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Parallels could whip VMware or Microsoft, happier as Robin Hood

Ingram deal puts junior virtualiser in box seat to broker SaaS and cloud

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Parallels is best known for two things: a fine desktop hypervisor and the Virtuozzo containerised server-wrangler that many service providers use to dish out virtual machines to their customers.

Both businesses are doing well, but the company isn't leading with either.

Instead, it is now keenest on Parallels Automation, the billing and automation tools it built to help service providers deliver virtual machines and charge customers for them. Those tools have been enhanced so they can work with rival cloud management stacks. VMware, Microsoft, and OpenStack are all covered. Oracle's on the to-do list.

Software-as-a-service providers have been brought under the wing, too. CEO Birger Steen today told The Reg that over half of the service providers reselling Office 365 around the world use Parallels Automation to handle billing for Microsoft's cloudy productivity service. They do so because it already has hooks into their billing system and Microsoft was not keen to figure out how to integrate Office 365 with numerous telco backends.

Parallels makes that trick possible for any vendor: the company has an offering called “APS” that lets an application or SaaS vendor expose its product to Parallels Automation. Sreen said the likes of Symantec and Google already use APS and that he expects numerous other ISVs and SaaS providers will follow suit, because writing to the standard will be easier than coding direct interfaces to other billing and automation engines.

That this works on OpenStack is also significant: that effort currently lacks strong billing tools and Parallels is therefore in a strong position to help out service providers as they build on the open source cloud stack. That the list of service providers doing so includes small concerns called Cisco and IBM – you may have heard of both – means Parallels potential upside is considerable,

Steen is also confident Virtuozzo can kick VMware or any other hypervisor vendor's butt in a VMs-per-server contest, by 20 per cent or more.

So why isn't he directing that technology, and the company, at the data centre? Steen believes most CIOs don't mind that Hyper-V or ESX require a little more headroom than Parallels because a few under-utilised servers is a useful buffer. Most organisations are also like conventional hypervisors because they need to run multiple operating systems.

Not so service providers, who hate carrying unused capacity and are happiest when every virtual machine is identical to every other, at least until customers get a hold of them.

Steen thinks Parallels can do best by focussing on those who need what it does best, rather than going up against the virtualisation gorillas by trying to convince mainstream users to give it a whirl.

And Parallels has just signed up one of the biggest service providers arounds: Ingram Micro. The two last week announced a deal that will see Ingram use Parallels Automation to power its Cloud Marketplace, a portal resellers can use to arrange and manage subscriptions to all manner of cloud services. Steen thinks Ingram's choice of Parallels Automation is an eloquent endorsement of the toolset, because Ingram works with countless resellers around the world.

Steen said that by providing tools capable of helping Ingram offer box-drop-and-break-fix-focussed resellers the chance to instead become value-adders to cloud services he's doing something rather worthwhile. The CEO mentioned his pleasure at being able to help not only the channel, but the world's 150 million small businesses, to get cloudy. He's therefore growing the company and giving the world a leg-up, all without attracting negative attention from other virtualisers.

Which is not to say that every CIO can assume Parallels won't be calling it. Steen said some users like render farms or HPC operators are now sufficiently service-provider-like that the company's containerised approach to virtualisation makes sense for their bit barns.

But service providers of all sorts is where Steen feels most comfortable and feels Parallels can make the biggest difference, to the world and to its investors. ®

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