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3. Is the ASP's IT Infrastructure Scalable Enough to Accommodate Your Company's Growth or Variations in Activity?

Scalability is especially critical for an ASP because it hosts multiple iterations, often of multiple enterprise applications, to multiple customers. So its hardware, application, and network have to be particularly robust. In general, an ASP should have servers with high I/O and transaction rates, but in a smaller footprint. Smaller servers cluster more easily than large ones, more of them can fit in a data center cage, and they consume less power. Clustering is important because it allows the ASP to have resources pull from the combined configuration of several clustered servers so that whatever server is available or most functionally appropriate gets activated to, say, handle a transaction. With traditional dedicated servers, if the server is busy, the task has to wait to be processed.

Smaller servers are also more easily used for "capacity-on-demand" scenarios. In these situations, vendors let an ASP install more servers—or more chips in servers—than it needs right away so that they can be activated as customer requirements dictate.

A similar principle is obtained with networks. With ATM-based VPNs, for instance, the ASP can often just turn on more network capacity as it's needed by customers. By comparison, it might have to wait weeks or months to provision another leased line to meet a customer's demands. So the type of network, as well as the capacity of the network, influence real-world scalability.

Needless to say, the hosted enterprise application must also scale sufficiently as new users or greater activity dictate.

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