The following is an update as to the status of the future of H-Sphere as of Friday, August 26, 2011 from Blake M. Tyra of Parallels:

We have two solutions in the works for H-Sphere customers. One is designed for smaller H-Sphere hosts, and the other for medium-sized.

The first will be Plesk 11. It will support a ‘Management Server’ (which can be a single-server instance of Plesk and run some or all of the Plesk services) and ‘Service Nodes’. These Service Nodes will be able to run on or more of the Plesk services (Web/DNS/Mail/Database) – allowing one to setup servers with dedicated purposes and benefit from aspects such as centralized mail or DNS services. The product will support an integrated Web Presence Builder (site design tool) and an be used with an integrated or external billing system. This product is probably ideal for those that will have ~10 or less Service Nodes. A migration path will be built from H-Sphere to this new Plesk.

This is targeted for July 2012 release.

Separately, we’re working on a new product targeting the mid-market (~10-to ~100 Service Nodes) that will feature similar architecture to that discussed above, but be much more scalable and include infrastructure management functionality to keep up with the greater number of Service Nodes. Currently, we do not have a name for this product yet – we’re internally calling it “Multi-Server Panel” (but, admittedly, this name can be confusing when compared to the Plesk 11 release described above). This is the solution that will be built on the POA provisioning core and use CBM (Parallels Customer & Business Manager) as the billing system. Likewise, a migration path will be built from H-Sphere to this platform as well.

This is targeted for a May 2012 release (editor note:  the target has moved over time from March 2012 to May 2012 with the current target being July 2012).

The following was shared on Thursday, October 20, 2011:

What is the MSP project about?

Historically Parallels has delivered two core hosting panels – Plesk as a single server panel and Parallels Operations Automation (POA) as an enterprise scale hosting solution. The only choices in between “entry level” and “enterprise scale” have been acquired panels such as H-Sphere and Helm, which have largely received support to maintain them, but not sufficient development to modernize and extend them. Currently Parallels is preparing two solutions that allows us to close this gap for small to mid-size hosting configurations where managing multiple servers from a single management node is important.

The first Solution will be Plesk 11. It will be a Plesk instance that runs some or all of the Plesk services locally, plus allows you to attach so-called ‘Service Nodes’. These Service Nodes will be able to run one or more of the Plesk services (Web/DNS/Mail/Database) – allowing one to set up servers with dedicated workloads and benefit from aspects such as centralized mail or centralized DNS services. The product will support an integrated Web Presence Builder (site design tool) and can be used with an integrated or external billing system. This product is probably ideal for those that will have ~10 or less Service Nodes. Like Plesk, it is intended to be sold on a per-server licensing basis.

Separately, we’re working on a new product targeting the mid-market (~10-to ~100 Service Nodes) that will feature similar architecture to that discussed above, but be much more scalable and include infrastructure management functionality to keep up with the greater number of Service Nodes. The code name for this product is MSP. Tentatively, we plan to price this on a per-account basis, which should be good for growing hosters, since it creates a “pay-as-you-grow” pricing model.

MSP is not entirely brand new code, but rather seamless integration of several Parallels products into an end-to-end solution. It runs on POA as a platform providing centralized infrastructure management – physical and virtual nodes registration, installing and updating software on them, managing IP addresses and IP pools, etc. POA is also responsible for provisioning tasks queues, their asynchronous execution and failed tasks diagnostics. MSP also will use Parallels Automation virtualization technologies, which run on the POA platform.

The Customer Panel in this solution is provided by the Plesk Panel. Unlike Plesk – a product that you might be used to – the Control Panel in MSP operates multiple service nodes, which may be Apache or IIS web servers, a mail server, etc.

Billing for MSP is provided by Parallels Customer and Business Manager (CBM) normally included into Parallels Panel Suite. A Reseller Tier is added, and the hoster or resellers can manage service plans, customer accounts and subscriptions through this component.

Why was this combination of components chosen?

First of all, these two solutions (Plesk 11 and MSP) provide smooth hosting business growth from a single server driven by Plesk panel into several servers, and then into multiple servers under the control of MSP. With these upgrades, the customer experience stays untouched. Customers are always exposed to Plesk interface as the hosting panel.

Second, POA as platform delivers a variety of services that a provider can offer to the customers. The first release of MSP will deliver traditional web and mail hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting. Going forward, we are planning to offer other services available through the PA platform, such as SaaS, Hosted Exchange, etc. So, MSP 1.0 is the start – but it establishes a very interesting growth path for ambitious hosters on the PA services platform.

As far as it is known, H-Sphere providers will need to be on the most current version of H-Sphere in order to migrate.

