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A Winning Combination: Software-as-Services Plus Business Consulting and Process Services
By Laurie McCabe
January 30, 2004

(Originally published in April 2002)

In the report, 2002 ASP Industry Insight: The Rise of the Provider Web, authors Phil Wainewright and Dan Muse described a four-layer model of the industry, as shown in the diagram below. The blue arrow emphasizes that all four of these layers are delivered to the end user, often by different providers. It also implies that there are components at each layer that never touch the end user.

Layers of the Provider Web

The ASPnews Top 50 effectively divides this diagram into two halves. The Top 25 Providers are the companies that offer finished services to end-user businesses (the right-hand half), while the Top 25 Enablers are companies that provide the building-block components for creating those services (the left-hand half).

Criteria for the ASPnews Top 25 Providers
Candidates for inclusion in the ASPnews Top 25 Providers come primarily from the upper layers of the industry models discussed above. Although some providers at the infrastructure and network levels focus on end-user connectivity, most also have substantial investments in backbone infrastructure and are therefore more appropriate candidates for the enablers listing.

ASPnews, of course, also retains a bias towards the core ASP industry, since this is where we have our roots. Therefore, we look for companies that include a substantial element of network-based software automation in their offering. However, a major change from our previous stance is that we will treat revenues from activities such as the online provision of business services, content and systems management as being complementary to the core business.

Previously, we disregarded that revenue. On the other hand, we now take a less favorable view of offline activities such as consulting and systems integration. In particular, we disregard those related to on-site installation and customization of traditional packaged applications.

In summary, the new criteria for inclusion in the ASPnews Top 25 Providers listing are that companies must:

  • Have the provision of network-based applications and/or services as their core business
  • Have a substantial and active end-user customer base for those services
  • Be able to demonstrate proven revenue streams
  • Be innovators in the online delivery of software-based services
  • Be recognized as a leader by others within the industry

Criteria for the ASPnews Top 25 Enablers
Enablers fall into two main categories: Either they operate the infrastructure on which providers run their services, or they supply the software and hardware components and platforms from which providers create their offerings. A final ingredient is that enablers must actively support, encourage and promote the online delivery model and have strong partner programs for providers.

Candidates for inclusion in the ASPnews Top 25 Enablers come from three main sectors:

  1. Application software vendors — Vendors that develop applications for online delivery by providers.
  2. Platform vendors — Vendors who develop the software infrastructure products that enable the creation, deployment and delivery of online services, and manufacturers of the computer and networking hardware on which they operate.
  3. Web services infrastructure operators — companies that provide software, hosting and network services to the providers of online services.
For inclusion in the ASPnews Top 25 Enablers listing, companies must meet the following criteria:
  • Have a substantial and active customer base of providers
  • Be active in their support and promotion of network-based applications and services
  • Invest in innovation in the online delivery of software-based services
  • Be recognized as a leader by others within the industry


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