Software may be on its way to becoming a service, but its going to take more than todays rickety application service providers to get everyone to the promised land.
Genuity, the big hosting and access company, thinks the right vehicle for some enterprises is its Black Rocket e-services platform.
"Software as a service is our mantra," says Rob McKinney, vice president of product strategy for Genuitys hosted services platform. "We are not an ASP, but we are the natural alternative to an ASP. For companies that say, The Corios and the USinternetworkings are not for me, or the Oracle model of one-size-fits-all, we have an integrated network experience, along with hosting, that works better."
Working closely with systems integrators, which provide the actual software expertise, Genuity wants to position Black Rocket as the platform of choice for enterprise-level application services.
"Our partners want to build specific offerings to take to market, and Black Rocket lets them make a nice, tight offer," McKinney says.
Introduced last fall as a "network services platform" for e-markets and e-commerce, Black Rocket includes platform software, managed hosting and security, and access and transport services — all provisioned within 10 business days. Black Rocket, which supports applications from vendors including Ariba and BroadVision on a BEA Systems-based platform, is aimed at enterprises, but could also be attractive to ASPs themselves. Genuity spent $20 million to advertise Black Rocket in the last quarter of 2000.
With many first-wave ASPs foundering, software vendors remain the best-known brands in the services game. Thats one thing Genuity is trying to change with its high-dollar ad attack. Troy D. Smith, a principal and director of the Genuity alliance at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, a key systems integration partner, says Black Rockets high-profile branding campaign helps enterprises understand what Genuity is and what the platform can offer.
"Weve seen some lift from that campaign," says Smith, who notes that applications built on IBMs WebSphere platform have been the most popular Black Rocket offering to date. "Services are getting to be top of mind with a lot of people we see."
One early Black Rocket customer is the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which went live in May with a commerce application from ATG that allows online ticket sales. The orchestra briefly considered an ASP solution, but opted instead to work with Genuity and integrator Sapient.
"We were concerned with security in connection with the ticketing application," says Rich Bradway, the orchestras manager of Internet marketing. "There is also stuff we want to do in the future, like Webcasting performances, distance learning and digitizing a centurys worth of archives. We had more of a sense of assurance about what Genuity was capable of handling."
For Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, already one of the largest application managers in the world, Black Rocket is key to extending its reach in the services world. "Genuity is plowing some new ground and expanding the thinking on how to approach clients," says Smith, who has a proposal out to an enterprise customer for application services built on top of Black Rocket. "This allows them to go after some very large enterprise-level opportunities that a lot of the other folks arent well-suited to pursue. It means we can assure our client that this is a preassessed platform that works as advertised."
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young also uses Genuity to host custom applications and software that dont fit onto Black Rocket.
Web hoster Genuity, formerly known as GTE Internetworking, needs Black Rocket to take off. A big chunk of the companys revenue comes from access business with America Online, but hosting and e-business services are seen as important ways to grow the company.
Genuity sold six Black Rocket platforms in the first quarter for an average of $600,000 apiece, bringing the total count to 24.
But financially, Genuity was sucking wind along with the other companies in its sector — reporting a net loss of $292 million for the quarter on total revenue of $299 million and announcing layoffs of 12 percent of its work force.