Few businesses buy ASP services without the involvement of an intermediary. Collectively known as service integrators, they form the initial contact point for end customers of the ASP value chain. While some service integrators are pureplay startups who are dedicated to ASP solutions, many others are established companies with an existing track record in traditional IT or business consulting.
A new category of pureplay provider is the service aggregator, which brings together a portfolio of third-party online services for delivery to users. ASPs that serve a vertical or specialist market often also act as aggregators when they supplement their core offering with third-party services.
ASP aggregators pre-integrate multiple ASP solutions, some of which may be hosted on their own servers, but many of which are supplied online, direct from partner providers. The aggregator provides integrated access to the external services and may also support workflow and data sharing between them.
Portals deliver applications as part of a portfolio of online services, typically including news and information feeds, hosted communities and marketplaces.
IT Service Providers
The traditional providers of IT services to enterprises, IT service providers often act as sales and implementation partners for ASPs. Some host applications themselves, while others prefer to act as a “virtual ASP,” taking responsibility for delivering the service to the end customer while a master ASP operates the hosted applications on their behalf.
Value Added Resellers (VARs) assemble IT solutions to meet the needs of small and medium-sized businesses in specific vertical or local markets. Their specialist development and integration skills are tailored to the needs of their target markets.
Systems Integrators (SIs) have expertise in building integrated IT systems for medium-sized and larger enterprises.
E-business integrators, including website designers and Internet consultancies, specialise in building e-business solutions such as web and e-commerce sites.
Full Service Providers (FSPs) are a hybrid form of provider that acts as both a service integrator and an ASP, rounding out a traditional SI service by providing hosting of the finished solution.
Internal IT operations in large enterprises often act as service integrators to client departments and business units within the organisation.
Small businesses in particular often rely on the counsel of trusted advisors when selecting IT solutions. With the advent of Web-delivered solutions, business advisors can take a more direct role in helping businesses deploy technology-based business tools without having to become experts in the underlying technology.
Management consultants have expertise in designing and implementing business systems for larger enterprises, working with SIs and ASPs to create technology-based solutions.
Small business advisors such as accountants and independent consultants often play a significant role in helping smaller enterprises decide on and implement services from online providers.
Trusted brands such as banks and telecoms providers develop pre-packaged ASP offerings — often in partnership with a master ASP — for delivery in volume to their small business customer base.
Channel masters are enterprises that control supply chains or partner channels made up of large numbers of smaller businesses. Many are beginning to act as service integrators to their supply chain and sales channel partners, offering a portfolio of applications and services designed to improve collaboration and process integration within the partner community.
Phil Wainewright founded ASPnews.com in 1998 and is the publisher of Loosely Coupled. He can be contacted at