VMWare Horizon View vs Parallels Remote Application Server

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VMWare Horizon View vs Parallels Remote Application ServerIntroduction

VMware Horizon View is mainly virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) management software. Version 6 in best deployment can also support virtual applications and remote desktop sessions from Windows Server 2012. It still requires a hypervisor solution to connect to, store and retrieve base machines and their clones (virtual desktops).

Version 6.0 comes with many improvements, the most important being remote desktop session support and application publishing. The installation, configuration and maintenance of the solution are quite complex.

Therefore the main use of VMware Horizon View is to connect to hypervisors, and to use virtual machines from the hypervisor as base images from which to create virtual desktops (clones) and manage who can connect or not.

Installation, Setup & Hypervisor Support

VMware Horizon View

VMware Horizon View can be installed via normal MSI on a Windows server as long as it is part of an Active Directory (this is a requirement). The installation is very straightforward but only provides basic functionality. For example, if you require other features such as:

    • Ability to update the base machine so that all the clones are automatically updated (for example, with Windows update or updated software) – an additional server called View Composer has to be installed on a standalone server.
    • Allow users to connect over the internet using a secure port – an additional server called Secure Server has to be installed on a standalone server.

Further Requirements & Manual Setup

Each of the VMware Horizon View components requires additional components, some of them also requiring manual setup. For example:

    • Composer Server requires an MS SQL database and native SQL driver installed, and a system DSN has to be manually set up.
    • Persona Management Server (which provides persistent, dynamic user profiles across user sessions on different desktops) requires an MS SQL database as well as a File and Print Server to function.

Parallels Remote Application Server

Parallels Remote Application Server is very easy to install by running a normal MSI file installation, and does not have any additional requirements. Once installed, the administrator can easily add a hypervisor of choice by following a simple wizard. Documentation on how to add hypervisors and which ones are supported is available here.

Parallels Remote Application Server can be installed on both Active Directory networks and standalone machines / servers that use local authentication.

Feature Comparison

Hypervisors Supported

VMware Horizon View
VMware Horizon View supports VMware’s hypervisors, some functionality of WS2012, and Citrix.

Parallels Remote Application Server
Parallels Remote Application Server fully supports the main hypervisors – VMware, Citrix and Hyper-V – thus giving administrators a wider choice of software to use.

Multiple Hypervisors
Similarly to Parallels Remote Application Server, VMware Horizon View can connect to multiple hypervisor servers (as long as they are VMware) and manage VDIs running on multiple servers.

High Availability

Both VMware Horizon View and Parallels Remote Application Server infrastructures support multiple servers to ensure high availability.

However, in a VMware Horizon View network additional servers have to be added manually (going through an identical installation procedure as the original one), whereas in a Parallels Remote Application Server network servers can be added remotely through an easy-to-follow wizard.

Load Balancing

An out-of-the-box installation of Parallels Remote Application Server has an enabled and preconfigured load balancer. Administrators can also choose from two different load balancing methods.

To enable load balancing when using VMware Horizon View, administrators have to set up and manually configure a separate appliance on the hypervisor, or use third party tools.

Publishing Of Applications

VMware Horizon View can publish applications and virtual and remote desktops from multiple hypervisors. However, the basic package offers the possibility to publish only through ThinApp.

Parallels Remote Application Server can be used to publish applications and virtual and remote desktops from all virtual machines running on the main hypervisors – Citrix, VMware and Hyper-V – without any limitations.

Keeping Virtual Desktops Up To Date

In Parallels Remote Application Server, administrators can apply security patches and update software on the base image, and the newly generated clones will be updated automatically.

In a standard VMware Horizon View installation, administrators have to update every virtual desktop manually, or alternatively create a new base image and recreate and reconfigure all the cloning rules. Alternatively, they can purchase an additional component (Composer Server) to allow them to update all clones automatically.

Wider Variety Of Virtual Desktops

Both Parallels  Remote Application Server and VMware Horizon View can generate clones from Windows 7 and 8 operating systems.

Administrators can also use Parallels Remote Application Server to generate virtual desktops from Windows XP,Vista, 7 and 8.

