RealTime IT News

Making the Jump to ASP

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been changing of late. Many in the market are finding that in addition to getting hungry customers onto the information superhighway, they can sell them a few downloadable chips and sodas along the way.

"Its all about service," says ASPnews.com founder Phil Wainewright, during Monday's ISP to ASP conference sponsored by internet.com. "You have to collaborate and you have to integrate."

Wainewright was one of many in the early days of the web who saw that traditional access providers like ISPs could use their client base to expand certain "targeted" services or applications; a term and a trend more commonly known today as an ASP.

The one-day conference in San Francisco targeted potential ISPs who are looking at making a jump into the ASP world; an estimated $1 billion industry next year according to Forrester Research.

"We took the Zy.com web project to developers to help them make web pages," says Zy.com co-founder Nova Fisher. "But then we realized what businesses really need is to have second-generation web page builders. There is no point in recreating a lot of code that is already out there. That's when we developed ZyModules."

Now, says Fisher, those modules are a part of sites like San Francisco-based NBCi and Homestead.com.

Fisher says she, like Wainewright, saw the possibilities of combining infrastructure services with access providers. However without the base of infrastructure operators or constant service maintenance, most ASPs would crash and burn.

The consensus of the group then is that no one can do it alone.

To Dive Or Not To Dive
So, how fast should ISPs hold hands with their partners and jump into the ASP pool? That depends on what is in the pool, say the experts.

"The main point to understand here is that you have to know your customer," says Quest Director of Partner Program Development Craig Schlagbaum. "If you don't know the customer's needs then you have to try and take your service and go stick your big toe in the water to test it out."

However, Microsoft business development manager Gene Cornfield says jumping into the ASP pool is a lot easier when the platform you are jumping from is the same as the one you are going to land on.

"The challenge to the ASP community is - How do we optimize people, processes and technology in a standard that gives greater value?" says Cornfield.

Cornfield's suggestion is that of the 70,000 or so service vendors on the market today, each one could be designing new applications faster if they work on the same base platform.

And while the ASP marketplace has gone through spurts because of market capital problems and a slower adoption rates, growth in the ASP industry is expected by some research firms to surpass the $25 billion mark by 2004.

"This is not going to require a toe in the water," says Cornfield. "This is going to need deep pockets to make it work successfully."