Compaq's ASP plans come into focus

DENVER -- Compaq Computer Corp. is joining the ranks of IBM, Microsoft Corp.

DENVER -- Compaq Computer Corp. is joining the ranks of IBM, Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and others that want to work with ASPs to attract corporate IT customers.

In a keynote address here Wednesday at the ASP Summit, Eduardo Pontoriero, the new vice president of Compaq's eService Providers Practice, said the company wants to provide the hardware, software (through ISVs building Web-enabled applications) and services needed to make the application service provider model fly.

Early this year, Compaq officials said the company would be in the ASP market but offered few details. Now Compaq's emerging strategy is to work with ASPs along what Pontoriero called "the ASP value chain."

That chain includes data center management (where Compaq has legacy experience from its Digital Equipment Corp. acquisition), availability, application hosting, help desk, systems integration and market strategy, he said. Many ASPs will implement this model through partnerships, while the ASPs themselves provide and monitor SLAs (service-level agreements) to customers.

We can work it out

On the primary issue of availability, Pontoriero said he doesn't believe that most IT customers are interested in so-called four-nine or five-nine (that is, 99.99 or 99.999 percent) availability for some hosted applications. He said many organizations on average are dealing with some 8 hours of downtime annually. "It's a Saturday or a weekend. For many customers, that's OK," he said.

ASPs can work with the network providers to deliver a level of availability that customers are comfortable with, he said.

To provide a level of customization, Pontoriero said Compaq is collaborating with companies such as CMGI on a "universal portal architecture," which will integrate applications from one or multiple ASPs and provide them to employees, along with other content, depending on the employees' role within an organization.

ASPs for the most part are targeting small and midsize businesses, and Pontoriero said success along this value chain is what will attract larger customers. Not surprisingly, he also said ASPs that are unknown or unproven can do themselves a favor by partnering with larger vendors like Compaq.

"Large enterprises are used to doing business with brands they can recognize," he said.

Compaq, of Houston, can be reached at www.compaq.com. More information on the ASP Summit, which is produced by ZD Studios, is available at www.zdasp.com.

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