Can Parallels get noticed in the cloud?

24 Feb 2011

One of the many reasons that I like the whole topic of cloud computing is that it suits my way of thinking: I tend to grab a series of themes out of a "cloud" of topics and see if a concept pops out of the randomness -- and if you are trying to work out what to buy and who to buy it from, the one strong similarilty between "the cloud" and buying services is that it looks pretty random.

All the potential suppliers look like a random collection of logos to the consumer: dipping into the attendee list at Parallels Summit here in Orlando this week we have MigrationWiz, R1Soft, Smarsh, Tilera, Apptix, BobCares, Comodo (that last one is an old friend to PC Pro, so maybe they're not quite as random as the others).

And I don't mind confessing: I accepted the invite out here out of utter ignorance of what Parallels does that has to do with cloud. I knew them mostly as a supplier of virtual machine software for Apple users wanting to run Windows.

Don't worry, I didn't manage to stretch one small product out for a couple of days of face-to-face interviews: as it turns out, about 75% of the Parallels revenue stream comes from products that help cloud service providers automate the actions that result from setting up a new user.

The chart that details the entire lineup is an A2 fold-out, so I'll move past all that and get down to what was for me the most interesting question (and not just because I asked it) of my time with Birger Steen and Serguei Beloussov, the two-man team who are the driving force behind Parallels.

Who are you like?

What I wanted to know (as a way of hiding my preceding complete ignorance of their product range) was, what company did they most want to emulate in terms of how people think of them?

Beloussov, who has that slightly excessive intellectual candour typical of a lot of post-Perestroika Russians, immediately said: "Intel".

I wasn't the only person in the room blinking in shock at that answer. Berger Steen is Beloussov's number two, now promoted to CEO so Beloussov can focus on strategy, and he was clearly waiting for Serguei to back that up with a few justifications.

The point about "doing an Intel", apparently, is that Parallels wants to stick to its knitting, and focus on the code they produce.

The way they incorporating billing in their hypervisor and site control package means that Parallels has essentially no competition in the market, and has at least a good shot at turning itself into the de-facto benchmark standard for that job.

A bit like Microsoft

That was the explanation I had been struggling to find for most of this week, for the singular presumption of the scope of the event here. A bit like Microsoft, they are inviting some distinctly non-techie types along to present their view of the market and the potential size of the business over the next five years.

They even had a demo which solved another cloud conundrum for me: in saying that their products were especially handy for hosting companies targeting the small business sector, they hauled up on stage an Australian chap from a small Japanese hosting firm, Tsukaeru.

He singlehandedly bridged a divide I've been wondering over for a year or two now, between the "business-hosting, toe-in the water" types and the "single enthusiast" types. Parallels demonstrated their beta release control panel application, with a Tsukaeru host that they could successfully slice into a 1-core, 300Mhz 128Mb RAM web server.

The demo (being a beta) crashed a bit here and there, but this is the first time I have seen any cloud or virtualisation vendor approach the kind of guest-to-host denisty that the plain HTML web-hosting business has been predicated on for the last decade and a half.

So could Parallels succeed in making themselves a widespread enough standard that they can think of themselves like Intel? Only if they can get themselves noticed by the right people, like you.

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