Parallels Alternatives - A Review

Last Updated:
April 11, 2024

Parallels Alternatives

Parallels™ software solutions allow businesses and individuals to access and use the applications and files they need on any device or operating system. Some Parallels solutions are intended for individual use, for example Parallels Desktop for Mac, which allows a user to run Windows® on a Mac®.

This article will focus on Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS) and Parallels alternative technologies that are built to deliver remote desktops to end users.

Parallels RAS is a VDI product delivering centrally hosted Windows desktops and apps to end users, who can access their desktop using a client installed on their machine or from an HTML5 browser. RAS can be installed on premises, in a private cloud, or on Microsoft® Azure®, Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop, and AWS®, and supports a wide range of hypervisors, including Microsoft Hyper-V®, Citrix® XenServer, VMware® ESXi™, and Nutanix™ AHV.

Parallels RAS uses Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) to enable end users to initiate and control an interactive session on a remote computer or virtual machine using a network or internet connection. So, in addition to Parallels licensing, organizations using Parallels RAS must also purchase Windows licenses and RDS-CALs.

Parallels Desktop Alternatives – VDI and DaaS

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops™ and Citrix DaaS

VDI products designed for medium-to-large enterprises that deliver applications or desktops to employees working anywhere. Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops can be used in a corporate data center or hosted on the cloud; Citrix DaaS is delivered as a service. Companies that deploy Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops in a public cloud find that Citrix duplicates infrastructure components and the security and scalability features already provided by cloud services, adding complexity and cost to the implementation.

Citrix technology relies on Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) to enable end users to initiate and control an interactive session on a remote computer or virtual machine using a network or internet connection. So, in addition to Citrix licensing, organizations using Citrix must also purchase Windows licenses and RDS-CALs.

Citrix has its own hypervisor, Citrix Hypervisor (formerly XenServer), and also supports VMware® vSphere, Microsoft SCVMM, and Nutanix Acropolis for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops.

Amazon® Workspaces

A fully managed desktop virtualization service for Windows, Linux, and Ubuntu®, that allows workers to access resources from any supported device using a browser or native client applications. For companies using Windows desktops on Amazon Workspaces, Microsoft licensing is included in the subscription; customers can also bring their own Windows 10 licenses if they meet Microsoft’s licensing requirements. Workspaces is available only on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

VMware Horizon/Horizon Cloud

A desktop and app VDI product for Windows, Linux, and macOS® that provides virtual desktop and app capabilities to end users. Horizon desktops include a desktop operating system – typically Windows – running within a virtual machine on a Microsoft Hyper-V® hypervisor from a Microsoft Remote Desktop Session Host. Multiple VMware software components are required in order to provide Horizon virtual desktops. Horizon utilizes RDS to deliver virtualized Windows desktop sand apps to end users, so in addition to Horizon licensing, customers must purchase Windows licenses and RDS-CALs for Windows desktops.

Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

One of the components of Windows that allows a user to initiate and control an interactive session on a remote computer or virtual machine over a network connection. RDS is Microsoft's implementation of thin client architecture, where Windows software, and the entire desktop of the computer running RDS, are made accessible to any remote client machine that supports Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). 


Parallels Alternatives – Cloud based Application Access for Customers or Employees

Amazon AppStream 2.0

A fully managed service which can be configured for application streaming or for delivery of virtual desktops with selective persistence. AppStream lets IT convert desktop applications to SaaS without reconfiguring. Customers that meet Microsoft’s license eligibility requirements can use the RDS Cals licenses they already own. Like Workspaces, AppStream 2.0 is available on AWS only.

Microsoft App-V

Provides application virtualization and application streaming capabilities to allow IT to run Win32 applications remotely and stream them to end users. App-V uses the Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor. Beginning with Windows 10, App-V is included in Windows 10 for Enterprise (version 1607). App-V sandboxes the execution environment for each app so that different versions of the same software can run concurrently, and mutually exclusive applications can safely co-exist on the same user system. App-V runs on Windows and thus requires customers to purchase RDS-CALs in addition to Windows licenses.


An application publishing solution providing multi-user cloud-based access to Windows applications from any location, device, and operating system. GO-Global uses a client-server architecture and thus does not need a hypervisor to make applications available to remote users. Unlike most of the remote access products described above that leverage RDS, GO-Global fully replaces the Microsoft functionality including multi-session kernel, Remote Desktop clients, display driver, protocol, internet gateway and management tools.

See the chart below for more details on the products listed above.

Comparison of Parallels Alternatives

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