Web hosting: The next generation

The new pretenders are lining up to stake their claim on the Web hosting throne

Call it Web hosting, round two.

Microsoft may have only put the finishing touches on its application service provider (ASP) program late last week, but a number of other established players already have earned plenty of hosting experience. But instead of giving up on the hosting market, some of the individuals on the bleeding edge have taken their expertise and gone off to become founders of second generation hosting companies.

The best known of the new breed of business-to-business (B2B) infrastructure players are firms like Loudcloud, the infrastructure services company formed late last year by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, and JamCracker, an aggregator of infrastructure services and products.

Other players in this back-end infrastructure space include Exenet and SiteSmith. These companies carved out a niche for themselves by providing the infrastructure needed by ASPs and Internet service providers (ISPs) to host customers' sites and provide users with hosted applications on a subscription basis.

But there are a bunch of up-and-comers who believe they can capitalise on the cracks in the strategies of these B2B infrastructure providers.

The "second-generation dot-commers", as NOCpulse senior vice president Jon Prall refers to himself and his colleagues, have been there, done that on the hosting front. They have seen what worked and what failed when it came to hosting the Nikes and Amazons on the Internet.

Not surprisingly, the second-generation hosting vendors are targeting the gaps in the B2B infrastructure and related services required for proper hosting.

NOCpulse -- a startup launched by former GlobalCrossing and Excite@Home veterans -- has set an ambitious goal for itself.

"We want to be the NORAD [sic] of the Internet," said founder and president Paul Santinelli. The US company is building a suite of integrated software and services it is calling the Internet Operational Support Service. The first version of the platform is due out this fall and is aimed at helping companies proactively monitor and manage their Web infrastructures.

Another industry veteran, former Novell executive vice president Chris Stone, recently launched his own hosting infrastructure services company, called Tilion, which has a more narrow scope.

It is providing "in-the-Net" reporting and management tools to help commerce players run their B2B sites more efficiently. Stone said the first Tilion offerings are six months away from delivery, and all will be subscription-based, priced on a per-company or per-user basis.

With Tilion's Extensible Markup Language-based tools, "users can do in 30 minutes what used to take 100 to 120 days", boasted chief executive and founder Stone.

"It's all about maintaining sustainable, scalable user levels," said Ritu Raj, chief executive and founder of yet another of the next wave of B2B players, Chapter 2 e-services. Raj is a former vice president of Oracle consulting services vendor System One Technical.

Because 24/7 uptime is now a given assumption when it comes to hosting, the next frontier will be performance, Raj said. To that end, Chapter 2 is slated to unveil its suite of B2B "infrastructure-on-tap" services, aimed primarily at small to mid-size business customers, on 24 July.

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