A big selling point for ASPs is that they can get business users up and running quickly, which is why Corio is automating its provisioning process, says Hasan Rizvo, vice president of engineering at the Redwood City, Calif., ASP. Corio is using software from Chainlink that has been customized to easily bring customers online. Chainlink works off a list of processes Corio has defined, such as software feature preferences and how application patches and upgrades should be distributed for Corio customers, Rizvo says.
By automating the service setup and maintenance process, Corio would only have to deploy a software patch once for all customers who subscribe to Corio's PeopleSoft application hosting services, for example. And bringing users online from a single company would mean only entering in each user's ID and password instead of each user's application preferences.
Like most ASPs, Corio from the beginning was focused on automating provisioning and management systems to scale from its few early customers to the hundreds it now supports. Corio has 10 to 15 engineers working to update and automate its systems at any given time, Rizvo says.
Corio is using a Netegrity product, SiteMinder, to integrate different applications such as those from Siebel Systems into a Citrix-based environment, Rizvo says. "We have a central repository that stores all of our customer accounts so they can use a single sign-on and reach all of the applications they subscribe to," he says. Without SiteMinder, customers would have to log on each time they wanted to access a different application.
USi, an ASP in Annapolis, Md., is also emphasizing its management and monitoring systems. USi has an extensive Tivoli network management system, which it customized to monitor network outages and bottlenecks. The ASP is also developing SLAs that will be based on a new transaction monitoring system and offer business users more detailed service guarantees.
Most service providers send ping traffic to determine if a server or router is available on a network. USi has taken that one step further by using a tool kit that measures the responsiveness of its application servers, says David Goldschlag, chief technology officer.
"We are using Topaz to do synthetic transaction monitoring," he says. The software agent visits USi customer sites and attempts to perform transactions that a specific application server is supposed to provide. If it fails, engineers are notified. "This allows us to characterize outages from an end-user perspective," he says.