February 25, 2010, 9:30 PM — Parallels, known widely for its Parallels Desktop software that lets Mac users run Windows in a virtual machine, faces a problem that currently plagues many cloud companies: an identity crisis.
At its annual summit for partners, held in Miami this week, Parallels execs presented a clear vision of what they want to be known for in the cloud market. Parallels aims to dominate an unusual spot: the software that web hosting companies use to provide services in the cloud -- such as web hosting, e-mail, collaboration software and other productivity apps -- to small business customers.
In other words, companies like Go Daddy use Parallels software to deliver services via the cloud to their customers -- without the customers ever thinking about the word "cloud" much.
Parallels has many of the necessary technology pieces, from its Virtuozzo Containers software that efficiently packs many virtual machines onto one server for the hosting company, to virtualization automation tools, plus Small Business Panel software that lets small business customers do IT provisioning tasks themselves via wizards.
If Parallels gets its way, it will be a dominant but mostly invisible software backbone for the small businesses that continue to warm to the idea of SaaS and hosted IT services. Whether it can reach that goal remains to be seen -- because Parallels customers have competition not only from each other but also from giants, including Google.
Battle of the Titans
Parallels customers on the cloud services side range from small and medium-sized hosting companies to well-known players like Go Daddy. Many of these web hosting companies now need to sell a wider menu of services to their customers, and the Parallels software is designed to help them do it quickly and efficiently.
For instance, at the summit this week, Go Daddy announced it would begin offering Cloud Server powered by Mac OS X, an "office in a box" solution including mail, hosting, file sharing, chat and related features to its customers who want to use Macs. It's all backed up by the Parallels technology, specifically, the new Parallels Server for Mac Bare Metal Edition, announced this week.
One big question is this: Will small businesses buy products, such as collaboration software delivered via the Web, from the likes of giants including Microsoft and Google, or from hosting companies?