Managing & Filtering Access To Virtual Hosts

Managing And Grouping
Similarly to Parallels Remote Application Server, VMware Horizon View also supports pools, which offer administrators more flexibility when implementing a large number of VDIs in an organization.

Filtering Access
With VMware Horizon View, administrators can only filter access to a virtual guest or a number of virtual guests by Active Directory usernames and groups.
Parallels Remote Application Server allows administrators to filter access to virtual guests by username, group, IP address, MAC address, gateway and client used, thus offering more flexibility.

Security
Both VMware Horizon View and Parallels Remote Application Server can be integrated with two-factor authentication servers for improved security and protection of published resources.

Ease Of Use & Centralization

VMware Horizon View
A complete VMware Horizon View setup can be very difficult and may prove to be a lengthy process, because of the list of requirements and the different additional components needed.
Setting up virtual desktops can also be a very complicated and lengthy process. For example, the administrator has to take a snapshot of the master image on the hypervisor, and then from the VMware Horizon View configuration console has to configure the VDI’s options via a tedious wizard.

Parallels Remote Application Server
Configuration of clones on a Parallels Remote Application Server is very easy: administrators use a centralized location (Parallels Application Server Console) and can follow a 3 step wizard.

Client Software, Shadowing & Client Management

Client Software

Both VMware Horizon View and Parallels Remote Application Server published resources can be accessed over a web interface with SSL enabled. Both solutions have clients on OS, Android, Mac OS X, Linux, Windows, Windows Store and HTML Access. However, there are a number of differences between the two products:

VMware Horizon View Disadvantages

  • It is not possible to print from mobile devices such as iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
  • There is no Client for Chromebook; users have to access through HTLM5 browsers.
  • The administrator has to configure each Client manually to be able to connect to published resources.

Parallels Remote Application Server Advantages

  • Parallels Remote Application Server provides the unique possibility to print from mobile devices such as iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
  • The speed and reliability of the Chromebook Client allows the user to have a seamless experience even on this innovative OS.
  • Configuration of Clients is automatic; no further configuration is required once downloaded.

Helpdesk Support Shadowing

Shadowing is a cool feature that allows an administrator to work and simultaneously control remotely the desktop of an end user. Usually, in an RDS and VDI environment this is limited to the remote session and not to the workstation. If the end user has issues outside the RDS or VDI session, traditionally they cannot be solved using the shadowing concept.

Session shadowing enables a given user session to be displayed in real time on an administrator’s workstation. This functionality can be used either for troubleshooting purposes or to watch a user’s activities to confirm suspected misuse.

VMware Horizon View Disadvantages

VMware Horizon View does not have a shadowing solution to support the IT manager in troubleshooting. It is possible to use the WS2012 shadowing solution but the configuration is quite complex and limited to the remote session.

Parallels Advantages
Shadowing is easy with Parallels Remote Application Server. The feature is installed and ready to use from the very beginning, without complex and specific configuration. However, the intuitive and easy management is not the main differentiator. Parallels RAS shadowing allows complete control not only of the remote desktop session, but of the entire workstation. IT helpdesk and support have never been easier: helpdesk agents can support the end user completely, from their own desktops.

Client Management

VMware Horizon View Disadvantages
With the standard edition, there is no possibility to manage the client at any level. With the superior and more expensive editions, it is possible to manage the images, but not the full desktop. Therefore, an administrator has to check the connections on each server individually, rather than from a centralized location.

Parallels Advantages

  • Parallels Remote Application Server allows administrators to find out who is connected via a central location, the Parallels Remote Application Server console.
  • Administrators can also preconfigure the Parallels Agent and fully manage thin clients (including the hardware used, pre-installed software etc.)
  • Parallels RAS converts Windows XP workstations into secure thin clients.*
  • Parallels RAS can fully manage the end user’s desktop, configurations, logoff, shutdown, and reboot. For Windows workstations from XP to 8.1.

*Extend Life Of Legacy OS
Parallels Remote Application Server prolongs the life of your Windows XP PCs.Parallels technology replaces the shell and transforms XP PCs into secure thin clients. The converted PC is completely managed through the Parallels RAS console. The IT Administrator can limit the functionality locally, to reduce the risk of using an outdated OS.

