Parallels adds enterprise features to RAS 16.5 to appeal to growing MSP market

Some key changes involve responding to an opportunity created among Citrix and VMware customers by changes to their support and maintenance costs, as well as the End-of-Life of XenApp 6.5.

Parallels has launched the 16.5 version of their Parallels Remote Application Server [RAS] offering for automatic provisioning of remote desktop hosts. The new version beefs up the feature sets, and specifically makes more of them appropriate for enterprise customer requirements. That is to accommodate Parallels’ growing presence in the enterprise space, and even more specifically, to make RAS attractive to larger service providers and MSPs, where Parallels has also been growing RAS’ market.

“Historically, 90 per cent of the RAS market has been SMB – below 500 seats,” said Victor Fiss, Director of Sales Engineers at Parallels. “During the last two years, we have seen the start of a movement to larger customers where 10 to 20 per cent are 1000-4000 seat deployments. These are still not very large enterprises or service providers, but it is still significantly larger than where we have been in the past. What has changed over the last two years is VMware and Citrix effectively doubling their costs for support and maintenance. That has resulted in more service providers coming to us. We are strong in the MSP world and MSPs, along with ISVs, have been our fastest growing group of customers, and with the MSPs it is because of this pressure on their margins.”

Many of the major changes here are aimed specifically at these customers.

“We had earlier introduced the ability to rebrand the HTML5 client Windows Client, and now we are introducing the ability to white label a Windows Client as well,” Fiss said. “That is important for MSPs and ISVs. When we introduced white labelling on HTML5, all of these customers replaced the Parallels logo with their own, although it still shows Powered by Parallels. With the Windows Client, we are expecting about 30 to 40 per cent of them will rebrand. Relabelling the HTML client was more relevant than relabelling the Windows client, but our largest MSPs will still want to rebrand.”

Parallels has also introduced a new migration tool for customers impacted by the end-of-line for Citrix XenApp 6.5.

“The migration tool can also create a preview look of how your Citrix environment will look in RAS,” Fiss indicated. “This isn’t something that most customers will need. Most can do this kind of migration on their own. It will help the ones who need this kind of assistance, however.”

VDI is a major use case for RAS, and Parallels has made major improvements here.

“We reviewed our VDI strategy to streamline VDI deployment, and have introduced a new VDI design that lets a single VDI agent manage multiple VDI hosts,” Fiss said. “VDI was the last piece we have re-engineered from our 2x acquisition in 2015. We used to have every host have an agent, but that didn’t scale well. Now we use a seamless API approach to deliver VDI for ESXi, Hyper-V and Xen. For KVM, which is not very big for us, we still use the agent.”

RAS 16.5 also introduces RDSH auto-provisioning and auto-scaling to automatically provision RD session hosts.

“We have introduced new RDSH templates to do all the scaling, which enables farm auto-scaling,” Fiss stated “It lets you add new virtual machines to the farm, and drain them when demand decreases.”

The new release also adds full auto-promotion capability for a Secondary PA to a Master in order to reduce possible management downtime.

“If the master goes offline the secondary will now be promoted to the new master status,” Fiss said. “Today, there is zero interruption for a controller failure. But today, logins are blocked out during this period. Now, that won’t happen.”

PowerShell API, which introduced two years ago, has now been extended.

“You can now script it, and now we can also trigger scripts,” Fiss said.

The console has been redesigned.

“We aren’t trying to complete with monitoring tools, but we now provide a view of all components in production,” Fiss indicated. “This bird’s eye view of all RAS components allows easy identification of components that require attention.” The HTML5 client design was also refreshed for a more modern look.

An undo feature has been added with this release as well.

“This is something that we have been working on for some time.” Fiss said. “After we introduced multiple administrator capability, the additional administrators meant that more mistakes get made. Now you can undo the previously made changes.”

A notable change has been made to app publishing.

“We had been working with private repositories, but we got feedback that a lot of customers are still using Microsoft App-V Publishing,” Fiss said. “So we are now implementing Microsoft App-V application containers, as well as”

Password complexity requirements have now been made visible.

“On the Windows client side on HTML5, a common question to the Help Desk was over password changes, with the user not knowing the criteria,” Fiss said. “It now indicates what criteria are required, to make it less complex.

“On the Azure integration side, which is becoming more common for us, we were requested to support Azure MFA, and we have done so,” Fiss added.