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[July 9, 2004]

MCI Offers On-Demand Application Service For Ease of Software Distribution


Recently, MCI (news - alert - quote) introduced its On-Demand Application Service, an innovative solution to assist companies with the distribution of software to remote users. In conjunction with Endeavors Technology, MCI's On-Demand Application Service allows businesses to control software licenses and track usage all under a pay-as-you-go model. Shirley Chun, MCI's Product Manager was available to answer some questions for TMCnet regarding On-Demand and it's contribution to corporate-wide usage of applications.


What are the challenges of offering a managed service on such a large scale?


SC: MCI has a long history of launching innovative managed services that leverage our global IP infrastructure.  Our launch of On-Demand Application Service was similar to that other product launch efforts.  The keys to success were finding the right underlying technology and integrating it with MCI�s industry-leading IP network and computing infrastructure, and providing the right operational support. Also required is rigorous technology and operational testing to ensure the service is fully functional.  


What kind of service level agreements do you have in place to protect your customers?


SC: The service level agreements for our On-Demand Application Service are based on platform up-time as derived from our networking and hosting service SLAs.


What benefits does this bring to enterprise users of VoIP (define - news - alert)?


SC: We are focused on two types of customers; enterprise and software providers, including Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and Application Service Providers (ASPs).


For our enterprise customers, the benefit of this new service is one of better software license management and control.  In today�s world, many enterprises are faced with two challenging areas:     1) Use of IT resources for daily management of application delivery and upgrades to ensure efficient delivery and application updates and management; 2) How to capture information on how applications are utilized and the user community served.  MCI�s On-Demand Application Service provides a centralized platform for efficient means of application streaming only what is needed to the user desktop, thus eliminating a portion of the desktop total cost of ownership (TCO) in terms of application updates, patch management, and minimizing associated support issues.  The solution also offers a level of software compliance and usage tracking to provide customers quantifiable metrics on detailed usage tracking information so that decisions can be made on how many licenses need to be purchased and allocated within the enterprise.


For our ISV/ASP customers, On-Demand Application Service offers a new approach to securely distributing software on a large-scale basis. As part of the service�s multi-pronged security defense, MCI encrypts the data end-to-end down to the end-user desktop, providing a level of security not available via traditional distribution methods.  Also, because of the flexibility of the approach, new business models can be achieved for managing temporary licensing, which are not practical with current distribution options.


There is no strong connection to VoIP for this service although client applications such as soft-phones and remote access dashboards and related applications can be distributed to VoIP users.


How easy is it to implement?


SC: The service is easy to implement.  On-Demand Application Service has two major components; the application publishing process and the customer portal.


The publishing or �transcoding� process takes Windows-based application as is and converts it into sizable chunks which prepares it to be �streamed� to the end user desktop.  The Windows-based applications can be custom in-house applications or commercial off-the-shelf applications.  The customer only needs to provide the application source code and licensing information and MCI will provide the end-to-end service in terms of publishing, hosting, and delivering the application.  Customers can choose to perform their own �publishing� and, in this scenario, MCI will provide the training and tools.


The Web-based portal offers customers a range of reporting options to enable them to gather information about user and application usage.  In addition, the portal is where license information is invoked and policies are established to set user hierarchies.  MCI provides the ability for customers to administrate licenses to users, which is ideal for companies that want to retain control of the software yet give administrators a certain level of control. These reporting and management tools are intuitive and easy to use. After a quick review, most subscribers can easily master the service, without the need for a dedicated IT resource.


What Endeavors technology is MCI using?


SC:  MCI uses Endeavor�s AppExpress software as the underlying technology which has been moved into a robust, managed service for our customer base.  Combined with MCI�s hosting, networking and management capabilities, this service offers an innovative application-streaming delivery model for  software distribution and management.


Why did MCI choose Endeavors?


SC: Endeavors was chosen due to its unique ability to stream parts or entire applications to end user desktops in a secure manner with a suite of management tools. MCI reviewed several excellent alternatives and Endeavors was selected based on technological excellence and compatibility with MCI�s business model for the service.


How does the platform integrate with MCI's Convergence Networking strategy?


SC: MCI�s strategy is to evolve our core competencies in networking and computing to meet the needs of businesses. MCI�s On-Demand Application Service does exactly this.  It builds on the software-as-a-service model, where software is expanding from a licensing model to a subscription-based model.  Part of this on-demand model implies the ability for network and global delivery and management.   It leverages MCI�s excellence in the fields of application hosting through out Digex capabilities, MCI�s global IP networking, and our success as a managed services provider to deliver a solution that addresses our customer�s computing needs.


Who are your main competitors?


SC:  Today, we do not have direct competitors that provide a managed application streaming offering. However, vendors in the server-based computing space as well as the electronic software distribution market provide similar solutions for application delivery and management.  While we view our solution as complementary to what is available today, we believe that our application streaming approach provides greater flexibility from a network delivery perspective with no perceived latency and the same performance as though the application is running right at the end user�s desktop.  There is a key advantage in the metering, monitoring, and management aspect of the application that provides options for customers who may subscribe to a concurrent licensing model enabling them to better allocate the use of their software, or the ability to virtually re-allocate license to another user based on pertinent, quantifiable metrics.


Is On-Demand easy to migrate to? How long does the migration process take?


SC: Implementing the offering is fairly easy and straightforward.  However, if a customer is migrating off another application delivery solution, there may be some planning involved based on the complexity of the original solution. MCI works with customers to deploy the solution and can work with customers to initially run the offering in tandem, helping the customer to better understand the On-Demand service capabilities and to assess the best migration plan. 


Does On-Demand require training? If so, how much?


SC: The service is very intuitive and very easy to use. On-Demand Application Service customers are provided with training to help them administrate, distribute and manage the licenses and the users. MCI customers have access to this and other training information through its customer portal.  


MCI also assigns a company representative to work with the customer to prepare and set up specific applications for publication and delivery. Customers can easily be up and running within two weeks or less following the receipt of the application(s).


How do you run customer support for On-Demand?


SC: MCI provides an MCI representative to help with the publishing, as earlier indicated. We also have an 800 number for trouble resolution and other questions that may arise. MCI provides proactive technical support for the fully managed version of this service. It is monitored 24/7 by our hosting operations team.


How do you see the state of the VoIP industry and how do you feel MCI's contribution lends to the future?


SC: On-Demand Application Service is not a VoIP service. As stated above, it can complement a VoIP service by delivering and monitoring VOIP client applications to VoIP users.


Regarding MCI�s view on the VoIP industry and our contribution, MCI is an innovator in this area and is the first service provider to offer a hosted VoIP solution to the business community through its MCI Advantage service, the industry�s only true network-based communications product serving both enterprises and small business markets.  MCI continues to set the pace for businesses wanting to simply and cost effectively take advantage of the benefits of VoIP.

For more information, please visit MCI on the web.

Michelle Pasquerello is the Assistant Online Content Director for TMCnet. She welcomes your comments.

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