Executives at the Application Service Provider (ASP) Summit in Colorado said that alliances would be crucial for ASPs to persuade corporate customers that they can deliver complete and reliable services.
Traver Gruen-Kennedy, chairman of the ASP Industry Consortium, explained on Wednesday: "ASP's middle name is service. It's about services, not about technology."
As a result, he said, the Consortium's initial focus was to foster education, common definitions, research, adoption guidelines and best practices among its members and the industry. He added that the body had grown to more than 200 member companies from only 25 in just six months.
Jeff Anderson, Sprint Business' vice president of strategic development, claimed: "In 2001, there is no question this will become mainstream", and predicted that ASPs were "on the verge of shaking up the world."
This meant that ASPs in future would need "to forge complex partnerships required for seamless solutions," he added.
Sprint provides both the enabling technology for ASP related infrastructure and acts as an ASP itself for large enterprises. It has also set up a Preferred Partner Program to certify ASP partners that want to undertake joint branding and marketing targeted at the small and medium sized business market.
And Compaq Computer also reconfirmed its interest in the emerging sector, which analysts forecast will be worth $20 billion by 2003.
A spokesman said that ASPs should not promise high availability to every customer, but should "identify what customer's really need. Do they all really need 99.999 per cent availability? Going from 99.5 per cent to 99.95 alone will double their costs".
The founders of the international consortium, which was set up to establish industry standards, include AT&T, Cisco Systems, Compaq, IBM, Sun Microsystems and UUNet.
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