Hosting providers and cloud services providers (CSPs) are in San Diego this week for HostingCon 2011. Hardly surprising, the big themes involve hosting providers pushing beyond managed servers toward comprehensive cloud services. But what are the key takeaways for established and emerging channel partners? Here are four key HostingCon highlights plus reality checks from Talkin' Cloud.
1. Enabling Cloud Storefronts: Parallels unveiled Parallels Automation for Cloud Applications, which allows service providers to launch and manage cloud storefronts for SMB customers.
Reality Check: Parallels has quietly emerged as one of the top SaaS-enablement software platforms for hosting companies. Over the past year, Parallels has recruited several Microsoft veterans to the company, and there are signs that Parallels hopes to ultimately become a $1 billion company -- though I believe revenues are closer to $100 million or so at the moment.
2. Emerging Cloud Help Desks: The Parallels effort includes white-label help desk relationships with Global Mentoring Solutions and Bobcares. In theory, the relationships will help service providers improve support for SaaS applications.
Reality Check: In recent months, we've noticed a growing number of MSPs and VARs also trying to leverage new approaches to help desk services -- so we're curious to see if channel partners get cozy with Global Mentoring Systems and Bobcares.
3. More Cloud Backup: Arkeia Software launched a multi-tenant cloud storage solution for hosting providers and managed services providers. Arkeia says the solution will protect customer data both in the cloud and on-site at customers' offices.
Meanwhile, R1Soft says more than 1,000 cloud service providers and hosting providers now leverage R1Soft’s CDP (Continuous Data Protection) software to back up more than 200,000 servers. The disk-to-disk server backup software is designed for Windows and Linux servers.
Reality Check: It's good to see continued cloud storage innovations. But we continue to watch the cloud backup market closely; it seems like there are dozens of rivals seeking to build closer relationships with hosting providers and MSPs... so something's got to give over the long haul.
4. Hosted PBX Revisited?: Infratel launched a cloud-based voice service for small and midsize businesses, though Infratrel didn't say if the solution is a complete hosted PBX or something slightly different. According to Infratel, the hosted solution "provides a wide array of features for SMBs including the ability to: create unique inbound calling paths for better customer service; deliver calls to any available phone; route calls based on time of day or other business rules; allow users to set do-not-disturb status; and set-up unique mailboxes for the business and end-users."
Infratel's core offering, Infra Call Center, is a SIP-based application built on Microsoft Windows Server. Its corporate telephony solution, Infra CommSuite, is a Windows Server-based IP PBX solutions.
Reality Check: Talkin' Cloud has heard plenty of hosted PBX buzz this year. Parallels announced a major hosted PBX push during its own conference earlier this year. And Intermedia has been promoting a white label hosted PBX solution to VARs and MSPs. However, we believe it will be a few years before businesses fully trust and embrace hosted PBXes.
We'll continue to track key trends at this week's HostingCon. We're particularly interested to see what moves, if any, Microsoft makes at the conference.