Product Review: Parallels Remote Application Server

Product: Parallels Remote Application Server

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At one time, nearly everyone used PCs for business. Today however, users work from a huge variety of devices. Because each device type has its own operating system, CPU architecture, and hardware configuration, application compatibility has become a major issue. An application that is designed for a PC for example, will not natively run on iOS.

Parallels is seeking to address this and other concerns through its Remote Application Server. Parallels Remote Application Server combines aspects of VDI and RDSH to virtualize applications in a way that allows those applications to be used from a variety of devices.


I began my evaluation by visiting the Parallels Web site to download a trial version of the software. In doing so, I discovered that there are actually a lot of different files available. Fortunately, Parallels keeps the file list relatively well organized. The site recommends starting out by downloading the core server components (the Parallels Remote Application Server and the Parallels Remote Application Server Portal). Next, you will need to download the clients. Clients are available for Windows, Windows Phone, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and Chrome. These clients should collectively allow access from just about any device. Step 3 is to download optional server components. These include the reporting service, the high availability load balancing appliance, the VDI agent appliance, and the remote application server portal sample. For the purposes of this review, I decided to focus my evaluation on the core server components and Web portal.

The installation of the Parallels Remote Application Server was relatively straightforward, and was based on a standard Setup wizard. The wizard does offer the choice of performing a basic installation or a custom installation. The figure below shows the various components that you can choose to install if you go with the custom installation option.

These are the default selections if you choose the custom installation option.

As you work through the installation process, the setup wizard informs you that all traffic will be tunneled through Port 80, and that you must make sure that your Web server is configured to use Port 81. This wasn’t really a surprise, but I appreciated the fact that Setup not only warned me, but also took the extra step of showing me which ports were currently in use on my server. Furthermore, Setup offers to automatically configure the firewall rules for you. I love the fact that Parallels has been proactive in taking steps up front to help ensure their customers a successful deployment.

One thing that I did not like however, was that after Setup completes and you log into the console, you are forced to register a Parallels Business Account. I will give Parallels credit for making this process relatively painless, but I have had to complete similar registrations for other products that I have reviewed, and registering those accounts has previously resulted in unwanted sales calls.

The Configuration Process

After registering an account and logging into the Parallels Remote Application Server Console, I was presented with the screen shown below. I was glad to see that the console defaulted to displaying a Start container, with the Add Terminal Servers option selected. This left absolutely no doubt as to what I needed to do first.

This is the default console display.

As I worked through the process of adding my terminal server to the Parallels Remote Application Server console, I found that Parallels had really put some extra effort into making the process go as smoothly as possible. Adding a terminal server to the console essentially consists of deploying an agent to the terminal server. If you look at the figure below however, you can see that Parallels gives you the option to automatically deploy RDS on the remote server, configure its firewall rules, and even reboot the server if needed.

Parallels has put a lot of extra effort into the agent deployment process.

I also found the application publishing process to be very simple and straightforward. In fact, publishing an application involves little more than clicking on the Publish Application icon, and then selecting the application from a list, as shown below. After publishing an application, there is another simple wizard that you can use to send users an E-mail message inviting them to use the application.

Parallels makes it easy to choose the applications that you want to publish.

Even though Parallels makes it super simple to get up and running, and to publish an application, that does not mean that the Parallels Remote Application Server Console is light on features. The console provides all of the features that you would expect in a remote application publishing solution. If you look at the figure below for example, you can see that there are a number of different tabs that you can use to retrieve information or to make configuration changes to published applications. You can also see that Parallels provides icons that allow you to configure other important functionality such as printer and scanner redirection, load balancing, and reporting

The End User Experience

Parallels provides a desktop client component and a Web client. Those who wish to try out the Web client can do so by visiting the Parallels Web site and clicking on the Live Demo link. You can see what the live demo environment looks like in the figure below.

Parallels lets you try out the end user experience in its live demo environment.

As you can see in the figure above, applications appear within a window, and look exactly the same as they would if they had been run on a standalone computer. In the case of the Web client, the application windows can be moved around, but cannot be moved outside of the confines of the browser window (which I would expect).

As you look at the figure above, you might have also noticed that there is an icon labeled Test Desktop. Clicking on this icon allows you to explore Parallels’ VDI capabilities, as shown below.

The Parallels software can be used to manage virtual desktops.

I don’t have virtual desktop capabilities on my lab network, but you can see the option to add VDI hosts to the Parallels Remote Application Server Console in the figure below.

You can add VDI hosts to the console.

Future Versions

Parallels has defined four key design goals for future versions of its software. These goals include scalability and performance improvements, VDI and multi-tenancy, Application streaming and containerization, and user profile management. Within the next year, Parallels intends to focus on improving scalability and stability for large deployments, enabling more comprehensive AWS and Azure integration, and further improving the end user experience on mobile devices. With the immediate future in mind, the next iteration of Parallels RAS blends the user interface of Parallels Access with the power of the Android and iOS Parallels Clients. This combination aims to provide mobile users with the best mobile experience available on the market while improving on the already robust feature set of the Parallels Client.

The Verdict

When I write a review for this site, it has become customary to assign the product a numerical star rating ranging from zero to five, with five stars being the highest possible score. I decided to give Parallels Remote Application Server a score of 4.9, which is a gold star award.

While working with the software, I found it to be extremely easy to use, and very well thought out. Ease of use and remote application hosting are terms that aren’t often used together, but Parallels has done an excellent job of making the software completely intuitive. In fact, throughout the evaluation process I never once looked at the documentation.

The other thing that I liked was that Parallels consistently put extra effort into ensuring that their customers have a good experience by providing options like automatically deploying RDS if necessary, and automatically configuring firewall rules. The only thing that I didn’t like about the software was the requirement to register an account with Parallels. Of course the requirement for such an account is my personal pet peeve, and probably won’t be a deal breaker for most people. Rating 4.9/5


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