Application service providers are turning their backs on single supplier arrangements in order to offer customers a choice of systems for the hosting of applications.
This week IBM and US Internet hosting service Interliant announced a sales and marketing deal whereby IBM will resell Interliant's hosting services.
A source at ISP Uunet said they too were considering shifting to a multi-vendor model."There are high-level talks going on between UUNet and all the hardware providers, to offer customers a choice of platforms," confided the source.
Hardware companies are keen to facilitate this move and are coming up with all sorts of incentives to woo this emerging channel.
Today UUNet relies predominantly on Compaq NT servers for its ISP services. US-based Interliant also offers Compaq-based services to customers - possibly something to do with being based in Houston, in Compaq country - but this will change after the deal with IBM.
The deal, struck with the IBM channels organisation, will involve the IBM sales team reselling Interliant services. At the moment that includes remote management of Intel servers in customer sites, called eReach, and hosting sites based on IBM's Net.Commerce software at Interliant's facilities. In the future these will be hosted on IBM Netfinity servers.
"I believe that if we are successful, the relationship will grow. Success breeds success," said Jesse Bornfreund, senior vice president of business development at Interliant.
He said that IBM had been keen to cement the deal, but he had been worried about conflicts with IBM's Global Services, which also offers application hosting to customers.
The deal was not exclusive for either side, he explained.
It was unclear whether there would be a risk-sharing agreement, but Bournefreund did point out that this was an expensive and risky business and he was keen for vendors "to have some skin in the game."
Interliant offers eReach services in the UK and is considering building a permanent server farm. The expectation is that the IBM deal will cross the Atlantic, but the ASP would not be specific.
This type of arrangement is unprecedented in the industry but could well become the norm. A Sun Microsystems insider, who also refused to be named, said that it was likely that Sun would adopt a similar strategy.
Sun is teaming up with IBM and Lotus to offer ASPs a Solaris-based package, including Lotus' ASP suite, announced yesterday, and IBM's database.
This sales model also fits well with HP's eServices initiative, which is busily giving away servers in return for equity stakes and a share of fees.
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