RBOC Tolls For A New Market
BY MICHAEL MITSOCK
The environment of healthy competition that was supposed to accompany the breakup of
the telephone monopoly has succumbed to technologys swift evolution: An
ever-expanding menu of technologically advanced services has made the more traditional
telecom services into bargain-basement commodities. For this reason, long-distance
companies have begun to offer local service while local carriers have begun to offer
long-distance. Cable companies and the rest of the entertainment and media industry wait
in the wings as everybody fights to provide Internet service in any number of ways.
Now throw into the mix the concept of the ASP (Application Service Provider) model.
Essentially, ASPs provide software applications on a rental or pay-per-use basis. ASPs
offer an excellent opportunity for Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) to add new
value for their customers. By using inexpensive communications, browser, and other
technology, RBOCs that become ASPs could offer rentable, highly functional, and often
otherwise expensive suites of software or groupware to businesses to whom they would
previously have been prohibitively expensive. Any business with access to the Internet or
VPNs (virtual private networks) could rent the software they want, for as long as they
like, at the precise level of use they need, leaving the installation, management, and
maintenance to the ASP.
The potential market is hardly a small one. Applications for rent target a variety of
customer segments including, but not at all limited to, current customers of RBOCs.
Telecommunications solutions offered via the Internet can potentially be accompanied by
applications that cover enterprise resource planning, e-commerce, and security. In
essence, this enables RBOCs to expand their offerings to their existing customer base. It
also affords them the opportunity to augment their customer base through the wide-ranging
horizontal markets and applications available by ASP, including office automation,
back-office products, and vertical markets such as legal, finance, and real estate.
Regardless of the chosen market, the key to success lies in seeking out applications
with certain characteristics:
Low Total Cost Of Ownership (TCO)
Applications with the best TCO will have nimble developers, who can create, test,
deploy, and update complex applications in a short period of time. Take a close look at
the resource footprint. Can all maintenance and updates be performed while the database
and applications remain on line? How well does the application expand or adapt to change?
How versatile are the software components? Can they be re-used or recycled in new
programs? And finally, which management and measurement tools squeeze the most from your
bandwidth? The measurement tools are an important window to keep track of the pattern of
application usage and to help set fees for use accordingly.
ASP customers require 24x7x365 access to their applications.
High Productivity, Flexibility, And Speed To Market
Look for intuitive application environments that make it easy to create or
customize an application as fast as the market demands it.
Seamless Web Implementation
ASP applications and services are commonly delivered through the Internet or VPNs. ASPs
must be able to deliver business logic via a URL. Look for solutions that can be perfectly
and quickly Web-enabled.
The ability to provide access to ten or ten thousand users and handle sudden
growth with ease is key to the success of an ASP program. Look for components that allow
for scalability without degrading performance or substantially increasing maintenance
ASP solutions will have to work any time, anywhere sharing information and
software components with any customers legacy data source, feeding information to
any application or any user interface. Look for application servers that incorporate
emerging standards such as EJB, XML, and JMS, or that have adapters that can accommodate
Daunting as the task may seem, there is tremendous support to help potential ASPs
navigate the waters and understand the value proposition of the ASP concept. The ASP
Industry Consortium was launched to foster standards and articulate the benefits of the
These initiatives are all part of the groundswell of support for what is clearly a
fresh win-win model for customers and providers alike. The ASP concept, which analysts say
is destined to become a leading trend in IT, can provide a vast incremental market source
for partners such as RBOCs who are poised to take advantage of the leading edge. c
Michael Mitsock is vice president of the ASP Business Unit at Progress Software Corporation, where he is responsible
for guiding the companys worldwide ASP activities. Progress Software, an ASP
Industry Consortium member, has created exchange programs that link resources, which help
software companies to find, create, and enable ASP applications.