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“Our Goal is to Remove the Friction in the IT Cloud Value Chain”- John Zanni, Parallels

Parallels has an extensively broad range of products, that enable various service providers, right from  web hosters, ISVs to Telcos, to manage just about anything they may need  to grow their SMB cloud service revenue and profit.

Speaking at the recently held WHD.India 2013John Zanni, Vice President (VP), Service Provider Marketing and Alliances, Parallels, talked about how Parallels has designed and augmented its products according to the demands of the SMBs so that its customers and partners can grow their business selling nothing but what exactly the market demands for.

We sat with him post-session to discuss Parallels’ latest product launches,  their new features and  USPs, and how they help service providers derive more value from the constantly booming SMB cloud market.

He also shares with us his views on the  IT Cloud value chain, the very much visible friction and lacuna in it,  and how Parallels, in co-ordination with VARs, is working to  fix up the weak points. The complete video of our interaction is below, and a print version follows  it.

The market is changing quite rapidly,  there are new competitors coming in and some of them are rather large. We have produced a body of knowledge that helps you  market better. This ranges from very specific items like an email template on  how to talk to your customer base about buying new services, to positioning statements for some of the products that you could be selling.
– John Zanni, Vice President (VP), Service Provider Marketing and Alliances, Parallels.

John Zanni Parallels

John Zanni, Vice President (VP), Service Provider Marketing and Alliances, Parallels.

Q:  Let’s begin with a brief introduction of yours and a broad overview of Parallels’ services.

A: Thank you for having me here. I run Service Provider Marketing and Alliances for Parallels. Founded in 1999, Parallels has over 900 employees worldwide focused exclusively on enabling service providers to provide cloud services to small and medium businesses.

Q:  Let’s start the discussion of your products with one which is sort of a OneStopShop for all needs of Web hosting providers. A few days back, XcellHost released a report mentioning how it successfully used Parallels Business Automation Standard to meet the challenges of business growth. Can you tell us in detail about  the features, benefits and core components of PBAS that make it industry’s leading hosting automation solution? Also, what are some of the significant upgrades in the PBAS 4.3.2 released earlier this year?

A: XcellHost has been a great partner of ours. One of our goals is to really make sure that we make it easy for hosters like them to offer services to their customers. Parallels Business Automation Standard  is a complete hosting solution that includes billing and provisioning. With PBAS, it’s easy to integrate multiple domain gateways, payment gateways and  offer shared hosting,  email hosting and other services.

In the latest version, you have the ability to offer an affiliate program so you can build your own reseller ecosystem.  You can also better manage your shared hosting or virtual private server environments.  It’s a product that just works.

Q: Can you please throw some light on Parallels Partner Programs and how Web hosting providers, Telcos, ISVs and other service providers can benefit from them?

A: There are two aspects to the Parallels partner program. First, there is a knowledge base of information which enables  you to more effectively use  our products, run them more cost-effectively and take advantage of features and functionalities that you paid for, but might not know are there.

The second aspect   has to do with how you sell to your customers. The market is changing quite rapidly,  there are new competitors coming in and some of them are rather large. What we have done is that we have produced a body of knowledge that helps you  market better. This ranges from very specific items like an email template on  how to talk to your customer base about buying new services, to positioning statements for some of the products that you could be selling.

Q:  What are some new features and performance improvements in the Parallels Web Presence Builder  V 11.5 due to be released soon that can help  web hosting providers attract and retain new SMB customers? Also, how has the response to pre-release builds so far?

A: Web presence builder has received tremendous response. This is a product that can be used by a small service provider who might have 10 to 50 customers, all the way up to the largest service providers in the world, like Telefónica in Spain.

In version 11.5,  we have added more templates and  we have created what we call  ‘Business sites’. Customers now have the ability to sell and provision  Parallels Web Presence Builder not only through our own products but also through WHMCS. If you are using their billing solution, you can now buy web presence builder and natively integrate it into the system that you use  to build you hosting plans.

