Sun Lends Hand to Providers

Destination ASP hosting program will help ISVs, xSPs help one another.

As the ASP market has matured, more-established IT companies have entered the arena.

Now, many of the markets early adopters, facing the threat of bankruptcy, are piggybacking on the more-stable companies. Sun Microsystems Inc. is doing its part to encourage the trend.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company last week launched Destination ASP, a co-sales and co-marketing strategy designed to help independent software vendors and service providers. The goal is to bring stability and traditional business sense to a part of the industry that has lacked both in recent months.

Sun made the announcement at last weeks ISPCON/ASPCON trade show in Las Vegas.

As part of the new program, Sun will help ISVs and xSPs to learn and share knowledge with one another about hosted applications provisioning, said Seth Pinkham, group manager for go-to-market programs for Sun.

Destination ASP will be open to anyone who joins the Sun Developer Connection, which is free. However, being involved in specific activities, such as case studies, trade show pavilions and Web seminars, will require member co-funding, Pinkham said.

Companies interested in participating in the initiative will first fill out a detailed self-assessment. Once accepted, they will be able to take advantage of Suns various go-to-market programs, including technical advice and guidelines.

Future additions to the program will include work on deployment models and wireless strategies, Pinkham said.

The initiative is strategically important for Sun customers. Despite the current SunTone certification, Sun has no intention of becoming a service provider itself, unlike IBM. Also, if the proposed merger of Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. comes 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 (application service providers) 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," said Aberdeen Group Inc. analyst Lew Hollerbach, in Boston. "Theyre going to try to bring some business sense into this."

Sun also announced last week two partners, telecommunications 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 WorldCom, based in Clinton, Miss.

Some of those things include co-developing future enhanced services and services for vertical markets such as financials, automotive, high tech and retail, McMurtrie said.