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July 2000

 

Dart Ahead With Hosted Applications

BY FRAN KIENLE

[Go Right To Services News]

Application Service Providers (ASPs) are rapidly building out the services infrastructure to provide a wide range of hosted applications to enterprises. ASPs are positioning these services as a means of alleviating the IT talent crunch, improving application performance, and presenting enterprises with the ability to focus on core business initiatives rather than IT care and feeding tasks. While these are in fact important benefits, the true value is much more strategic. These services enable the enterprise to compete on the metrics that really matter: Time, flexibility, and customer centricity.

We are at the tip of the iceberg in terms of application service innovation. The industry is just starting to move from first-generation application services, which often simply moved the application from the enterprise data center to the service provider's data center. Jeff Sexton, Chief Operating Officer of Epic Edge ( Austin, Texas), an ASP providing enterprise portal e-business solutions to the Global 1000 and dot.coms, sees it that way, "It's not just about outsourcing hosted applications anymore, it's about delivering customized application services."

One of the powerful benefits of the hosted application model, besides the usual outsourcing advantages, is providing the enterprise a flexible, ubiquitous application environment where new employees, partners, suppliers, and customers as well as mobile workers can be instantly productive. Epic Edge is a good example of an ASP tackling this issue. "By creating portals to all mission-critical applications that employees need to access, we are increasing enterprise productivity. We are helping enterprises to become virtual organizations by providing all employees access to all of the information they need -- anytime, anywhere -- by creating a VPN on demand," explained Sexton.

Another powerful benefit of the hosted application model is the ability it provides the enterprise to integrate its traditionally disjointed front-end systems (Web, traditional call center, e-mail, fax, etc.), as well as connect them to back-office systems -- giving the enterprise a unified, customer-facing application infrastructure that moves it closer to its customers. Unified Office (Houston, Texas) is an ASP enabler that is addressing this issue head-on by developing a service enablement platform to deliver advanced call processing, unified messaging, and other communication and call management solutions to carrier class service providers, including RBOCs, CLECs, ISPs, and others. CEO Mike Castleman explains, "Our goal is to deliver business process dial tone -- carrier-grade services that are sustainable and dependable and present a very low barrier to delivery and use for both the carrier and user. We see communications services, whether they be real-time call processing or message management and unified messaging, as critical business building blocks for users, and a natural starting point for a uniform ASP enabling system oriented toward telecom providers and channels."

This low barrier to delivery speaks directly to a reduction in time-to-market, time-to-transaction and time-to-value -- critical to competing today. "The ASP's true value is being able to quickly turn up carrier-class service bureau-style services to thousands of subscribers at a time," Castleman added. "My customers want to be able to subscribe to a receivables processing service, not roll out an accounts receivable application. That's why we developed our platform for 'commerce-tized' applications where the user can say 'I want this function, this many times, for this many uses.'"

This approach points out another advantage of the hosted application model. Instead of rolling out new applications -- which can take years -- enterprises can simply switch on services for new users in a matter of hours. This creates an efficient, nimble enterprise that steamrolls its old-world competitors. Mike Castleman explains: "We have leapfrogged past the concept of outsourced legacy applications. Instead, our approach is a service enablement platform that allows any application to be delivered quickly as a self-administered, self-subscribed service." Sexton added of his portal solutions, "We don't just provide content on the Web. We impact our customers' bottom line by giving them a 'virtual desktop' where users can access all their critical applications from calendaring and e-mail to procurement and billing applications. Not only can we instantly create a virtual desktop, we can just as easily create a virtual community -- where groups of users can securely share these workspaces."

It is easy to see how innovative hosted application services will soon be part of the fabric of every business operation. It is equally clear that it will be critical to provide these services with the kinds of quality and service levels enterprises expect and need. According to Sexton, enterprises are already demanding this: "Enterprises want a secure, scalable, heavy-lifting e-business solution. So we need a consistent, secure, scalable, fast Internet architecture that is best of breed for the industry." Mark Castleman, Senior VP of Development and Technology at Unified Office, requires the same, "Dependable collocation services are very important to our business because we count on reliability of the infrastructure, stability in the environment, and availability on our servers 24x7. The services we are offering have to be available to customers all the time."

