Whether you're an ASP or DSP, more alliance programs are coming. First there were ASPs and MSPs. As of this week, there are DSPs (developer service providers) too. Vendors from Borland to Microsoft are serving up the acronym soup, as they court service providers into their respective partner programs.
Microsoft's E-Business Acceleration program, which was unveiled last week, is one case in point. The program includes Microsoft's bCentral e-business portal, along with expanded services through ASP partners, product bundles from Compaq Computer and Dell Computer for midsize businesses, and tools and consulting services for integrating larger software packages with enterprise systems.
Computer Associates, meanwhile, is moving forward with plans to spin off an ASP enabler, known as iCanASP. The start-up intends to help service providers move up the food chain to evolve into business service providers (BSPs). The company is developing code, such as billing software, that will help ASPs to better manage their businesses, according to CEO Nancy Li.
BMC Software and Borland, on the other hand, have started adding MSP and DSP channels to the mix. By March of 2001, BMC plans to deploy its SiteAngel Web transaction monitoring service for MSP partners at five data centers worldwide, says Mary Nugent, GM of BMC's service provider (SP) solutions. At Comdex this week, BMC also will unveil plans to add hosted services around its Patrol Manage and Patrol Monitor software packages. A fourth offering in the new SP family, Patrol Assure, will target custom implementations for large service providers.
The hosted services will "enable MSPs to realize full product potential without the need for highly trained staff with specialized skills," says Nugent. BMC's initial SP partners include Second Wave, Sky Desk and DBAdirect.
Meanwhile, Borland intends to use software (obtained via its Bedouin Inc. acquisition) to begin hosting the "entire product life cycle" for multisite developer organizations.
Analysts say the ASP arena is rapidly moving beyond commodity software to include value-added services. "As the ASP market matures, complementary services are springing up," says Tom Mangan, a senior manager at Arthur Andersen. "ASP services come into play after an application has been developed. Now, you're starting to see an interest among developers in using hosted servers and SANs (storage area networks), instead of needing to have these things on site."
At this point, software vendors typically are targeting hosted services at small to midsize businesses. Big enterprise customers tend to forego outside hosting because of concerns over reliability, privacy and security, according to some vendors.
Some customers, including Atlantic Coffee, are warming up to the ASP model.
"Microsoft's bCentral service will advance us directly to the Web, so we can start selling our goods and services to customers outside the local area," says Steve Murphy, VP and general manager at Atlantic Coffee. The $5 million firm specializes in coffee, paper goods, medical supplies and other items related to office building "break rooms."
"Our Web site, e-mail, financial transactions and ordering will become uniform through use of a single product," says Murphy. Until now, Atlantic Coffee used Peachtree financial software, along with industry-specific billing and inventory software from another vendor. Questions about the xSPs linger, but proponents think larger enterprises will warm up to hosted apps. "Our anticipation was that larger software organizations wouldn't want to use the DSP services," concedes Ted Shelton, senior VP of business development at Borland. "But this isn't turning out to be the case. I think that we'll have customers of various sizes, and that we'll tailor our services accordingly."
Now, if only we could keep all of the acronyms straight.