Q

VMware for Mac virtualization?

Will VMware dominate the Mac virtualization scene as well? Parallels was first, but according to our expert, that may not mean Parallels will reign supreme. Read this expert advice for his take on which vendor will come out on top.

Do you think VMware will be able to compete with Parallels for Mac virtualization? Parallels seems like a pretty neat tool.

This is an interesting topic as there is hardly a day that goes by that someone does not ask me about Parallels vs. VMware. VMware is still the company when it comes to virtualization, but Parallels was first-to-market and that is a very powerful position to have. However, VMware Fusion for Mac (the VMware Workstation product for Mac) is in beta and it would be a mistake to ignore it.

Let's take a look at some of the key points and features with regards to both products:

  1. Price
  2. Mobility
  3. Enterprise
  4. Time-to-Market
  5. Guest OS (operating system) support

Price
Parallels for Mac currently retails for $79.99. There is no word yet on what VMware Fusion for Mac will cost, therefore we can only proceed with what we know. We know that VMware Workstation costs $189.00. And we know that VMware Workstation costs $189.00 even though Parallel has a workstation product for PCs that costs almost 1/4 that at $49.99. Just because VMware Workstation costs almost four times as much as Parallel Workstation for PCs, it does not mean that VMware Fusion will. VMware has to take into account the users already entrenched with Parallels since Parallels was first-to-market, and hence VMware may offer Fusion at a drastically more competitive price than its PC counterpart.

This is all speculation, but it does seem likely. The reality is that Parallels has a history of pricing the products to be far more affordable than VMware. When it comes to Fusion, only time will tell.

Mobility
Mobility is defined by how easy it easy to move a VM between hosts. Parallels VMs are mobile between all hosts that run Parallel's software. VMware VMs are tagged with generational qualifiers and can only move between hosts that support that VMs generation. Fusion mobility is documented in the Fusion getting started guide.

Although it is necessary to pay more attention to a VMs mobility when it comes to VMware, VMware VMs are more mobile because they can be moved from a desktop virtualization solution to an enterprise virtualization solution with ease. This is a feature that Parallels does not offer yet as they have no enterprise virtualization solution. However, if Parallels were to come out with a server product and retain their promise of copying a VM to any Parallels enabled computer then VMware would have something to watch out for.

Enterprise
It is key to remember that Parallels does in fact not offer an ESX-type, enterprise product. Because of this, many shops that use ESX will trend towards using VMware Fusion simply for the ability to maintain a single vendor, and the ability to move their VMs (virtual machines) from their workstations to their servers.

Time-to-market
One area that Parallels has hands-down been stomping VMware in is the time it takes to get new features to market. Parallels for Mac was announced on April 6th, 2006. Since then Parallels has released updates for this product on May 31, 2006, Auguest 8th, 2006, September 7th, 2006, September 28th, 2006, and January 11th, 2007. That's five updates to a product in just a little over eight months. In the same amount of time VMware has only released one public beta of VMware Fusion. In a market that is as hot and fast as virtualizatoin, Parallels clearly has a better track record of getting products out the door to more quickly meet their customers' demands.

Guest OS (operating system) support
Parallels Desktop for Mac supports 22 Microsoft Windows OSes, 22 Linux OSes, four FressBSD OSes, five OS/2 and eComStation OSes, two Solaris OSes, and one MS-DOS OS (http://www.parallels.com/products/desktop/os). VMware Fusion supports two Microsoft Windows OSes and three Linux OSes (http://www.parallels.com/products/desktop/os/). I am positive that Fusion supports more than VMware lists, but based on spec sheets alone, Parallels comes out on top.

There are several other features that both Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion will eventually possess that both undoubtedly have that set them a part from one another. Feature speculation aside, how is raw performance between the two? Unfortunately, I have not ever compiled benchmarks comparing Parallels Desktop for Mac to VMware Fusion, but I may do so in the future.

In summary, both Parallels and VMware have a lot going for them in the Mac virtualization market. Parallels is the current leader, and VMware Fusion is poised to attempt a turnover. However, being in 2nd place is not something VMware is used to, so we will see how they handle jockying for position. For now, use Parallels. A few months from now, who knows?

This was first published in January 2007
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