ASPs still young
(IDG) -- The application service provider market is currently a hot media darling. But while the ASP concept is a good one, the prevailing mode of execution and delivery is flawed. Users don't need someone to come in and assume control of their environments. In most cases, they don't need more boxes, faster switches or more sophisticated tools. What they need is a partner that will provide them with information that is specific, timely and actionable. This is where the network information service provider (NISP) comes in.
The NISP is a spinoff of the ASP prototype. Under the NISP approach, control remains with the user and critical applications are hosted right on the customer site. Users are provided with the specific information they need to run their networks - not a laundry list of disparate data points culled from stand-alone network tools and applications that have their own interfaces. If a problem occurs on the network, it is the user who fixes it - not the NISP.
The philosophy behind the NISP model - unlike its ASP cousin - is to go beyond simply delivering an application by providing the core value associated with it. For example, a user could turn to an ASP to get a suite of network management tools in the form of five applications that are launched separately and viewed by different interfaces. The result will be five disparate streams of data. While the user has gained access to the needed applications, he must still analyze and correlate all the data on his own.
A NISP providing the same network management suite will integrate those five applications into a single solution and provide the user with a single interface where all the information from the tools is viewed and, more importantly, completely correlated. The result is a single information stream, which represents the biggest overall value a NISP brings to the table: turning data into actionable information. Instead of simply alerting users to the fact that a certain node is down, the NISP tells them the root cause of the problem, how it's affecting other aspects of the network and possible resolutions.
The NISP significantly reduces users' risk of implementation by removing the pain associated with designing, testing and evaluating applications and tools as well as performing continuous upgrades, maintenance and troubleshooting. This frees up IT resources and allows users to spend more time dealing with core business issues.
The NISP will also offer value-add services through its back-end data center, including software distribution, collection of long-term trending data for each user and a comprehensive knowledge base. The knowledge base will establish industry benchmarks for vertical-specific IT environments that users can then use to evaluate the effectiveness of their own IT staffs and infrastructures.
Under the NISP model, users still run their own nets. They retain control, and their jobs are not at risk. They save money. They become more strategic. And most importantly, they gain a competitive advantage.
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