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Cloak and Dagger

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Serguei Beloussov is one of those people that's always working on something. When you meet him, he gives you the simultaneous impression that you have his full attention and that his brain is churning away solving some other problem. And believe me, the CEO of SWsoft wants to solve a lot of problems.

SWsoft is a software company that is dedicated to creating virtualization software, as well as virtualization management tools for a variety of markets. That's the five-second PR marketing firm synopsis. The more hard-core geek description of the Herndon, VA-based company? SWsoft is going to take virtualization any where it can by any means it can.

For instance, take their competition in the virtualization arena: Parallels, a virtualization firm that uses hardware virtualization as their methodology, as opposed to the operating system methodology used by Virtuozzo and OpenVZ, two of SWsoft's products. Well, you can't call them competition because Parallels and SWsoft were targeting different markets--Parallels the corporate and small business desktop and SWsoft the enterprise/data center customers. And there's another reason you can't call them competitors, A big one.

Turns out, for the last three years, they were actually part of the same company. Go figure.

This I had to hear. So I called up Serguei when he was in Zurich this week and asked the obvious: what?

Fortunately, his response was more eloquent.

About three years ago, SWsoft was looking around the virtualization field and seeing where it could go next. It observed that VMware, the 800-lb virtual gorilla was kicking butt and taking names in the enterprise. But, for whatever reason, VMware seemed content to stay just in the big-corporate field. Serguei and his crew saw an opening: the departmental-level and SMB spaces were being underserved.

There was a problem, though: SWsoft's products use operating system virtualization (OSV) to get the job done, while VMware uses hardware virtualization (HV). Serguei still believes that Virtuozzo is likely the best solution for most virtual needs, but he understands that there are always going to be times when an HV solution is a better fit. At that point, SWsoft had a decision to make: play catch-up with VMware in HV, or ally themselves with an HV vendor and jump start the process?

Hence, the decision to buy Renton, WA-based Parallels, Inc.

So why the big secret?

The message about the subtleties of virtualization technology were very fuzzy three years ago, and Serguei explained that at the time, they were concerned about customers (both new and existing) being confused about what each company would be bringing to the solution table. What's changed today, though, is the savvy nature of the customer. They know more about what they need and more about what's out there, now that the "early adoption" phase of virtualization seems to be over.

Now that the cat's out of the bag, don't expect the two companies to merge into one. Things will still be managed on a separate basis. Though I would imagine that things will be a bit more complimentary soon. New customers coming to check out virtualization will likely get the pitch that Virtuozzo is the best solution, Serguei told me, whenever possible.

"But there are legacy workloads," he added, "where you will want to use hardware virtualization." An HV solution could cost less in the short term, until existing jobs could be migrated to Virtuozzo.

Don't discount Parallels, however.

"SMBs need something much simpler and less expensive to manage," Serguei said. "And that's where we are with Parallels."

I've gotta wonder though, what's the brain of his going to think of next?


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