December 22, 2000, 10:27 AM —
|Testing the ASP waters|
IT PROFESSIONALS are no strangers to waves of change, but there is a new ripple that some say could become a tsunami that engulfs the internal IT development strategy and erases boundaries, leaving behind a new world in which IT is no longer restrained by corporate walls.
It is the application service provider (ASP) model that has many forecasting major swells as we move into the 21st century. Analysts are watching ASP developments with keen interest, and there are even a few customers willing to test the waters
Amy Wohl, president of Wohl Associates, a computer industry analyst firm in Narberth, Pa., says the ASP phenomenon is all about redefining boundaries.
"We call [ASP] the reinvention of IS architectures," says Wohl. "Instead of being built inside the company, they will be built outside and accessed from the inside."
But with technology vendors of every conceivable shape and size suddenly morphing into ASPs, there is considerable confusion around the term. Clare Gillan, an analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC), in Framingham, Mass., says ASPs have a few key defining features.
"An ASP delivers an application," says Gillan. "The ASP supports a one-to-many model that entails relationships with management, application, network, and implementation partners -- and an ASP offering is centrally managed."
This definition encompasses much of what IT managers do in-house today -- and represents a major shift away from what has been mostly internal activity until now. So IT organizations are slowly warming up to the idea of letting key applications out the front door. In fact, most of the ASP wind is blowing from vendors. However, Art Williams, an analyst at the Giga Information Group, does not dismiss the ASP craze as vendor-driven hype.
"There are three strong drivers that are converging on the demand side," says Williams. "Namely, the chronic shortage of technical personnel, need for more speed in implementation, and [electronic-] commerce anxiety."
The Internet is behind these drivers, particularly for speeding implementation cycles and rethinking commerce models.
"The start-up dot-coms want to be in business yesterday," says Williams. "Long implementation cycles to get back-office business processes up and running don't play well in that market."
Opening new doors