Microsoft and Parallels this week at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2011 (WPC11) announced a two-year pact to offer a cloud automation bundle geared toward the health industry. Both companies contribute technology to the mix. Parallels Automation provides a system for delivering, managing and billing cloud services. Microsoft, meanwhile, will kick in Microsoft System Center, Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, Lync Server and Hyper-V. Here's a closer look at the relationship.

The companies said they will invest up to $5 million in the alliance, dubbed the Health Community Cloud Automation (HCCA) partnership. And while some of those dollars will be spent on technology development, the deal also includes a channel dimension.

Bigger Picture

John Zanni, vice president of service provider marketing and alliances at Parallels, said Parallels provides a partner ecosystem as well as a cloud services delivery platform. He pointed out that 5,000 service providers use Parallels software.

A handful of those are involved with the HCCA partnership -- Apptix and UberGlobal were noted in the announcement. Apptix, based in Herndon, Va., offers hosted Exchange, VoIP, and SharePoint targeting specific vertical markets. UberGlobal, is a Web hosting company based in Australia.

Zanni said the objective of Parallels healthcare partnership with Microsoft is to work with a set of hosting providers around the world. He said the alliance will seek to work with partners with established business in healthcare as well as service provider looking to break into that field.

The companies alliance may also extend to its partners’ partners. Zanni said a service provider could use HCCA platform to create a cloud service -- infrastructure as a service, for example -- and engage a VAR or systems integrator with healthcare expertise to verticalize the offering.

As for end customers, the Parallels/Microsoft announcement suggested the partnership will pursue “large healthcare institutions.” The companies most likely will be meeting with service providers to narrow the focus. Health information exchanges (HIEs) may emerge as one niche. HIEs seek to exchange clinical information among hospitals, physician practices, labs, and other health partners. A private cloud could provide the infrastructure for such a network. State health insurance exchanges are another possibility. The healthcare reform law calls for states to rollout exchanges by 2014. Microsoft earlier this year announced a turnkey solution for building state exchanges.

Overall, Zanni said cloud uptake in healthcare lags other business sectors. “What we saw ... was an opportunity to accelerate cloud adoption in the health industry,” he noted.

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