Fixing bugs

Solution providers begin to offer maintenance of business applications for their customers.

Instead of abandoning old customers for new clients, savvy solutions providers are spending more time generating profits from their existing customer base.

It's a sound strategy. Nearly 80 percent of enterprise IT resources are devoted to maintaining and enhancing existing applications, according to several industry analysts. And many companies are looking to outsource those maintenance efforts. It begs the question: Why not capture some of that cash, not only from your own customers but also from those your competitors have left behind?

The strategy is paying big dividends at Aptegrity Inc., formerly known as Cutler Systems Management. Aptegrity specializes in "the grunt work" of fixing bugs and tweaking performance of existing Web-based apps, according to VP of operations Bob Petrie.

"Many developers prefer to start from scratch; they don't want to do bug fixing," says Petrie. "We suggest that our clients' IT resources are better devoted to strategic Internet initiatives, and they should leave the maintenance of existing apps to us."

In one recent effort, Aptegrity overhauled a book publisher's Web site with a friendlier user interface. The result: The publisher's online sales jumped more than 50 percent, and Web traffic is surpassing company goals.

Eager to repeat that success, Aptegrity is seeking partnerships with integrators, developers and hosting service providers.

Meanwhile, Sitara Networks is pushing ahead with a similar application-maintenance strategy. The company will debut a new quality-of-service (QoS) product line at this week's NetWorld+Interop in Atlanta.

"As more applications are thrown onto networks, application-specific QoS management becomes just as important as bandwidth management," asserts Ed DeArias, Sitara's executive VP of worldwide sales.

Sitara's QoSWorks software suite and network appliance both support policy -based bandwidth allocation, app-specific traffic control and network monitoring.

Another new offering, the QoS Director software system, enables centralized QoS management for large, distributed networks. The Java-based tool integrates with Hewlett-Packard's Open View, Concord Data Systems' Network Health, Tivoli's management products, Aprisma Management's Spec trum, Computer Associates International's Unicenter, and various policy managers.

Solutions providers can use QoS Director to manage thousands of Sitara network appliances from a central location, according to company officials.

"[You] can analyze a customer's traffic flows by installing a QoSWorks device on the network, provide on go ing QoS monitoring and policy-based management, fine-tune customers' network performance, and show documented benefits for SLA [site license agreement] purposes," says DeArias.

The lesson to solutions providers: Before you break new ground, take a second look for oil in some of your existing customer wells.

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