1. What new software are hosts out there interested in?I am trying to see what people want the most, brand new Control Panels, an Instant Messenger system that a host would love, and more.
2. A friend of mine is interested in writing a control panel and wants to know what sort've features you would love to see in one. It will have the same features as all the other panels and more, so what new ones would you love to see? Something that makes your life as a hoster or hostee easy.
Writing a decent control panel is a lot more difficult than people realize. Six years or so ago, a WEB HOSTING "control panel" was a simple page that let you change your password. If you had a Windows NT based site, perhaps you could setup ODBC DSN's. Everything was proprietary.
There are a lot of shops out now (Ensim, SWSoft, etc...) that offer not only consumer based "control panel" systems, but entire back-end hosting solutions... i.e. PEM and Unify.
Remember, automating web hosting isn't really a simple matter of configuring Apache via the web any longer, it's handling resellers, resellers of resellers, delegated administration, system capacity planning, full integration into billing packages (no, not just Modern Bill and Payflow Pro), authentication system choice (AD? Local? LDAP? Unix password file?), and much more.
To top it off, these big guys use a a variety of transaction mechanisms to ensure that account creation is an atomic process. Underestimation of the complexity has lead to a plethora of "not quite functional" hosting packages.
The downside to a series of standardized "control panel" offerings? Every other company's product looks the same and they're forced to complete on the basis of price or quantity. Sure, the CSS is different, but the functionality is almost identical.
One thing I find interesting... most of these systems are really automating system administration. User management, HTTPD management, BIND management. It's SAM and SMITTY in HTML minus the kernel extension loader. There are only so many different ways to write out a DNS zone file. Only so many different views to put on a chmod() call. People are used to this though. If you want to play the Control Panel game, you've got to handle it all.
I'd personally find more worth in web-based applications that were geared towards the end user. You know, the late 90's ASP model, but without all the raging stupidity and terrible products.