The extraordinary success of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions has prompted nearly every major hardware and software vendor to offer their own IaaS, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions as well. This has put tremendous pressure on traditional hosting companies, communications service providers (CSPs), and Value-Added Resellers (VARs) to respond with their own offerings in this increasingly competitive marketplace.

This week, I had the opportunity to participate in a full-day analyst briefing and attend the kickoff session of Parallels’ 2011 Partner Summit. [Disclosure: Parallels paid my travel expenses to attend the event.] This year’s Summit built on the momentum of last year’s conference by unveiling numerous enhancements to its portfolio of Cloud enablement solutions, including:

  • Parallels Automation for Cloud Infrastructure
  • Hosted PBX
  • Microsoft System Center Hyper-V Cloud
  • Microsoft Office 365 Syndication

Parallels also promised to make an increased investment in its Application Packaging Standardization (APS) Program to permit greater portability of Cloud services.

What I especially liked about this year’s event was the way Parallels’ management team attempted to alleviate some of the anxieties among its partners and potential customers about the increasingly competitive Cloud marketplace by emphasizing the tremendous opportunities in the SMB segment and identifying industry best practices that can win hosters, CSPs and VARs success.

While the Cloud Computing market is evolving quickly, mainstream adoption of Cloud services among small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) is still embryonic. Parallels is attempting to accelerate the growth of this segement of the market, and help hosting companies, CSPs and VARs capitalize on this tremendous market opportunity with its Cloud enablement products and channel support programs. It is also expanding its role as a Cloud “broker” by recruiting  more Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to participate in its service catalog.

The company also announced a leadership change with  Birger Steen assuming the CEO position and the company’s founder, Serguei Beloussov, retaining his positions of Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Architect. Steen brings extensive business experience and strong Microsoft relationships which the company hopes will help it grow from approximately $100 million in revenue to $1 billion over the next five years.

An acquisition by Microsoft might come before it reaches this milestone. The company’s concerted efforts to align itself with Microsoft include many of this year’s product enhancements; moving its headquarters to Renton, WA; and adding other former Microsoft executives to its leadership team such as John Zanni, Vice President of Marketing and Alliances, who was formerly GM of Microsoft’s Worldwide Software + Services Industry, Communications Sector business unit.

A clear measure of Parallels’ growing presence in the Cloud enablement business was the larger number of attendees and sponsors it was able to attract to this year’s Summit. The energy and enthusiasm at the event also demonstrated the strong allegiance which Parallels’ partners feel toward the company.

With few vendors able to offer a comparable portfolio of Cloud enablement tools to hosting companies, CSPs and VARs, Parallels has an opportunity to grow quickly as its partners attempt to keep pace with the tremendous growth of the Cloud Computing marketplace.