerful potential impact. As if this wasn’t enough a third sharp tiger, Xen, is going to offer full and high performing virtualization at a small cost even on the Microsoft side. How Parallels plan to emerge on this scenario?

BR: Compared to other available virtualization products, Parallels products are much easier to use. Our one-click installation and intuitive, web-like interface enables anyone to use the product, even if they’re not a “computer pro.” Users won’t have to struggle through a multi-step installation process or a complicated setup. With support for Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, OS/2, eComStation, and DOS (and future support for MacOS X, Solaris, Netware, QEMU, Plan 9, and many others), our primay and guest OS support is among the strongest in the industry.

It’s also important to recognize the benefits of purchasing an affordable Parallels solution compared to an open-source product. Because all of our server and desktop virtualization products are developed entirely in-house using proprietary code and technologies, we are able to offer users caring, responsive support and friendly customer service in addition to great products.

On the business front, Parallels is aggressively expanding its channel sales program. By partnering with leading distributors and resellers around the world, Parallels will be able to extend its reach to all levels of users. We are also actively pursuing OEM and ISV partnerships. The goal of these partnerships is to make Parallels virtualization a “default” technology that is a critical component of a computer users daily operations, like a web browser or word processor.

VI: On the Workstation 2.0 press release Parallels announced server products launch for 2006. virtualization.info wants to know as much as possible about this. What kind of products we should expect? In which timeframe?

BR: As you know, Parallels Workstation is the company’s first commercially available product, which reached the market in December 2005 after the conclusion of a highly successful beta program that involved thousands of users. So far, response to the release of the product has been outstanding. More than 100,000 users have downloaded the product since its launch on December 8th, 2005!

In Q1 06 we plan to release Parallels Workststation 2.1, followed by version 3.0 of Parallels Workstation in mid 2006. While the new feature sets in development for these releases are confidential, I can tell you that we’re working hard to address the comments, concerns and “wish lists” that we’ve received from our beta and registered users. I’ll be happy to discuss 2.1 and 3.0 features with you when we’re ready to launch their respective beta programs. Beta testing for 2.1 should begin in late January, so we’ll be able to share details soon!

In mid 2006, Parallels will be releasing its first server virtualization solution, Parallels Server. Parallels Server is an efficient server virtualization solution specifically designed to address the needs of small and medium businesses. The product enables users to create multiple self-contained virtual servers on one physical server. Parallels Server-powered virtual servers can efficiently run nearly any x86 operating system.

Due in late-2006 is Parallels Enterprise Server, a high-power server virtualization and management solution that installs on bare hardware, pools hardware resources and dynamically allocates them to virtual servers as necessary. This approach to server virtualization ensures that each physical server is used to its maximum potential, and that each virtual server always has the resources it needs to operate efficiently.

As you can see, we have a very aggressive product roadmap that compliments our mission of bringing virtualization to everyone. It’s going to be a great year!

VI: Parallels Enterprise Server seems very interesting. Are you going to offer it just on certified hardware or will it be developed to be installed on generic x86 hardware?

BR: Parallels Enterprise Server’s unique architecture will enable it to install directly on bare metal, as well as work with nearly any server hardware configuration.

VI: What about “secondary” virtualization features like Physical to Virtual (P2V) migration, other virtualization products VMs conversion or centralized hosts and guests management? Is Parallels going to release any products in these areas in 2006? Or should we expect a SDK to permit 3rd parties to develop them?

BR: Parallels has an exciting roadmap for 2006. As I mentioned earlier, our in-development feature sets are confidential until we launch each product’s beta program. All of the tools that you mentioned are important features for our products to have, and we are working on a number of partnered and in-house solutions that will address them in the best way possible.

VI: Virtualization customers usually want three core features: reliability, performances and strong support. Why Parallels technologies should be the choice of customers looking for these features?

BR: Parallels products’ lightweight hypervisor, small program footprint and full support of Intel VT technology offer users strong virtual machine stability and high performance, while our broad hardware and OS support ensure that any user can embrace virtualization, regardless of their hardware or software configurations. All of these great features, as well as the product’s unmatched ease of use, are all packaged together with an industry-leading price point. We’re 100% committed to making sure that using great software doesn’t break your budget or empty your wallet!

Its also important to note that our products offerings are going to continue to improve. Our engineering team is working tirelessly to expand our OS and hardware support, improve virtual machine speed and performance, and make each product’s user interface as easy to use as possible.

Look for big things from Parallels in 2006!