User Access / Accessing Published Resources & Virtual Desktops

Users can use native clients or the HTML5 portal on both Parallels Remote Application Server and VMware Horizon View to access the published portal.

Parallels Remote Application Server Advantage
The HTML5 portal is available in an out-of-the-box installation of Parallels Remote Application Server. (To enable the HTML5 portal on VMware Horizon View, administrators have to install and configure an additional plugin / software called VMware Horizon View HTML Access.)

Pricing

Parallels Remote Application Server pricing is very straightforward. You only pay for the number of users and all features are included in the price.

VMware Horizon View licensing and pricing are very complicated. You have to decide which edition to use (including different features) and the packages allow 10 users each. You must purchase VMware Horizon Enterprise at a cost per user of about USD 765 to benefit from features comparable to those of Parallels Remote Application Server. The Parallels solution offers better performance and features at a fraction of the cost.

Unique VMware Horizon View Features

Windows Firewall
Upon installing a VMware Horizon View component, the installation asks you if it can automatically configure the firewall to allow all required connections (easy to set up).

Web Based Configuration
VMware Horizon View configuration is web based, so can be accessed easily from everywhere. (To ‘emulate’ the same behaviour, the Parallels Application Server Console can be published as an application and accessed via an HTML5 browser.)

Specific Windows Features For Virtual Desktops
For example, VMware Horizon View allows administrators to configure specific storage for Windows users’ profiles. Therefore each time a user accesses any machine, he or she can have the same profile.

Active Directory Support
Since VMware Horizon View operates on Active Directory, newly created clones can be configured to be added automatically to a specific Active Directory OU (Organizational Unit). This allows administrators to manage such machines better, for instance by creating specific Group Policies for virtual desktops.

Unique Parallels Remote Application Server Features

Backup
The Parallels Remote Application Server configuration can be easily backed up from the console with the click of a button. There is no such automated solution for VMware Horizon View; administrators have to follow long procedures to manually back it up.

Secure Access
To be able to easily and securely provide desktops over a single secure port (so as not to have problems with firewalls) with VMware Horizon View, administrators have to manually install a Security Server from VMware. In a Parallels Remote Application Server installation, administrators can remotely install a gateway with the click of a button.

Scanning
Scanning is not supported in VMware Horizon View virtual desktops: it is done via normal redirection, thus introducing a lot of driver problems. Parallels Remote Application Server has a built-in universal scanning service which allows users to scan documents using Twain supported scanners.

Access To Published Resources Through HTML5
Parallels Remote Application Server also has an HTML5 portal, from where users can access published resources using a web browser, such as Google Chrome or Firefox. Therefore users do not have to install any native client and can stream the published resource over an HTTP connection.

Conclusion

VMware Horizon View Version 6 includes several improvements, to add RDS and application virtualization services at the VDI. It relies heavily on Windows Server 2012 for solution completeness. Parallels Remote Application Server is a full-blown virtual desktop and application delivery solution, which offers an outstanding experience for VDI, Remote Desktop and Application Virtualization.

As a VDI management tool, VMware Horizon View is very difficult to set up, configure and use, even though it was originally created as a dedicated VDI management solution. It has a number of shortcomings when compared to the Parallels Remote Application Server VDI module. An out-of-the-box installation of VMware Horizon View is very limited in terms of functionality, requiring installation of add-ons (some of which have to be paid for) to provide basic functionality, such as allowing administrators to automatically apply security patches and software updates to the clones via the master virtual desktop image.

References:

TechTarget : http://searchvmware.techtarget.com/definition/VMware-Horizon-View

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VMware_Horizon_View

Sean Bianco is the marketing documentalist and technical writer at Parallels. With a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and Networking and a three year background in software quality assurance testing and usability engineering, Sean is a subject matter expert in mobility and smartphone, app and device management. He is well-versed in developing technical articles and determining market trends. His excellent analytical and problem-solving skills, with emphasis on understanding relationships between technical problems, result in sound and effective business solutions.