Everyone wants to be a Host

Move over, ASPs, ISPs and data centers. Dell Computer, Gateway and SAP AG--the latest entrants into the hosting market--all want a piece of the Web-hosting pie.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on

Move over, ASPs, ISPs and data centers. Dell Computer, Gateway and SAP AG--the latest entrants into the hosting market--all want a piece of the Web-hosting pie.

Dell, Gateway and SAP all announced their hosting plays this week.

For its part, SAP is creating a 50-person spin-off company, which becomes operational on April 1, that will provide ASP services around SAP's mySAP.com offering. For those customers that are interested in add-on third-party software, such as Dunn & Bradstreet financials, the new SAP ASP company will provide them with hosted versions of certain applications on a case-by-case basis, say SAP officials.

The still-unnamed company will provide consulting, hosting, configuration and life-cycle management services, as well as certification for SAP's ASP partners in that space. SAP has 10 mySAP.com service-provider partners in the U.S. and another 30 in Europe today. The new company will offer small- and midsize-business customers per user/per month application rental or leasing.

"SAP is taking over the commitment to being an ASP itself," explains Bernd Kidler, director of service marketing for SAP. "It lets us understand what it takes to succeed in this market."

Going Generic

Dell and Gateway, for their parts, are offering more generic hosting services.

Dell launched its dellhost.com site earlier this week and took care to assure its customers and partners that it was not planting a stake in the ASP market. Instead, Dell is carving out a Web-hosting niche for itself, through which it will provide small and midsize businesses with shared and dedicated hosting services. Dell will provide these customers with bandwidth, server space, backup services and the like, via its partnership with ASP and hosting provider Interliant.

"At this time, we're not planning on becoming an ASP," says Larry Polizzotto, director of business development and strategy for the Dell Hosting Group. "But if it becomes attractive over time, we eventually could go there."

For enterprise customers with more complex hosting needs--including the rental of applications--Dell is partnering with Equinox, Intel, NaviSite and others to fill this gap, says Polizzotto. Dell also is offering customers access to other Web-hosting-related services, such as Web-site design through Web Site Pros, and store-building services through Mercantec.

Where Dell might ruffle some feathers is among other data-center providers. It is planning on providing Interliant with the latest, state-of-the-art server hardware for its hosting endeavor, according to Polizzotto.

"Often folks offering servers are using older systems or white boxes," says Polizzotto. "Compare Verio or Concentric to our offerings."

Gateway is targeting both the ASP and the Web-hosting space. Via a deal with Linux specialist eSoft, in which Gateway invested $25 million, Gateway is providing small and midsize customers with firewall, Web hosting, virtual private network and network-management services. ESoft also is in the business of providing hosted horizontal business software in finance, human resources and various vertical markets, including health care and automotive.

Gateway says it plans to combine eSoft's application and management software with its own server appliances and Internet-access service. It will sell and support these services to customers on a subscription basis.

In a separate deal also announced this week, Gateway made known an alliance with Sun Microsystems. Under terms of the arrangement, Gateway is bundling Sun's Portal Pack Web-application environment on its E-Series desktops and Solo portables, providing Sun customers with "access to the growing array of Web-based services."

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