At the recent Macworld / iWorld Expo, Appletell stopped by several booths that featured interesting products. Some were longtime pillars of Macworld with updates to established products, many were new companies showing innovative and exciting product for the first time, and a few featured accessories, apps, and products we didn’t even know we needed before we hit the Moscone West show floor. Seen @ Macworld is our feature hosting the buzz from the show floor, as well as details of our conversations with the makers, inventors, and companies whose products were on display.
Although they weren’t on the main show floor, Parallels was at the MacIT conference just one floor up, where IT professionals come to learn about new products and features targeted at the corporate IT crowd (nary an iPhone case was in sight). The Appletell team got a demonstration of two of Parallels’ latest products: the Parallels Management Suite for SCCM (Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager), which allows corporate IT departments to discover, manage, and secure Macs connected to their network utilizing their additional investments in Microsoft server management tools, and the Parallels Mobile app, which provides remote access to virtual machines.
Snap It On
Many large organizations have significant investments in Microsoft’s management tools including SCCM, which allows them to inventory devices attached to their networks, gather information like patch level and installed software, and push updates/corporate policy settings to those devices. Macs don’t exactly play nicely with SCCM (it was originally designed to manage Windows-only networks), but the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) means many corporate IT departments find themselves supporting Macs even if they don’t have the tools required to do that job. Worse yet, limited budgets may make new tools impossible.
The Parallels Management suite provides an SCCM plug-in that bridges the divide between SCCM and the Mac, offering administrators the ability to discover Macs connected to the network, query those Macs for compliance with organizational policy (like whether you’re using a password-protected screen saver or not), and deploy software, settings, and programs to these connected Macs to provide corporate-standard applications and security settings.
Using the SCCM plug-in, administrators can perform a number of crucial tasks for Macs from SCCM 2007 or 2012, including:
- Discovery: The SCCM plug-in can scan the network and report any Macs connected. New Macs found can be profiled and configured to match corporate standards, if needed, while existing machines’ profiles can be searched to determine current software levels deployed, hardware versions, and devices installed or attached.
- Deploy Configuration Profiles: The equivalent of Windows Group Policies, configuration profiles let admins push a bundle of settings, such as password complexity, energy saver settings, or even use of FileVault disk encryption. Macs are typically a compliance nightmare due to their lack of centralized admin tools, so being able to enforce compliance from within a single tool is a big efficiency boost.
- Deploy customized Parallels virtual disks: If your employees are bringing Macs but still need to run Windows apps, the SCCM plug-in can push a customized Parallels virtual machine out to your Mac users. As simply another Windows endpoint, it can be managed via traditional SCCM, while your host Mac and the virtual disk are managed in SCCM using the Parallels plug-in; all this management happens in the same window, without the need for another tool.
- Push applications & configure settings: If users need corporate-standard apps installed on their machines, SCCM can be used to package, install, and configure those apps, without requiring administrators to log into the remote machines directly.
Hit the Road
In addition to desktop tools, the Parallels team was also showing off the Parallels Mobile app, which lets you connect from your iPhone/iPad and control Parallels Desktop running on your Mac. The actual virtualization happens on the desktop device itself, where the heavy processing power is, while the remote device acts like a dumb terminal sending keyboard and mouse inputs back to the host. This gives you the ability to “run” Windows, Chrome OS, Linux, or other operating systems from the convenience of your iPhone or iPad.
Full keyboard and mouse support are present, and the video settings can be adjusted so even a slow cellular connection is usable in a pinch. Obviously using Outlook all day on an iPhone would be torturous, but quickly emailing an attachment to a colleague or running a presentation (AirPlay mirrored to an AppleTV, of course) are great uses that let you stay in touch with your desktop apps and data even while on the go.
Be sure to check out our coverage of other exhibitors from Macworld / iWorld 2013.