On the top of that, we have  the ‘Try and Buy’ module  built  into the product in the premium model.  So now you can  either give people a time limit,   or you can give them a limited number of pages that they can build and if they want to build more pages, they have to pay more. So there are many opportunities for you to up-sell and cross-sell your customers.

Q:  The coordinated ecosystem by Parallels which brings together ISVs who create the valuable applications and the service providers that can deliver them to market is unique and interesting. While it opens up a huge market for ISVs and provides service providers with multiple options to choose from, how does Parallels stand to benefit in this process, other than developing and affirming its strong foothold among the service providers?

A: The IT value chain in the cloud world, running from the ISVs to the service providers to resellers to eventually the end customer, has a lot of friction because it’s fairly new. Our goal is to remove that friction, no matter what role you play.

The way we benefit from it is that as you use our software, we get paid for it. This allows us to reinvest in that software and continue to innovate. But fundamentally, for us to be able to completely remove that friction, we not only have to provide software, but also access to the broadest ecosystem of services, and also access to knowledge and expertise that allows each of these players in the IT value chain to do what they can do the best in the cloud world.

Q:  In a very recent write-up in ChannelPro, you mentioned how resellers have now turned into VARs, as APS 2.0 allows them to offer customized solutions for specific vertical markets; which in turn is also beneficial for SMBs as they get to have tools that were  previously available for only  big enterprises. Can you tell our readers in detail about how software vendors, developers, ISPs and resellers can leverage this Cloud brokerage system for maximum benefit?

A: Today, we actually make it difficult for the VARs or the resellers to create the exact solution that a small business needs. They  have to integrate across multiple services, which means working with those ISVs to create those integrations, and that’s very difficult.

With APS 2.0, the integration happens after the fact. So think of each service having its own set of APIs, and then using standard scripting languages to integrate those services without having to go back to each ISV and having them  expose  those APIs directly or hard-coding. What that means is that a local  VAR, who is a trusted advisor of a small business, will be able to make the  local CRM system work with the productivity system that might come from a different area. So that is where we  really enable them to scale and differentiate.

Q:  If you had to name three key differences between traditional Hypervisor virtualization  and Parallels Virtuozzo Containers for Linux 4.7, that make the latter ideal  and relatively cost-effective for cloud service providers, what would they be?

A: First, you need to understand the needs of cloud services. Cloud services need elasticity, the ability to scale up and down very quickly. Also, to offer cloud services you need to be price competitive, not only with your neighbours,  but with big players like Amazon.

With Parallels Virtuozzo Containers, you have software virtualization, which allows higher density ratios of virtual servers to physical servers when compared to Hypervisors. It  allows you to bring up and bring down containers very quickly, which you cannot do with  Hypervisors.

It also needs lower management, because once you update the host OS, the guest OSes are all automatically updated. Its container technology has been used for cloud by many companies, not always ours, and it is what is most suited for the cloud.

Q:  Any other product releases and upgrades of Parallels that industry needs to be aware of?

A:  Parallels Web Presence Builder 11.5  and Parallels  Plesk  Panel 11.5  will be available within the next month. We are very proud about those announcements. Also, take a look at Parallels Plesk Automation, it is one of our new products that is gaining tremendous traction. It is targeted at professional and growing hosters, and allows them to more easily manage multiple servers.

Q:  Wrapping up- Parallels Summit 2013 in Las Vegas was a huge success with a gathering of 1200+ attendees; what value do you expect to derive from Parallels Summit 2014 in New Orleans?

A:  Parallels Summit 2014 in New Orleans is  just around the corner. We are about to secure the keynote speaker, but I will not share who the person will be yet. In that event we will spend even more time showing how you can create differentiated services, whether you are a small web VAR,  or a  large Telco. I expect that Parallels Summit 2014 will  be even bigger, better and more fun than 2013 was.

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