Hosting Software Startup Gets Aggressive

Upstart SWSoft boasts aggressive pricing, but can it expect to compete with hosting software giants Ensim and Sphera?

How do you play David to Goliaths such as Ensim Corp. and Sphera Corp. in the hosting software space?

Startup SWSoft Inc. plans to do so with aggressive pricing and a more fully integrated platform that includes locked-down virtual environments.

The San Francisco-based firm recently announced promotional pricing of $5,000 for its hosting-on-a-box software.

At the same time, SWSoft released HSPComplete 2.0, which was designed to provide mainframe-like partitioning on Intel servers running Linux and was retooled to meet the needs of small and mid-sized hosting providers.

"Whats so cool about virtual environments is your customer can have their own mail server, Web server and so on, and you can give your customers root access without having any of their problems affect the neighbors," said Andreas Barth, CEO of the Alexandria, Va., hosting provider Inc.

Barth believes the virtualization makes the hosting software "unhackable, and selected Swsoft for its more competitive pricing."

The San Francisco startup is targeting small to mid-sized hosting companies, rather than the large hosters, such as Exodus.

That "mass market" is a segment thats growing and can be quite profitable, believes Joshua Beil, vice president of R&D at Tier 1 Research in Plymouth, Minn.

Although Ensim, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., and Sphera, of Boston, are both well established, the new upstart is offering very aggressive pricing, Beil said.

The dynamic partitioning technology in HSPComplete makes it appear to end customers of the hosting provider that they are using their own dedicated server, rather than a shared server. "They can grant access rights, reboot, change any file as you go, control CPU, memory and disk space," said Alex Plant, senior marketing manager for Swsoft. "You can also move things in between machines clustered on the same network," he added.

HSPComplete also integrates online account management and billing.

"It does all the billing, and because its multithreaded, it bills automatically for the customers of a reseller," added Barth.