Digex Launches Interactive Portal

Just nine months after launching a development initiative with Compaq Computer Corporation and Microsoft Corp. aimed at building the industry’s most advanced managed web and application hosting services, Digex (Nasdaq:DIGX) Wednesday (Oct 25) unveiled myDigex, a new interactive client portal providing resource monitoring and management, advanced provisioning features.

“We’re giving customers a new face, a new experience,” Bobby Patrick, Digex VP strategy and business development, told ASP News. “We’re taking hosting to a whole new level.”

The Digex client portal aims to seamlessly integrate companies’ hosted e-business initiatives with their internal processes and back-office applications. Built around xFrame, an XML framework for data exchange between applications, the portal delivers the tools and technology customers need to view, interact and manage e-business information from any web-enabled device.

“A managed hosting provider should be a virtual extension of a corporation’s IT department, providing real-time information that is critical to e-business planning and decision making in a format that is accessible and flexible,” said Rebecca Ward, president, engineering, marketing and product management for Digex. A 70-person engineering team was formed after the three companies announced their collaboration in January.

xFrame, developed in partnership with Compaq, Digex and Microsoft, is the enabling platform for the Digex client portal. xFrame is a highly automated, scalable technical framework for rapidly deploying, hosting, and managing mission critical applications anywhere on the Internet. xFrame is built on top of the Digex Managed Hosting solution and consists of Compaq ProLiant servers, Microsoft software and hosting components, accessed through the client portal.

xFrame uses XML schemas to form the “hooks” between the Digex managed services framework, server software and Digex clients’ own applications. Those XML hooks allow Digex clients to “plug in” to Digex, permitting real-time interaction with the data in Digex’s monitoring, asset management, billing and trouble ticketing systems. Because the data is defined by XML schemas, it can be exported into any XML-enabled application — meaning clients can use the data in their existing back-office systems.

Digex expects to make available its first suite of XML schemas to its clients in the first quarter of 2001. In the second quarter, these schemas will be published to the general public in partnership with Microsoft, through its BizTalk.org initiative.

“Combining the technologies behind Microsoft’s .NET platform with today’s services lays the foundation for the future of e-business,” said Mark Chestnut, general manager, Network Solutions Group, Microsoft. “Our close work with Digex and Compaq is helping shape how products and services will be brought to market and managed in a high-quality production environment.”

Designed to meet the needs of enterprise customers, dot-coms and ASPs, the client portal provides a view into Digex’s internal monitoring, billing, asset management and trouble ticketing systems. Designed for access from a web browser or handheld device, the portal provides mission-critical information that can be interfaced into a client’s own systems for review and analysis. An ActiveX Control built into the portal allows for real-time monitoring of information from an active desktop.

Currently, 10 Digex clients are using the portal in a pilot project running through the first quarter of 2001, with over 100 expected to join the program by the end of the year, Patrick said. The service will become generally available in January. Full implementation of advanced interactive features of the portal, including online provisioning, third party asset management, online bill payment and interactive trouble ticket management, will occur in a second phase.

The collaboration between Compaq, Microsoft and Digex is also yielding operational efficiencies that will enable Digex to shorten deployment times from its current 10-day guarantee while offering higher service levels. Digex is automating labor-intensive, repetitive tasks such as ordering, loading software and configuring servers by linking myDigex directly to Compaq ProLiant factory floors, reducing server build times from today’s 10 days to 5 days next year and 2 days in 2002, Patrick said.

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