Parallels retools, renames Windows/Linux virtualization app

Claims some apps will run eight times faster on new version

Parallels Inc. today released a new version of its Windows/Linux desktop virtualization software, saying it should be able to run some applications as much as eight times faster than its prior version.

Parallels is perhaps best known for its Parallels Desktop for Mac application, which lets users run Windows software on Mac computers, but it has several other similar products.

One is Parallels Workstation 2.2, which let users create Windows or Linux virtual machines and run them as "guests" on top of Windows, Linux or Mac OS X computers.

The new Windows/Linux desktop virtualization software, Parallels Desktop 4 for Windows and Linux, is an upgrade to Workstation 2.2, which was released almost three years ago.

According to David Abramowski, director of enterprise product marketing at Parallels, the new version uses the FastLane virtualization engine in its popular Mac virtualization app for better performance -- as much as eight times faster for some applications.

All told, there are 68 new features, according to Abramowski. He said standouts include the following:

  • The ability to simulate complex, powerful PCs as virtual machines that can have up to eight virtual CPUs, 8GB of virtual RAM, 2TB virtual hard drives and 16 network interfaces.
  • A number of virtualization tools, such as Parallels Transporter, that help convert physical operating system environments or third-party virtual machines into ones that work on Parallels Desktop.
  • The ability to run 64-bit guests on top of 32-bit hardware, a feature designed for developers focused on testing.

The software is designed for developers and business users. It requires PCs equipped with hardware virtualization technology -- that is, CPUs possessing Intel's VT-X or the AMD-V technology.

Operating systems that are supported as guests include Windows (from 2000 to all flavors of Vista and Windows 7), and Linux distributions, such as Debian, Fedora, Mandriva, OpenSSUE, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 and Ubuntu, Abramowski said.

The new software costs more than its predecessor: Parallels Desktop 4.0 for Windows and Linux lists for $79.99 per computer, versus $49.99 for Version 2.2. That's cheaper than VMware Inc.'s Workstation product ($189) and about the same as Oracle Inc.'s Sun VirtualBox 3.0 ($30 per user per year for the commercial version) but more expensive than the free XP Mode virtualization in Windows 7, Abramowski points out.

Parallels Desktop will run faster than Windows 7's virtual XP Mode, and it will support many more guest operating systems beyond Windows XP, Abramowski said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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