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

An entire layer of service providers and vendors has sprung up over the past year to help manage applications and services in the ASP value chain. They contribute all the backroom software and services that providers need to successfully operate and deliver Internet computing as a commercial service.

Management Service Providers (MSPs)
MSPs are the fastest-growing segment in this layer, and fall into several different categories. The common theme that unites them is that they offer systems and application management as a remotely managed or hosted service, so in effect they are ASPs that specialize in infrastructure software rather than applications software.

Their customers often include ASPs and other service providers, but since most computing currently resides within enterprises, the majority of their customers are end-user businesses. There are three main types of MSP:

  • Desktop MSPs provide remote monitoring and management of desktop PCs, offering services such as anti-virus, backup, personal firewalls and remote fault diagnosis.
  • E-business MSPs provide remote services that help monitor and maintain web and ecommerce servers. Services include remotely managed anti-virus and firewall protection, continuous monitoring of sites for availability and performance, and stress-testing of new services prior to going live.
  • Enterprise MSPs provide remote management of enterprise applications and infrastructures using high-end management tools such as BMC Patrol! and CA-Unicenter. Some are highly specialized — for example providing a single service such as database administration — while others offer a broader portfolio.
Application or ASP Infrastructure Providers (AIPs)
An AIP is a specialized form of managed hosting provider that operates hosting centers equipped with value-added functionality to support the special demands of application hosting and provisioning. Although some use their own hosting centers, many others use the services of hosting service providers so that they can focus on their core competence of application and infrastructure management.

AIPs provide everything needed to host an application for ASP delivery, up to and including the servers, operating systems, database administrators, billing and provisioning systems, user authentication, 24-hour monitoring and often first-line helpdesk — in short, everything except the application itself. AIPs that specialize in working with ASPs may also include support for marketing the application and working with reseller channels. Others offer a more generic service that also targets enterprises wishing to host their own applications.

Infrastructure ASPs
A new family of software products is emerging to meet the needs of ASPs for backroom functions that help them streamline their operations, including security, provisioning, billing, payment collection and settlement, directory services, customer account management services and many others. These functions are often collectively referred to as OSS/BSS, which is a telecom industry term meaning operational and business support systems.

These software products are often sold as packages for installation in the data centres of ASPs or AIPs. But they may also be provided as a service offering, either by an AIP or managed hosting provider for its own hosting customers, or by a specialist infrastructure ASP that delivers services to multiple customers in remote locations.


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