In February 2x Software was acquired by Parallels. Reborn has risen like a Phoenix in to what is slowly becoming virtualization powerhouse. Parallels 2X Remote Application Server has become a a very interesting product.
In about a month, support for Windows Server 2003 is about to end. Reason, why this is important is because there are still many companies who are using a combination of W2k3 and Citrix Presentation Server.
Yesterday I was on the phone with a friend who is IT Manager for a local company. He is in a strange situation. He has to upgrade all remaining servers to a supported Windows server version. Part of migration is also terminal services farm that is used for Citrix to deliver apps to remote locations.
They only have 75 remote users and pricing they received from Citrix was astonishing. With Citrix, when you upgrade, price is calculated from the day you made a purchase until the day you upgrade. Every day you postpone, price rises.
For 75 licences price was $19.500,00. That is a lot of money to serve 75 users, and you have to consider remote desktop licences which you have to buy as well. The only natural thing to do, is to find an alternative that would have the same features, yet be more affordable.
Second problem that he would face if he decides to walk the Citrix path is that migration is not very easy. In most cases, you a need a Citrix professional who installs and configures farm, universal printing, scanning and so on. This is additional cost you have to consider when calculating the upgrade.
Parallels 2X RAS to the rescue
Parallels 2x RAS is a very interesting beast. First thing you will notice when looking at the product is pricing. Let’s face it, in the recent years pricing has become more important and IT was the first to face reduced budgets.
Second thing you will notice when looking at the product is that there is only one edition. With Citrix you have to compare various editions to find the one you need, often you have to make compromise between the cost and features. Parallels 2x RemoteApplication server is not limited with editions and includes all the features.
Third thing you will notice as soon you install Parallels 2x RAS is how easy it is to configure. I mean seriously in 15 minutes, you are up and running. And I am not referring to “2X Professionals”. As soon you click on install, you become a professional.
Reason is pretty simple. It was built with usability in mind. All the features and options are logical, on the places you expect them to be and most importantly, it was tested with humans. Or so it seems.
Have you ever tried to update Citrix Xen App? Well, this functionality is built inside the 2X RAS console. One of the main benefit if you ask me. Just go to Administration, Software update and that’s it.
As for features don’t fear. Paralles 2x RAS has got you covered. Not only does it has support for VDI, you can also reuse old PC’s. For example, any old Windows XP computers that are still in use can easily convert to thin clients. Parallels RAS installs special secure shell on top of Windows which makes them secure and immune to viruses. The same computers can be then used to run remote applications, or both. Local and remote, depending on your situation.
The best thing about the hybrid solution is that you can centrally manage and define the policy, extend life time of devices.
Universal printing and Scanning, both take some time to set up on Citrix, but you should know that two features are both installed automatically for you with RAS installation. There is no complicated configuration involved.
Printing was a big problem in the past, not so with 2X universal printing. You can use any printer and users will love the fact that the whole printing process works like it should and are able to scan documents without any problem, even if the program is installed and run on the remote server and scanner is being used on their table. Hm, wait a minute, they won’t even think about this as the feature works as advertised.
High Availability Load Balancing – HALB in short is a very simple way to set up resource based load balancing and high availability. The way RAS implemented HALB is very interesting, you download a virtual appliance and import it in your virtual infrastructure. You don’t have to configure anything on appliance as it’s managed by the easy to use Application Server Console. The way it’s implemented eliminates the hurdles of setting up Microsoft Session Directory Services. Advantage of appliance is that connections are distributed based on the workload.
Beauty and the beast
Configuration and set up is simple. What about extending the farm? Let’s say that you set up one server. You need to add another server and create a farm. Again, I hate to repeat my self, the process is very simple. All you have to do is to install a new Windows server, set up Remote desktop role, install Parallels 2x RAS, add it to the farm and voila. Again, when you need to add another server you repeat the process and you expand in no time. If you are running virtual infrastructure that’s even faster as you just create a new server from template and the whole process takes around 5 minutes.
Once you have your RAS up and running, you can set up reporting and monitoring which will give you insight in to whole operation. Monitoring user activity, monitor server performance and group activity. As for reporting you can set up automated reporting. You can easily see which users are over-utilizing their sessions.
Some readers would be interested in one feature which was not yet mentioned. Shadowing. Shadowing is built in RAS and you can shadow and troubleshoot user sessions when they stumble on a problem.
I don’t know how we got used to the thought that support is only available via online publications like forums and FAQ sites. In some cases you have to pay additional money to get in touch with support to solve your problem. With Parallels RAS, you get direct access to support. And that is a great benefit.
Perception is that Citrix is the only provider for Application delivery. But things are changing. Technology is advancing. Competition is advancing and even innovating. I am not saying that Citrix is bad nor that they have a crappy product. What I would like to point out, is that there is an alternative and a good one. Before you spend your money, check Parallels RAS, it may surprise you how much money you will save, how much money you will save with maintenance and how much time you ‘ll save. But I do understand that some companies are and will be using Citrix for what ever reason. And that is fine. But some companies will try and love Parallels 2x RAS.