Review: Parallels Brings True Virtualization To Macs


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The Macintosh platform just got a shot in the arm with the release of Parallels Desktop for Mac software from Herndon, Va.-based Parallels, which brings true virtualization to Mac computers based on Intel processors.

The ability to run multiple operating systems on Mac mini and iMac desktops and MacBook Pro laptops can fuel the adoption of Mac systems throughout the enterprise and create opportunities for Apple partners that never existed before. Several elements come into play when one considers what virtualization on Intel Macs really means.

By design, the Intel processors in Mac systems are engineered to leverage virtualization. All Intel Macs support Intel Virtualization technology, which allows the Parallels desktop to run in hypervisor mode. That translates to stability and speed not normally experienced on a virtual environment.

Solution providers can turn to an implementation model that consists of an Intel Mac running Mac OS X as the primary application, with a virtual session running Windows XP concurrently. That will allow businesses to perform an orderly transition to new hardware, along with a new operating system, without giving up backward compatibility and having to immediately dispose of legacy applications.

What's more, integrators can bring other operating systems into the equation, such as Linux, BeOS or BSD, for a transition to those platforms or to run specialized applications.

Using the beta version of Parallels, CRN Test Center engineers found the product to be very stable with Windows XP as a virtual addition. The speed of the virtual PC was more than adequate and proved that a hypervisor-powered virtual machine gives up little in performance. Parallels includes several capabilities that help to make the transition a lot smoother.

For instance, users will find the ability to drag and drop files between Windows and OS X a powerful capability. A virtual drive compressor--called Parallels Compressor Technology--allows users to shrink virtual drives to the minimum size needed. That proves to be a real drive space saver. Another nifty trick is the product's ability to run a virtual machine on a second monitor in full-screen mode, which enables users to truly have two operating systems at their fingertips at all times.

Beyond the technical prowess of the Mac/Parallels/Intel marriage are other market-driven factors that will make the combo attractive.

Enterprises, for example, are readying for the eventual release of Windows Vista, Microsoft's oft-delayed, next-generation desktop operating system. Part of that preparation includes upgrading or purchasing new hardware, implementing employee training programs, planning for large-scale PC deployments and updates to applications. All of that can prove to be an expensive endeavor, especially when one considers that the main payoff will come in the form of security, not features.

The question, then, is this: If a company has to retrain users and replace hardware, why not try something different that could end up being less expensive and easy to use and is available now?

Parallels Desktop for Mac, which shipped Thursday, carries a retail price of $79.99.

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