Wednesday, 20 August 2014 14:03

Parallels Desktop 10 improves performance, tweaks UI


The latest version of the widely-used Parallels Desktop virtualisation software for OS X provides a performance boost plus support for features of the latest versions of Apple's and Microsoft's operating systems.

Feedback from users led Parallels to focus on five areas for the new version of Parallels Desktop - performance, user experience and integration, Yosemite support, features to suit the developer and IT pro audience, and greater convenience for business customers - general manager of cross platform applications Eugenio Ferrante told iTWire.

Performance improvements include up to 30% longer battery life (important to the many MacBook users of Parallels Desktop), opening Windows documents 48% faster, and taking snapshots up to 60% faster. Changes also allow Office 2013 applications to open 50% faster with the default VM settings.

Program manager for cross platform solutions Aleksander Sursiakov said the new real-time VM optimisation was his favourite feature. When a file is deleted from a VM, the disk image automatically shrinks accordingly. This happens in the background, whereas in Desktop 9 it was a manual process.

Other performance-related changes include a reduction in image size of around 30%, a memory requirement that's up to 10% smaller, a default VM setting of two CPUs which allows most modern applications to run faster, and a 300% improvement in network latency for Linux guests.

The user experience improvements are generally about making Windows work more the way that Mac owners expect. For example, when Coherence view is used to allow individual Windows applications to appear on the Mac desktop rather than within a Windows window, the Windows 8 start screen is presented to match OS X's Launchpad application launcher.

Similarly, newly-installed Windows applications automatically appear in Launchpad, the number of unread emails in Outlook appear on its Dock icon, and iCloud Drive, Dropbox and Google Drive are all accessible from Office's Save As dialogs.

Mr Sursiakov drew attention to the new look Control Center that shows whether or not antivirus software is installed on Windows VMs (Parallels provides a special version of Kaspersky's AV software that has been optimised for VM use) and also includes a compact view to make life easier for people with lots of VMs.

PD10 Control Center

Page 2: More new features.

The installation wizard provides presets for a variety of uses (eg, games or design) and automatically displays the available installer sources (eg, USB sticks and ISO files). OS X's regional settings are automatically passed to Windows when the express installation option is selected.

The growing popularity of SSDs mean that many MacBooks have limited disk space, Mr Sursiakov observed. So when Desktop 10 creates a new VM it warns if there is insufficient space and provides a cleanup wizard to help reclaim space occupied by snapshots, resume and shutdown files, and so on.

Desktop 10 allows up to 16 CPUs and 64GB of RAM to be dedicated to one VM. Those resources must be available on the Mac (you can't allocate 16 CPUs on a quad-core system), and 'dedicated' means exactly that - while allocated to a VM, they are no longer available to OS X applications or to other VMs.

When a new external drive is connected, Desktop 10 provides a simple mechanism for attaching it to a particular virtual machine.

PD10 USB heads-up display

The new release makes use of various Yosemite capabilities, including iPhone dialling from Windows applications, the display of VM CPU and RAM usage in Notification Center, and content sharing from Windows applications (with the options corresponding to the content type). 'Fat' title bars with controls are used where appropriate.

A number of features address the requirements of enterprise and IT pro users:

Linked clones - which Mr Sursiakov described as "snapshots you can run" - allow the use of a basic OS image with several independent sets of data as a way of saving disk space.

A Vagrant provider is included in the Pro version, allowing Desktop 10 VMs to be set up via a command line interface and configuration files. (Vagrant is an open source, cross platform system for automatically provisioning virtual machines.)

Nested virtualisation is supported in Windows 8 (eg, to run the Windows Phone emulator) and Linux guests.

Virtual machines can be created from existing VHD and VMDK disk images, allowing the use of virtual appliances, for example.

Page 3: Enterprise edition.

The following features are restricted to the enterprise edition of Desktop 10.

The Control Center is customisable with a logo and text. This capability was requested by Parallel's university customers, Mr Sursiakov told iTWire.

NetBoot and FileVault are supported for OS X VMs.

VMs can be assigned an asset ID to help policy-based management tools.

USB devices policy allows administrators to determine which types of devices can be connected to a VM. For example, headset might be permitted while storage devices are forbidden.

The Licensing Portal (scheduled for Desktop 10 update 1, which is expected in the next few months) will allow administrators to reclaim and reassign licence keys among users or computers. For example, a school might want to allocate licences to all the students in one class for a term, and then reuse the same licences for a different class during the next term. Previously, such reassignments have been done via Parallel's support team rather than on a self-service basis, Mr Ferrante explained.

PD10 Licensing Portal

Parallels Desktop 10 will be available as an upgrade for existing customers from today, 20 August. Full licences will available online or as packaged products from 27 August (Australian time).

Prices are $89.95, or $54.95 for upgrades or the student edition. A three month subscription to Parallels Access (for controlling Macs or Windows PCs from iOS or Android devices) is included.

The enterprise edition is sold on a subscription basis, with prices starting at $109.95 ($54.95 for academic customers) per seat for a one-year licence. Two and three-year licences are available at a moderate discount. A minimum of five seats applies to the enterprise edition.

Parallels' usual 14-day free trial period applies to Desktop 10.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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