TMO Interviews Parallels: The Best is Yet To Come

At WWDC, TMO interviewed Serguei Beloussov, the CEO of Parallels -- the maker of the Desktop virtualization software that allows Windows, Linux and other OSes to run at near native speeds on a Mac. His company has come a long way since its inception, but Mr. Beloussov reveals that there are some new, great things on the horizon.

We're here at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco with Mr. Belloussov as well as Laura Ciekot with Allison & Partners, the public relations agency that works with Parallels.

Sergueo Beloussov 

Serguei Beloussov

TMO: How would you characterize the development of Parallels?

Beloussov: Well, we have definitely come a long way since we started, but there is also much more in the future. You know, we are still a small software company -- with a little over US$100M in revenue and just under 700 employees. So there's a lot more to do.

But we've accomplished a lot in the last year. At first we were two companies; now we are one company. Before we had two brands, not we have one brand. We've switched to a more modern virtualization technology that we worked on for over four years. We released the server for Mac and then Parallels Desktop 4 based on that new architecture at the end of last year.

TMO: What were the major improvements in Desktop 4?

Beloussov: There were a number of enhancements, but most importantly, the new architecture gives us much better performance. We are 15 to 20 percent faster than Fusion even with the release that cam in November of last year. And we expect to have even more performance with new products coming out this year.

TMO: What is the source of that increased speed? Is it due to better compilers?

Beloussov: Actually, the performance gains come from the new architecture. We had a number of components in our product that were legacy. And so we completely rebuilt the architecture starting back in 2005. It's based on hardware accelerated virtualization. And while we do build with Xcode and gcc, it turns out that for a product like this, the kind of compiler doesn't matter as much as the virtualization architecture because you're writing system level code.

TMO: What were the key changes in that architecture?

Beloussov: A major change was rewriting for scalability to move up to 16 cores -- which is the highest number of anyone on the desktop -- and we can support 128 GB of memory. We're are the only ones now that support VTd from Intel on the desktop. By the way, Intel is one of the investors in Parallels.

TMO: I didn't know that...

Beloussov: Yes. The have a minority stake in Parallels. So we have a very good relationship with them. A board advisor from Intel is Mr. Richard Wirt.

TMO: What percentage of your business comes from Mac users?

Beloussov: The Mac contributes about 25 percent of our overall business.

TMO: How are things going with Snow Leopard? Has is enabled anything notable?

Beloussov: [Laughs] Well, you know it's not out yet... But it's 64-bit. That's useful.

TMO: Does GCD [Grand Central Dispatch] provide any assistance?

Beloussov: No. Again for us, at the system level, it doesn't matter. GCD is basically useful for people who write applications. It's useful because it makes multi-threading easy. It's very cool technology. But for system level code we have to be, well, underneath GCD in the Mac's architecture.

TMO: Tell me more about core support at the top level.

Beloussov. Of course we support multiple cores, as I said, but we also support virtual cores, not just real cores. [A feature of the new Nehalem CPU in the Mac Pro.] Another thing that's cool about Snow Leopard is some usability enhancements that we'll exploit. Overall, though, it's a good release, but I don't seem any ground breaking changes that would affect Parallels.

TMO: How closely do you work with Microsoft?

Beloussov: We work very closely with Microsoft. They are our major go to market partner. And remember we are a neutral, small company which adds value on top of the Mac but doesn't compete with Microsoft. So as a result, we're very friendly with Microsoft. And I want to add, it wasn't anything major to support Windows 7. You know, Windows 7 is, ahh, basically Vista done right. It's just about the same kernel, a more solid, less resource consuming version of Vista. Right now, I'd say it looks to be the best Windows release ever. The UI is cleaned up. The security is about the same, but it isn't annoying security.

TMO: Will there be Aero support for Windows 7 in Parallels?

Beloussov: We don't talk about that publicly yet.

TMO: What haven't we covered yet?

Beloussov: So... we are launching the Direct Assignment Technology -- which I think is pretty cool. It's a technology that allows you to directly assign a device inside the virtual machine and get native capabilities and native level performance.

TMO: Is this something that will be released soon?

Beloussov: We're announcing it today [June 8th] but no date has been set for release and no announcement has been made yet about the Mac.

But I can say that one of the markets Apple has always been focused on is the content creation industry, and that industry has always focused on powerful graphics cards. And quite often, users in that industry use Windows and Linux and Macintosh -- just to be able to use different specialized applications. However, with the Direct Assignment Technology, one could use, for example, a single Mac Pro and partition it into several virtual machines. So even with today's technology, typical desktop applications work fine. But for these super sophisticated animation applications, which require, say, ten cores and 50 GB of RAM and an NVIDIA Quadra card, the overhead would be a killer. With Direct Assignment, there's no overhead.

TMO: That's very cool. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this in the future.

Beloussov: Laura will keep you in the loop.

TMO: Thanks again for taking the time to chat withTMO.