Sun Announces ASP-Enabling Strategy

Unswayed by the big-hype stillborns of the application service provider niche, Sun Microsystems Inc. will announce a new ASP-enabling strategy at the ISPCon/ASPCon tradeshow on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

The program, called Destination ASP, is a co-sales and co-marketing strategy to help independent software vendors and service providers enter the ASP business, at a point industry watchers are calling round two.

Round one ended this summer, experts say, capped by the undoings of pure-plays like Breakaway Solutions Inc., cMeRun Corp., FutureLink Corp. and Interliant Inc.

As part of the new program, Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., will help ISVs and XSPs to learn and share knowledge with each other about hosted applications provisioning, said Seth Pinkham, group manager for go-to-market programs. Destination ASP will be open to anyone who joins the Sun Developer Connection, which is free. However, being involved in specific activities, like case studies, trade show pavilions, and Web seminars will require member co-funding, Pinkham said.

"Destination ASP is about trying to pull together [resources] from across Sun, all the go-to-market initiatives," he said.

That will include technical advice and guidelines, preceded by a detailed self-assessment questionnaire for potential members, he said. Future additions to the program will include work on deployment models and wireless strategies.

The announcement is strategically important for Sun customers. Despite the current SunTone certification, Sun is not a service provider itself, unlike IBM. And if the proposed merger of Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. goes through, Sun will have a much larger direct rival than ever before on the server and professional services sides.

As for the dozens of ASPs that have failed, even in the face of initial hype and funding, "Sun, at least, is going to try to prevent that from happening again. Theyre going to try to bring some business sense into this," said Aberdeen Group Inc. analyst Lew Hollerbach.

Sun last week also announced two specific partners, telecom giant WorldCom Inc. and pure-play ASP Corio Inc.

"Theres a variety of things were working on," said Ron McMurtrie, vice president of global e-services for Clinton, Miss., WorldCom Inc.

Some of those include co-developing future enhanced services, and services for vertical markets like financials, automotive, high-tech and retail, he said.