Mac desktop virtualization vendor does carrier cloud automation too

If you work on a Mac, you probably are familiar with Parallels, the company and software that lets Mac users run the Windows operating system and applications in so-called “virtualized” fashion. In recent weeks, the privately-held Parallels announced a new app to help making a Windows-to-Mac switch easier and another update helping users run Windows and Linux side-by-side.

But for all the attention the vendor’s desktop virtualization business gets — including its success fueling visions of a possible IPO sometime soon – Parallels also does a healthy business providing hosting companies, including telecom service providers, with an industrial strength platform for automating, virtualizing and provisioning managed services and new cloud computing applications.

We talked with Jack Zubarev, one of the company’s founders and head of its service provider division, about this technology and his insights into the market.Zubarev sees the cloud market — not counting private clouds — as two distinct markets.

On the one hand, there will be mass market clouds that focus on SMB or end user services; platform cloud, such as those from Google or Microsoft; as well as clouds from other, mostly software-centric vendors, such as Amazon, HP, Apple, Oracle, and others.

On the other hand are service provider clouds, run by telecom service providers, hosting companies, value added resellers, managed service distributors and more.

Parallel’s service provider group is strongly focused on the latter group, many of which already have strong network operations platforms and organizations and typically are aiming to run apps on top of them. Certainly, service providers delivering hosted apps is nothing new, Zubarev admits, but “what has changed, especially among telecoms, is that until recently none took hosted service integration seriously or allocated any sort of real attention to the market because it represented only a tiny fraction of their revenues.”

For instance, for straight Web hosting, AT&T has about 100,000 accounts while GoDaddy, targeting the masses, has about 3 million. While GoDaddy’s accounts deliver less per month per subscriber, the provider has grown it subscribers to a large number and had success offering a slew of additional and value added services to the mix. That adds up to a lucrative opportunity, said Zubarev.

“It’s become such a huge market right now that a lot of telecoms are looking at this much more closely and spending more money and exerting more effort to be successful in this space,” he said.

What Parallels offers to the service provider is a suite of software to help automate the delivery, provisioning and customer service requirements for delivering managed applications, as well as professional services to integrate that infrastructure with existing back-office systems. Such integration is important because perhaps the biggest opportunity for telcos in managed services is offering service bundles that include unified communications and collaboration capabilities as well, Zubarev said.

Parallels also wants to help service providers move into cloud computing, where computing resources are sold on a pay-as-you-go, utility basis. The vendor announced its cloud computing module last month, expects to ship it in Q1 of next year and is talking to several telcos about being among the first deployers, Zubarev said.

Delivering mass market cloud services is much different than enterprise-focused managed services, Zubarev said. With their history of delivering services to the masses, telcos could be well-positioned for this opportunity. “SMB clouds have to be super-efficient, mass volume and low-cost. That’s something telcos are good at.”

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