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Parallels versus VMware: A Complete Comparison Guide for Virtualization Buyers

Parallels and VMware lead the desktop and data center virtualization marketplaces respectively. Both allow running multiple operating systems on shared hardware through hypervisors that coordinate resources between virtual machines (VMs). This 2500+ word guide comprehensively compares Parallels Desktop versus VMware Fusion for macOS and the broader infrastructure integration capabilities each company offers.

Introduction to Parallels and VMware

What is Parallels?

Founded in 1999, Parallels provides virtualization software enabling macOS users to simultaneously run Windows, Linux, other macOS versions, and more within isolated containers. Parallels Desktop for Mac utilizes a type-2 hypervisor leveraging Intel/AMD hardware virtualization instruction sets for minimal overhead.

What is VMware?

Incorporated in 1998, VMware delivers virtualization, cloud computing and digital workspace platforms for enterprises. VMware‘s type-1 hypervisors run directly on hosts, not inside operating systems. The VMware vSphere stack dominated data centers for many years. Their portfolio now includes infrastructure management, networking, security and end user computing capabilities.

Pricing Comparison

Parallels follows a subscription model for Desktop licenses:

Edition Pricing
Home & Student $79.99 per year
Pro $99.99 per year
Business $99.99 per year

Free trials for 14 days are available. Support is included by email, live chat and phone (with charges).

VMware desktop virtualization pricing includes:

Product Pricing
Fusion 12 Player Free for personal use
Fusion 12 Pro $149 one-time charge
Fusion 12 Pro with support $241 one-time charge

Commercial VMware pricing varies based on capabilities:

Product Pricing
vSphere Standard Starts at $995 per processor
vSphere Enterprise Plus Starts at $4,295 per processor
vSAN Standard Starts at $1,295 per 10 VMs
NSX Advanced Starts at $1,495 per processor

So Parallels charges annual fees while VMware involves large one-time payments. But VMware offers more products catering from SMBs to service providers.

Hypervisor Technology Comparison

The core virtualization software – the hypervisor – differs substantially between Parallels and VMware which impacts guest OS performance.

Parallels Desktop uses a type-2 hypervisor running as an application inside the host OS. This allows tighter macOS integration optimizations. But the host OS still adds slight latency that type-1 hypervisors bypass.

VMware Fusion relies on a type-1 hypervisor directly executing upon host hardware with no intermediary. This bare-metal approach reduces virtualization overhead significantly. Hardware calls occur naturally but host OS environment awareness suffers.

So Parallels prioritizes convenience while VMware focuses on sheer speed through leaner operation.

Performance Metrics Comparison

Independent assessments reveal key performance advantages held by Parallels Desktop:

Boot Time

Product Boot Time
Parallels Desktop 15-35 seconds
VMware Fusion Over 1 minute

Parallels VMs initialize much quicker – less than half the duration typically.

Application Performance

Whether measuring browser loading times, launching apps/files or taking snapshots within Windows VMs specifically, Parallels Desktop completes routine tasks 20-30% faster on average.

Resource Utilization

Parallels Desktop consumes fewer host system resources – RAM, disk bandwidth and CPU cycles allowing for cooler, quieter host hardware operation.

For running multiple production Windows VMs, Parallels supports higher densities on equivalent hardware specifications.

Ease of Use Comparison

Both solutions simplify running Windows on macOS with step-by-step assistants for guided installations. Parallels Desktop provides slightly more intuitive VM creation workflows tailored to macOS conventions. But VMware Fusion offers one-click normalization modes returning WIndows VMs to default clean states.

So for personal usage, Parallels Desktop enables faster Windows-on-Mac simplicity. VMware Fusion better suits IT admins through configurable policy controls, exportable VM profiles and Desired State Configuration.

Support Options Comparison

Parallels Desktop provides:

  • Email assistance
  • Live chat
  • Phone support

Prompt responses and technical guidance offered even in lower pricing tiers.

VMware Fusion itself lacks direct support channels. Customers must purchase support coverage separately or qualify for enterprise offerings that bundle this:

  • 12/5 telephone assistance
  • Web ticket creation
  • Account history/entitlement visibility
  • Patch/update notifications

So Parallels Desktop prioritizes direct user assistance while VMware reserves premium support for large institutional customers mostly.

