Answering ASP Call for Customization

IT Factory's ITF ASP Release gives service providers, customers more flexibility, hosting options

Amid the hype surrounding the emergence of ASPs and the benefits of renting applications on an as-needed basis, little has been said about the need for customization. But thats about to change.

IT Factory Inc., a provider of collaborative software based on Lotus Development Corp.s Notes and Domino infrastructure, this week will launch an application service provider offering that will give ASPs extensive capabilities to customize hosted applications.

The heart of IT Factory ASP Release, which is built on the companys Collaborative Framework platform, is the ASP Administration Module, which gives ASPs the ability to easily define, manage and customize each instance of a given application. In other words, customers can have any number of separate, customized versions of an application.

The idea is to give ASPs broad customization powers, while also enabling customers to change the look and feel of applications by adding things such as their companys name.

"What this does is make customization easy and safe for both the customers and the service providers," said Lars Johansen, CEO of IT Factory, based in Cambridge, Mass. "The architecture is really the key, in that it allows people to customize separate instances on the same server."

Also included is a feature that lets IT managers or consultants package a group of changes to a certain application and then send them to the ASP for implementation. And the ITF architecture prevents software upgrades from overriding any customization that the ASP or customer has done.

ITF ASP Release ties into the Lotus Host Management System—an advanced user and server management tool for ASPs—via hooks in the new software.

For service providers and their customers, this translates into greater flexibility and an increased menu of options for hosted applications.

"This is going to let us bring customization down to a price point that any small or medium-size business can afford," said Julie Palen, CEO of InterNoded Inc., an ASP also based in Cambridge and one of the first users of the ITF product.

"Also, we no longer have to be concerned with the technology platform and can just focus on whats right for the customer," Palen said.

ITF officials expect ASP Releases flexibility will help it catch on with in-house IT shops in large companies looking to serve as ASPs for their own departments and remote locations.

ITF also plans to release a version of its ASP offering based on Microsoft Corp.s Exchange 2000 messaging and collaboration platform, which was released this fall.

That version wont be available until late in the second quarter or the first part of the third quarter of next year, Johansen said.

Although ITF has been closely linked with Lotus and its Notes/Domino infrastructure, it has recently begun venturing away from the Lotus user base. The company in September announced that it will build a version of its Collaborative Framework architecture for Exchange.