Parallels is gearing up to bring virtualisation to high-end workstations by tying up with HP and Intel to deliver a virtualised workstation that, Parallels claims, will provide near-native performance

Bryan Goode, vice president of business development at Parallels said that the new offering, Parallels Workstation Extreme,  was aimed at users of resource-intensive applications within such fields as oil and gas, manufacturing and the creative industries.

He said that while virtualisation was beginning to make its way into the workplace, most of the effort had been expended on virtualising servers and hasn't touched the workstation market yet. He said that typically engineers would have three or four workstations working under their desk.

"For example," he said, "they could have a Linux workstation for design, a Unix workstation for testing and so on. It's an expensive way to keep your legs warm." And, he said, it wasn't just about an excessive use of workstations. "When you have three workstations, it's hard to move large volumes from one machine to another and co-ordinate workflow," he added.

He said that by using the Parallels software that's been bundled with the HP Z800 workstations, engineers would be able to do away with their surplus workstations. He said that it was now time for virtualisation to enter the workstation space> "It's an area that's been ignored by vendors - VMware doesn't focus on the engineers and workstation - and there were problems running graphics on virtual machines."

Parallels has adopted a technology from Intel called Virtualisation Technology for Directed I/O (VTD) that will improve the handling of virtualised applications, providing near native performance for intensive applications. Wes Shimanek strategic market manager for technical computing at Intel said that the improvement was marked.

"There was an application from Schlumberger used in the oil and gas industry that would run at one frame per 50 seconds, that's clearly unacceptable. By using VTD, we could improve that to 30 frames a second - a massive improvement in performance."

Goode said that there were a couple of other technologies that would boost workstation virtualisation. "We've introduced something called adaptive hypervisor that basically will take a look at what's actually running. It will see what particular window a user is working in and the software will prioritise things in that window - reacting to what the users does. That's a facility that's just not possible with server virtualisation.
The bundled HP and Parallels workstation is available worldwide immediately

"I believe the time is right for virtualisation on workstations," said Goode. "It's an exciting spot to be in right now."