RealTime IT News

Microsoft Happy to Help Hosters

With the economy mired in a slump and the dotcom craze a distant memory, managed hosting providers have found profit margins slim at best and competition fierce.

In a move designed to offer service providers the magic mix of reduced costs, higher margins and improved customer satisfaction, Microsoft yesterday announced a program that gives service providers a virtual road map to Windows-based hosting success. Participants in the program will have access to a reference architectural design and tested tools and scripts.

There's good reason for providers to be cautiously optimistic that investing in their services will pay off. While IDC has reported modest growth in the Web hosting market since 2000, the research firm reports that market is starting to accelerate and will reach $20.8 billion by 2006.

Still, the market won't resemble the industry of the late '90s. A well-thought-out business model is key to success, which is where Microsoft's new program comes in. "This set of tested documents, tools and scripts is proven to increase customer satisfaction, accelerate cost reduction and enable new-revenue generation for service providers," said Pascal Martin, general manager of platform and application hosting at Microsoft.

Early adopters of Microsoft's Windows-based hosting platform, according the company, have experienced a 50-percent reduction in support call volume and a 30-percent improvement in response time to customer issues.

"Our administrators can handle twice as many sites, and the solution's reference architecture guide reduced deployment time by a factor of 3," said Paulo Castro, sales director at Terra Networks Brasil.

Rackspace Managed Hosting reports that it has already saved $975,000 in licensing, consulting and integration costs. The San Antonio-based Rackspace manages more than 6,000 servers.

"The Microsoft tools offer a tremendous price-to-performance equation that is the foundation of our Intensive offering," said John Engates, chief technology officer for Rackspace Intensive Hosting service. "Microsoft Operations Manager 2000 enables us to view incoming problems and handle any standard or unexpected customer requests much more effectively."

Microsoft reports that it has packaged seven components for service providers that offer a best-practice approach to delivering reliable hosting services with reduced operating costs, increased customer satisfaction and increased profit margins:

  • Centralized management and delegated administration. The Active Directory service is designed to allow service providers to manage two to three times as many servers per administrator and cut support costs in half with centralized management and delegated administration.
  • Server purposing. The Automated Purposing Framework (APF) provides utilities and scripts to automate the process of creating an operational server. Servers can be configured in 30 to 60 minutes, according to Microsoft.
  • Service provisioning. The Microsoft Provisioning System (MPS) component is designed to reduce operational costs and time to market by automating provisioning activities.
  • Proactive monitoring and reporting. Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) is designed to deliver increased uptime and reduced support costs through event management, proactive monitoring and alerting, as well as reporting and trend analysis.
  • Security and patch management. This component is designed to help eliminate service interruptions by allowing service providers to detect, download and deploy fixes before they are needed.
  • Platform design and operation. The solution for Windows-based hosting features customer-tested best-practice guidelines for optimizing network design configuration and daily administrative tasks.
  • Windows Media hosting. Using Windows Media Technologies reference material, Microsoft reports that service providers can easily deploy the Windows Media service.

Microsoft reports that to help ensure successful and tailored implementation, service providers also have three implementation alternatives from which to choose: self-deployment, support and services from Microsoft Consulting Services or access to trained systems integrators.

Microsoft is listed by ASPnews as a Top 30 Enabler.

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