There's a new kid on the virtualisation block. Parallels, a privately held, US-based software company has launched its first virtualisation tool, Parallels Workstation, and plans to produce a server version by the start of next year.

The Russian-developed software competes directly with VMware Workstation and Microsoft Virtual PC, although marketing manager Benjamin Rudolph said that the product has three differentiators. Firstly, it is cheaper, the workstation version selling for $99. Rudolph said this compared to $189 for the VMware equivalent.

It is also claimed to support a wide range of OSes, both guest and host. As well as Windows 2000 (all versions), 2003 Server and XP, host OSes include most Linux versions based on the 2.6 kernel, according to Rudolph. It supports FreeBSD and is "very strong on legacy support", such as OS/2.

The final benefit is its ease of use, said Rudolph. "It has a small footprint, and is quick to download and install. To create a virtual machine, there's a simple VM creation wizard," he said. "Version 2.0 [of Workstation] is our current rev and 3.0 is out in 2006. It will be faster, offer more OS support, and include features such as 64-bit and [Intel] VT support."

Parallels Server is for IT managers to maximise hardware usage. "It will be tailored for the server environment. It's still in development, but we'll be able to release more technology data in the next couple of months."

There will also be an Enterprise Server version in 2006, which will be able to manage VMs across multiple hardware instances, in much the same manner as existing enterprise-level virtualisation tools.