Parallels: Emerging as a SaaS and Cloud Deployment Standard?

During this week's HostingCon conference I noticed a rather interesting trend: A healthy number of hosting firms, telcos and ISPs seem to be turning to a specific partner -- Parallels -- to launch and manage new SaaS applications, everything from Hosted Exchange to Hosted SharePoint. Even Microsoft's cloud computing team has embraced Parallels. And now, there's chatter about major distributors giving Parallels a close look for their long-term cloud strategies. Here's some perspective and some potential implications for managed services providers.

Parallels is perhaps best-known for its desktop virtualization software, which is widely used among Macintosh owners. But at HostingCon, a heard chatter from several hosting providers that are giving Parallels Automation a look. The latest Automation release, Parallels says, helps hosting providers to more rapidly deploy and manage SaaS versions of Microsoft Exchange 2010 and Office Communications Server 2007 R2 services. Parallels is also working closely with Open-Xchange, an open source alternative to Exchange Server.

I've heard from several distributors that also are taking a close look at Parallels -- though Tech Data seems to be the only distributor willing to go on the record right now.

If you're a small or midsize MSP looking to leverage SaaS applications, there's a chance you're using Parallels without even knowing it. Several hosted Exchange partners, such as Apptix, use Parallels Automation.

Of course, there's more than one way to attack a market. Some big hosted application providers prefer to develop their own SaaS deployment methodologies. Intermedia, for one, depends on its own engineering staff to stay ahead of rivals. So far, that approach has worked out well; Intermedia was the first company to offer customers and partners Hosted Exchange 2010, even beating Microsoft out of the gate with the latest Exchange offering

Meanwhile, Parallels is making some small business moves. The company's Application Packaging Standard catalog includes a growing list of applications -- such as SugarCRM, VoIP apps and online shopping carts -- designed for service providers to offer to small businesses.

It's difficult to pin down Parallels' actual momentum since the company is privately held. But here's an interesting stat: More than 5,000 service providers use Parallels to deliver cloud services to more than 10 million small businesses in 125 countries, Parallels claims.

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