Microsoft Announces ASP Partnership, Tools

Microsoft Corp. announced a partnership with Cisco Systems Inc. that will provide application service providers (ASPs) with an end-to-end solution for deploying outsourced applications and services.

The two companies will deliver infrastructure and support while working with ISVs -- such as Clarus Corp. (www.claruscorp.com), Great Plains Software Inc. (www.greatplains.com), and Pivotal Corp. (www.pivotal.com) -- to provide specific service offerings in corporate purchasing, business management, and customer relationship management.

Microsoft and Cisco also formed alliances with ASPs that will enable them to rapidly and reliably deploy services and applications to their customers. These ASPs will be deploying hosted application solutions on Cisco Systems' intelligent networking infrastructure and the Microsoft Windows NT Server operating system.

At press time, the following application hosting service providers were offering services: Data Return Corp., Digex Inc., FutureLink, Interliant Inc., Qwest Cyber.Solutions, The Taylor Group, and USInternetworking Inc.

These ASPs now offer a variety of application hosting services on the Windows NT Server platform, Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 database, Site Server Commerce Edition, and Cisco networking solutions.

As a result of the partnership, ASPs can download deployment kits from the companies’ Web sites that include software and hardware installation guides, a deployment white paper, and a sales presentation.

Thomas Koll, vice president of Microsoft’s Network Solutions Group, says the combined solutions are designed to accelerate the deployment of services for ASPs. "ASPs can leverage Microsoft’s and Cisco's combined expertise and programs in regard to marketing, operations and sales," he says.

The Microsoft and Cisco alliance enables ASPs to offer other value-added services -- such as business, commerce, and knowledge management services -- that differentiate their solutions in the industry.

Eugene Lee, a vice president of marketing at Cisco, says the recent alliance opens new customer segments for ASPs. "It also creates an emerging ecosystem of technology partners that are able to meet customer needs," he says.

Industry analysts say Microsoft and Cisco have the potential to bring credibility to a market that so far has yielded several partnerships but few actual services or products.

"These new services are creating a framework for deploying line-of-business and commerce services through ASPs to help meet the needs of customers wanting rapid deployment and better cost and performance," says Clare Gillan, vice president of applications and information access at International Data Corp. (IDC, www.idc.com).

In addition to the services, Microsoft released tools that enable ISPs and ASPs to launch hosting services based on Windows NT Server.

The tools include ASP deployment kits for business service application hosting, the Windows 2000 Readiness Program, and the Office Server Extensions Program, which helps ISPs and ASPs offer Web-based collaboration hosting services. With Office Server Extensions, Microsoft Office users, or any user equipped with a standard Web browser can use the Internet or an intranet to publish documents, participate in discussions, or collaborate on projects.