Parallels Pros and Cons

Parallels Desktop Pros:

  • Extremely fast performance
  • Lower resource usage
  • Intuitive macOS experience
  • Prompt support bundled
  • Travel mode for portable VMs
  • Linux GUI testing capabilities
  • granular isolation options

Parallels Desktop Cons:

  • Annual subscription fees
  • Confusing upgrade pricing
  • Lacks support beyond x86 architectures
  • Restricted security insights compared to VMware

VMware Fusion Pros and Cons

VMware Fusion Pros:

  • Mature type-1 hypervisor technology
  • Interoperability with vSphere stacks
  • Developer friendly customization
  • Free for personal non-commercial usage
  • Reliable infrastructure integration

VMware Fusion Cons:

  • Slower performance than Parallels
  • macOS integration not seamless
  • Costly support add-ons
  • Steep learning curve for novices

So for specialized Windows use cases on macOS like gaming or application compatibility, Parallels Desktop outshines. But for multi-platform enterprise environments, VMware Fusion wins through deeper vSphere/vCenter/NSX/vSAN unification.

Exclusive Standout Features

Parallels Distinguishers

  • Travel Mode for easy portability across Macs
  • Graphical Linux distributions support
  • Comprehensive isolation parameters
  • Developer helper tools
  • Gaming optimizations

VMware Differentiators

  • DirectX 10 and 11 assistance
  • Hyper-V nesting
  • vMotion live migration
  • vSphere High Availability
  • Distributed Resource Scheduler
  • Storage vMotion

So for programmers and Linux devotees, Parallels Desktop provides better specialization. VMware Fusion excels for infrastructure administrators invested in VMware stacks.

Matching Use Case Requirements

When to Pick Parallels

  • Windows compatibility for native macOS apps
  • Software and web development testing
  • Running entertainment apps or games
  • Simple "one VM to rule them all" setup
  • No need for complex VMware infrastructure

When to Prefer VMware Fusion

  • Complement for existing VMware server stack
  • Enterprise desktop administrator familiarity
  • Programming DirectX based graphics applications
  • Hyper-V nested virtualization development
  • Free personal usage requirement

Virtual Machine Configuration Comparisons

Specification Parallels VMware
Maximum vCPUs 32 16
Maximum vRAM 128 GB 64 GB
Maximum vDisk 2 TB 2 TB
Maximum vNICs Unlimited 10

So Parallels Desktop scales farther than VMware Fusion for large production workloads.

Optimization Best Practices

For Parallels Desktop:

  • Favor macOS Monterey or Ventura hosts
  • Assign 4-8 GB RAM per production Windows 11 VM
  • Match vCPU count to physical Intel/AMD core count
  • Store VMs on SSD storage for optimal speeds
  • Keep 20%+ host disk free to avoid swap/paging

For VMware Fusion:

  • Prefer macOS Big Sur or Monterey hosts
  • Configure 6-8 GB RAM per standard Windows 10 VM
  • Limit vCPUs to avoid NUMA scheduling issues
  • Always equip VMs with VMware Tools for integration
  • Isolate VMworkstation VMs from infrastructure managed ones

So real world fine-tuning can further improve out-of-the-box experience with both Parallels and VMware products.

Closing Recommendations

Parallels Desktop is the best virtualization solution for most macOS users – from students to programmers to IT professionals. Seamless Windows application support, outstanding performance and stellar usability cement its leadership position.

VMware Fusion only appeals for existing vSphere enterprise clients. Licensing costs here deter small/midsize buyers needing basic virtualization only.

For unified macOS/Windows/Linux environments, Parallels Desktop simplifies daily workflows tremendously. Its speed, efficiency and reliability offer the best ROI for most organizations. Evaluate options completely before deciding between Parallels versus VMware based on precise needs.

The Bottom Line

Parallels Desktop outshines VMware Fusion across critical metrics for consumer and prosumer audiences. Prior experience with enterprise VMware ecosystem being the sole exception, Parallels meets the needs of students to CIOs better.

Through ongoing technology innovations and focus on usability, Parallels continues setting user experience benchmarks the virtualization industry follows. Both VMware and Parallels receive strong recommendations – the latter unconditionally for most applying virtualization on macOS.