Parallels, Quest Tag Team for Desktop Virtualization

The two companies are working together to form their own virtual desktop infrastructure offering.

A pair of software companies want to put their own spin on desktop virtualization.

Parallels, the company formally called SWsoft, and Quest Software are combining their virtualization and management software suites to offer a unified VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) product for enterprises looking to centralize the management of PCs in the data center.

The combined product draws from Parallels' Virtuozzo containers and Quest's Provision Networks Virtual Access Suite, which provides the management software, lifecycle management and the connection broker to connect a series of desktops to a centralized server, which should make managing a desktop fleet easier and secure the data in the centralized server within the data center.

The concept of VDI and centralizing data has been given a serious look by a number of virtualization vendors looking to expand the technology beyond server consolidation and disaster recovery.

VMware, Citrix and a host of smaller virtualization companies are each looking to gain a foothold in what is still a market in its infancy. Later this year, Microsoft is expected to join the desktop virtualization parade with its Hyper-V hypervisor that will come with Windows Server 2008.

What makes the offering from Parallels and Quest different is the nature of Virtuozzo containers. Unlike the type of hypervisor used by VMware and Citrix's XenDesktop, which divides a physical server into different virtual machines, the containers partition the underlying operating system into different environments.

This way of creating virtual machines allows for easier management of the virtual environment since the IT department deals with only one operating system and one software stack instead of having different operating systems and applications in various virtual machines, according to Paul Ghostine, a vice president and general manager at Quest. In this scenario, Ghostine said users can get more desktops with each server and cut down on the amount of backend storage needed to support VDI.

"Since there is one underlying copy of the operating system and the applications you can seamlessly apply global updates and patches to a server very quickly," said Corey Thomas, vice president of marketing for Parallels. "One of the things we found from customers is that they were very interested in what we could do in storage. With this solution, you only have to have one copy of the OS and application stored per server."

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said most enterprises experimenting with the current crop of VDI products can usually support four workstations or about a dozen thin clients or desktops with each virtualized server.

While King said there are big benefits to this type of infrastructure - security, consolidation and better management - the top obstacle in the way of VDI is that employees have not embraced this type of model and still prefer a more traditional desktop or the flexibility in using a notebook.

At the same time, with the price of desktops continuing to fall, there seems little incentive for an IT department to invest in a totally new infrastructure.

"The problem is that PCs continue to drop in price and at the same time, they are becoming increasingly powerful with better and better chip technology," King said. "If an enterprise is undergoing a massive refresh, the VDI solution makes sense. If the change is more incremental, it's just more affordable to buy new desktops."

One way that Quest and Parallels are trying to improve the user experience is working to improve Microsoft's RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol), which helps deliver the image to the individual desktop. Ghostine said the companies reducing some of the latency problems to make the user feel as though the Windows OS was local.

The combined Quest and Parallels VDI product is available as of June 24 from both companies at a cost of $140 per concurrent desktop.