So what kind of industrial-strength infrastructure must a service provider -- or more specifically, an application infrastructure provider (AIP) -- roll out to support hosted application services? The first critical component to get right is the high-performance, high-capacity IP network. This IP network must not only use state-of-the-art optical technology; it must also employ intelligent QoS (quality of service) mechanisms and offer strict, standards-based security. The next critical component that makes or breaks hosted apps is a set of world-class data center collocation facilities. Again, not only must these have state-of-the-art space, power, and environmental capabilities, these must be located directly on this IP backbone. Data centers operating decoupled from the IP net not only lose QoS, load balancing, backup, and disaster recovery synergies, but also lose the ability to take advantage of emerging end-to-end application-aware monitoring and reporting, which extend from the desktop through the WAN to the servers.

While the application infrastructure components of a highly intelligent, high-capacity IP net coupled with world-class collocation facilities are crucial -- it's not all about packets -- it's also about process and professional management. This is often the most difficult challenge for the AIP, yet arguably the most important to get right. At minimum, the AIP must provide tight operational control, including strong redundancy and disaster recovery. However, a progressive AIP will not stop there. The AIP must back up its capabilities with strong service level agreements; specifically on those metrics that really count for the ASP and for the ASP's end customers. The AIP should also provide comprehensive Web-based customer network management (CNM) tools and reliable, flexible billing to provide customers visibility and accountability.

In short, the AIP must deliver on its promises. "Our customers want and expect a consistent, secure, scalable, and fast Internet architecture that is best-of-breed for the industry. We have to assure our clients a level of service, it's a commitment we have to make -- and a strong partner helps us fulfill that commitment," noted Sexton. 

Fran Kienle, director of Application Infrastructure, leads development of next-generation application services and application services infrastructure at Broadwing Communications. Broadwing, Inc., is an integrated communications provider (ICP) delivering voice, data, and Internet solutions to a variety of customers nationwide. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, with 6,000 employees in 38 cities, Broadwing can be found on the Web at www.broadwing.com.

 [ return to the July 2000 table of contents ]


Services News

Quallaby Intros PROVISO
Quallaby has introduced a major new release of its flagship product, PROVISO 2.0, a network monitoring and service assurance solution architected to enable network service providers to build powerful, scalable, network performance data marts supporting both network-centric and customer-centric reporting that is dynamic, on-demand, and Web enabled. Based on the Sun Solaris platform, PROVISO 2.0 supports Oracle 8I, the proven, scalable database of choice of service providers' mission-critical environments. This carrier-class combination of Sun, Oracle, and Proviso 2.0 enables NSPs to build and maintain high-performance, centralized network data marts that maintain all of the network data that is crucial to optimizing network performance and managing service delivery.
No. 420, itmag.com/freeinfo

Visitalk.com Teams Up With Freeinternet.com
Free long-distance calls are now possible with the announcement of an agreement between visitalk.com and freeinternet.com. visitalk has offered free PC-to-PC calling for more than a year, and with the freeinternet.com agreement, visitalk.com members can now make long-distance calls free. visitalk.com will be a core provider of VoIP communications services for freeinternet.com users. The comprehensive partnership will add visitalk.com's free PC-to-PC long-distance voice and video calling, PC-to-phone calling in the United States and to some regions of the world, multi-point video conferencing, data sharing, instant voice messaging, chat services, and directory services to freeinternet.com's free, unlimited Internet access service.
No. 421, itmag.com/freeinfo

White Pine Software Changes Name To CUseeMe Networks
White Pine Software has changed its name to CUseeMe Networks. The new name, based on White Pine's brand, CUseeMe, was chosen to align the company's branding with its vision and focus for the future. The CUseeMe Networks name also reflects the launch of a new value-added hosting business that will serve both business-to-consumer and business-to-business markets. It also recognizes the continued success of the company's consumer video chat and corporate video conferencing software.
No. 422, itmag.com/freeinfo

BT And Ridgeway Begin Trial Of Multimedia Over IP
Ridgeway has announced that British Telecommunications (BT) will begin an internal trial of Ridgeway's "broadband multimedia over IP" solutions. The trial solution will allow BT employees to click on a Web-based directory to make a phone call, then enhance the call with real-time, two-way video and data sharing. BT will integrate the Ridgeway VX system with BT's Click-to-Talk service. BT is interested in enhancing this service with Ridgeway's unique "Click-to-Add-Video-and-Data" solution.
No. 423, itmag.com/freeinfo

Global Crossing Signs UM Agreement With Tornado
Global Crossing has forged a strategic partnership with Tornado Development that will bring the features and benefits of unified messaging (UM) to Global Crossing's world customer base. Under the terms of the agreement, Global Crossing will offer customers a UM service based on Tornado Development's Tornado Messenger. UM will be included in a full package of premium bandwidth services, including optical wavelengths, ATM, and an array of voice services.
No. 424, itmag.com/freeinfo