The following H-Sphere Road map was shared on Thursday, January 19, 2012:

H-Sphere 3.5.1 – Q1 2012

–          ColdFusion 9 support (for W2K3, W2K8, W2K8R2)

–          Improved Virtuozzo Provisioning

–          Package Updates (versions TBD)

We will be releasing the Release Candidate next week with final release expected January 31.

H-Sphere 3.6.0 – Q2 2012 (Parallels is going to work for a stable release by Monday, April 30, 2012)

–          CentOS 6 / RHEL 6 support

–          PHP 5.3 or 5.4 support (probably just 5.4 if there are no backward compatibility issues with 5.3)

with a ‘per-server’ PHP version – allowing you to preserve customers with applications needing older PHP versions on separate servers

–          Ability for FreeBSD -> Linux account move support

–          Likely: improved SiteStudio -> SiteBuilder migration support

–          Package Updates

 H-Sphere 3.6.1 – Q4 2012

–          Feature Set TBD, open to customer feedback

–          Package Updates

 Depending on package update needs that emerge throughout the year, we have time scoped to release needed SPUs.

The following was mentioned publicly by Blake Tyra on Tuesday, January 31, 2012:

Other Notes:

  • We will likely do some small release or package update in the Q3 time-frame.
  • We will continue to provide support for RHEL/CentOS 4 past the vendors EOL date – at least until the 3.6 release (where we add RHEL/CentOS 6 support)
  • With the Q2 3.6 release, we will be revising our H-Sphere Lifecycle policy. Based on usage statistics, we do not feel this change will impact many customers, but:
    – The current policy is that we support the current release and two previous major versions.
    i.e. We currently support H-Sphere 3.3p, 3.4.0, 3.4.1, 3.5.0, and 3.5.1. When H-Sphere 3.6.0 is released, we would have supported, H-Sphere 3.4.0, 3.4.1, 3.5.0, 3.5.1, and 3.6.0.
    – We will be changing the policy to at least require that customers use at least the latest minor release within a major version to receive support.  This will go into effect with the 3.6.0 release, meaning that once this version is release we will be supporting: 3.4.1, 3.5.1, and 3.6.0.

 Now, on to updates about the new Multi-Server Panel (still just a code name) product:

–          MSP 1.0 is still on schedule for July 2012, it will support Windows/Linux shared hosting

There is one notable change based on our previous discussions and that is that 1.0 will _not_ support VPS provisioning

–          MSP 1.1 is scheduled for Q4 2012, this is where we add VPS provisioning support

May 29, 2012 Status Update

Parallels silently released H-Sphere 3.6.0 on Thursday, May 24th (I just found out about it this past Memorial day weekend which is why I state silently).

They released H-Sphere 3.6.0 even though it was incomplete, and even though there were people reporting issues with the beta (they pushed the beta even though it was alpha ware).

H-Sphere 3.6.0 does not support (does not work with) CentOS 6 / RHEL 6 for the control panel server.

So that makes migrating to CentoS 6 only possible for servers not running the control panel logical service or postgresql (another breaking point for CentoS 6 / RHEL 6 support).

http://download.hsphere.parallels.com/release_notes/3.6.0/ is the release notes.  Please carefully review “4.2 Possible Problems & Recommended Workarounds.”

Blake Tyra could not explain why it was released while Parallels knew there were so many bugs, items that will break, etc.

Blake Tyra did share an update to H-Sphere 3.6.0 will be out by the end of July that will hopefully fix most of the issues including CentOS 6 / RHEL 6 support for the control panel and postgresql.

Mid Q3 Status Update

Blake Tyra shared the following at http://forum.psoft.net/showthread.php?t=31316&p=156553#post156553

Plesk Automation (PPA) is licensed per-server. Each web or mail “Service Node” requires a license. Each DNS or database node is free. There are no required charges beyond this. For paid Service Nodes, the license requires is a Plesk Dedicated/Unlimited-Domain lease license. These retail at $39.99/month (e.g. if you buy them directly from us, but depending on your server provider you may find lower prices). Note that these licenses include unlimited updates (no additional SUS requirement) and unlimited support (there are no more per-ticket charges or support contracts needed).

We think with the included updates, free support, low per-node charge, and modern software platform provided, it will be a lateral shift for H-Sphere customers from existing SUS contracts to the new lease model.

As discussed above, we’ll clearly announce any product lifecycle dates for H-Sphere well in advance to assist in upgrade/SUS planning. That said, for H-Sphere customers that are interested in moving to Plesk Automation once it becomes available, you will be able to use any remaining time on your SUS contract to your benefit. Once you are ready to trade-in your H-Sphere licenses and make the move to PPA, you will have the opportunity to use PPA for as many shared hosting accounts and web/mail/DNS/database service nodes as you want at NO charge for the remainder of your H-Sphere SUS contract. After the end of the SUS contract, PPA will continue to be available on a the above described lease license model.