Taking on VMware -- by sidestepping it

Parallels (née SWsoft) figures out what's in a name

SWsoft Inc. may be mainly unknown among the general population, but its software, at least among virtualization aficionados, is familiar stuff. Its Virtuozzo software is used on several hundred thousand servers, mostly by remote data centers and hosting providers, according to CEO Serguei Beloussov.

SWsoft's Plesk Web-based administration software is similarly popular with the hosting crowd.

Probably its best-known product is its Parallels desktop virtualization software, the popularity of which exploded a year and a half ago after it became the first software to allow Intel Mac owners to run Windows simultaneously with Mac OS X. That and other versions of Parallels are used on more than 700,000 PCs, Beloussov said.

Hiding in plain sight

Besides its forgettable moniker, SWsoft's strategy of letting each product group operate as an independently branded subsidiary hurt its name recognition.

It also didn't help that Herndon, Va.-based SWsoft is privately held, albeit fast-growing. The company has doubled its revenue every year for the past eight years, and its head count doubled to 900 over the past year -- and rather than running development out of Silicon Valley, does it halfway around the world in the frozen Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

But as the virtualization market heats up, SWsoft wants to step out of the long shadow cast by its closest rival, VMware Inc.

On Wednesday, the company announced it will drop the SWsoft name in favor of its youngest but fastest-rising division, Parallels Inc.

Moreover, while it plans to continue developing and marketing its desktop and server virtualization software, the company also plans to start emphasizing its management and automation software -- already popular among hosting providers -- toward mainstream corporations.

For instance, SWsoft's software already offers collaborative management features to the hosting market that allow multiple parties -- everyone from the service provider to the reseller to the customer IT administrator -- to manage a given application.

Welcome to Switzerland

Rather than creating chaos and disrupting processes, collaborative management tools enable "things to get done quicker," Beloussov said.

Such tools will be increasingly desired by corporate IT, Beloussov said, as they confront an infrastructure that combines multiple vendors along with on-premise, hosted and software-as-a-service usage models.

And as vendors in the suddenly crowded virtualization platform market begin to battle in earnest, the new Parallels company intends to act as Switzerland, said Beloussov.

For instance, while Microsoft Corp. and VMware are each restricting their virtualization management tools to their own platform, the new Parallels intends to release next year a combined tool that can manage VMware, Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V, as well as its own Virtuozzo and Parallels platforms, Beloussov said.

Beloussov dismissed large system management apps such as Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView and IBM's Tivoli, which he said are not yet strong at managing virtualization.

Wanted: Not just a hypervisor

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group of Portland, Ore., hails Parallels' move.

"Full virtualization requires more than just a hypervisor. Customers also need to utilize OS containers in order to get maximum system utilization and lower processing overhead," Olds said. Moreover, "it will also be increasingly important to have robust metering and billing capabilities 'baked' into the infrastructure. Parallels is offering the whole slate of virtualization technology and, with their new name and product set, should be well positioned to make a big move in the x86 virtualization market."

The company won't ignore base products such as Virtuozzo, which Olds said is "probably the best approach to x86 server virtualization."

Based around a technology the company calls "container-based virtualization," Virtuozzo creates smaller virtual machines that ride on top of the operating system, rather than conventional hypervisors from VMware and other vendors whose VMs simulate the PC environment all the way down to the hardware level. That allows Virtuozzo to create many more VMs than a typical hypervisor while using less memory and CPU.

A release candidate of Virtuozzo 4.0 was released Tuesday; a final version is expected next year.

The company plans to bring Virtuozzo's container technology to desktop virtualization, too. Parallels also plans to introduce a server-based hypervisor next year to round out its virtualization product lineup.

8 highly useful Slack bots for teams
Shop Tech Products at Amazon