Lantel Intros World Voice
Lantel Worldwide Communications has unveiled its latest cutting-edge technology, called World Voice. By utilizing a local access number, an individual will be able to call phone-to-phone to any city serviced by Lantel Worldwide Communication (local and international) at no cost. The company's architecture and broadband capabilities also allow for unlimited fax and video conferencing over the same connection. "It's our goal to have key partnerships established internally and externally to provide our customers with a cutting-edge experience and in-depth knowledge to successfully handle their business 24 hours a day," said Lantel's president and CEO, Stephan Curry.
No. 425, itmag.com/freeinfo

Open Port And MIND Provide Integrated Billing Solution
Open Port Technology and MIND will collaborate to offer service providers an integrated pre-and post-paid billing and provisioning interface for enhanced Internet messaging services. The solution, which will combine Open Port's IP LaunchPad enhanced Internet messaging software and MIND-iPhoneEX products, is designed to offer service provider customers reduced integration costs and faster deployment. Open Port and MIND will also team in marketing, joint selling, and interoperability testing.
No. 426, itmag.com/freeinfo

Sedona Networks Leads Shift Toward Services-Carrier Model
On the heels of an FCC ruling, Sedona Networks affirmed its vision of the evolution of the service provider environment, and anticipates the drive toward services deployment with its services-aware access architecture. The ruling, FCC 99-238, seeks to accelerate the development of competitive choices in local telecommunication services for end customers. In the interest of encouraging the universal deployment of broadband services, the Commission re-stated its policy on unbundling, but also exempted new packet-based network infrastructure deployments from unbundling restrictions.
No. 427, itmag.com/freeinfo

TalkingNets Brings ASP Concept To Telephony
TalkingNets is providing an end-to-end, wholesale telephony solution that helps ISPs and CLECs offer voice services to their new and existing business customers. Using its server-based network, TalkingNets can allow data-only carriers to quickly and easily provide voice services to their small and medium-sized business customers, at rates that are 25 to 50 percent lower than those offered by traditional telephony providers.
No. 428, itmag.com/freeinfo

Pagoo Launches Internet Phone Service
Pagoo announced the availability of the Pagoo Internet Phone Number, a service that allows consumers to use their PCs to receive calls from any phone and make calls while they are online. This service functions as an extra phone line and works both on and offline. The Pagoo Internet Phone Number service also includes free voice mail, caller-ID, and a follow-me feature.
No. 429, itmag.com/freeinfo

PictureTel Intros Web-Enabled eVideo Application Server
PictureTel has announced eVideo Application Server (eVAS), a Web-based software streaming solution that empowers companies to create, automate, and manage streaming media Webcasts over the Internet and corporate intranets. eVAS provides organizations with the ability to utilize streaming media for communication, while preserving the elements of personal contact and visual collaboration. The offering will be sold as a product (directly from 1414c and 1414c resellers); and as a service via an ASP model from 1414c and from ASPs enabled by 1414c.
No. 430, itmag.com/freeinfo

ipVerse Unveils Phase 2 Of ControlSwitch
ipVerse announced the second major phase of its ControlSwitch, a software-based switch that empowers service providers to rapidly deploy new, revenue-generating voice and data services. The second phase of the ControlSwitch product family, the ACX2000, gives carriers the only packet telephony solution scalable for use within the highest traffic core IP or ATM transport networks, making the crucial advance towards end-to-end voice and data convergence.
No. 431, itmag.com/freeinfo

Broadwing Installs Network-Based IP VPN Solutions
Broadwing Communications announced that three customers are successfully completing beta trials of Broadwing's eClass IP VPN Services offering, a suite of network-based, business-grade IP VPN services. Broadwing eClass services enable customers to have voice, video, and data network configurations on one seamless transport platform, in a manner that is as dynamic and fast-changing as their business needs.
No. 432, itmag.com/freeinfo

Symantec, Gestalt Conducting Trials Of Succession IP Telephony
Symantec and Gestalt Technology are conducing trials of Succession Internet Telephony solutions from Nortel Networks. Nortel Networks' Succession Internet Telephony portfolio -- expanded to include the Succession Communications Server for Enterprise (CSE) -- allows service providers and enterprises to IP-enable their communications networks to take full advantage of the cost, quality, performance, and reliability benefits of a new, high-performance Internet.
No. 433, itmag.com/freeinfo

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 [ return to the July 2000 table of contents ]







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