Sprint, Deloitte Offer Enterprise-Level Hosting Services

Sprint Communications Co. (www.sprint.com) and Deloitte Consulting (www.dc.com) entered a joint initiative through which the companies will offer end-to-end hosting and services targeted at Fortune 1,000 corporations.

The alliance’s four main services will be split between the partners: network services and data center operations will be provided by Sprint; application support and business and system integration will be provided by Deloitte.

"The entire handling of the system, getting it developed, installed, and operated on a consistent basis over the network is something this alliance will be offering," says Marc Schwarz, managing director of outsourcing services at Deloitte Consulting. "We think this alliance is quite different and unique from anything else that calls itself an application service provider."

Schwarz says most ASP models today are geared toward low-end to midrange environments. The Sprint-Deloitte ASP alliance is designed for industry leaders and can take on the load of ERP, customer relationship management, supply chain management, and future e-commerce applications.

"What Deloitte and Sprint have told me is they have talked with enterprise clients and they have bought into this idea," says Stephen Lane, senior analyst of professional services at the market research firm Aberdeen Group (www.aberdeen.com). "Considering Deloitte and Sprint have targeted the enterprise environment, I would say in terms of scale of the operation, it's one of the biggest, if not the biggest, I've ever heard of."

Lane believes Sprint and Deloitte bring together the key ingredients to be an ASP for the enterprise. There has to be a highly available network infrastructure -- which can be provided by Sprint -- along with people who understand and can manage applications that reside on that infrastructure -- which is where Deloitte has expertise. "If you understand that, then I look at a partnership between a telco like Sprint and an integrator like Deloitte as a good offering in a market that's still undefined," Lane says.

"There will be a single point of contact for the entire set of services. There will be service-level agreements with only one entity," Deloitte's Schwarz says. "This is very important so the accountability is with one party for the entire operation of the system." Billing for the full set of services will be provided on one monthly bill.

As for what’s inside the hosting centers, Jeff Anderson, vice president of strategic development at Sprint, says there will be a preferred design, but the alliance will offer custom solutions. "To recognize the potential of an efficient environment we will have a preferred set of applications to meet customers’ specific needs," Anderson says. "You have to somewhat streamline, but recognize the multi-million dollar investments in their own infrastructure." So far, the alliance has not signed any contracts with hardware or software providers, although it could happen down the road. Sprint has two hosting centers -- one in San Jose, Calif., and one in Relay, Md.

There are a number of ways to access the data center, but Sprint is pushing for the use of its Integrated On-Demand Network, or Sprint ION -- a converged, manageable pipe for data, voice, and video transmission. Aberdeen's Lane says enterprises won't care how they access the data, they want the service level they were promised to be met.