Home > Articles > Software Development & Management

Going Past Promises and Looking at Execution in ASPs

📄 Contents

  1. Knowing What's Real and What Isn't
  2. Summary
How can you be sure the ASPs you are looking to partner with can actually go the distance, staying responsive and focused on your company's needs over time? This article explores the characteristics of companies that are world-class ASPs.

By now, the Application Service Providers (ASPs) that have customer references, scalable business models, and approaches to reselling applications from other vendors will survive. In a sense, the shakeout of the Application Service Provider (ASP) marketplace is actually very positive, in that the companies that are left really do deliver value. Nearly every software company at one point or another has experimented with both the ASP and electronic software distribution (ESD) approaches to delivering applications. Both of these approaches share common characteristics: They generate enthusiasm for the way they change distribution dynamics through efficiency, and both are now being looked at as a method for distributing applications within companies. The ASP model will be one that continues to pervade larger IT infrastructures, whereas ESD and its focus on distributing licenses through many different means is increasingly relegated to smaller, more portable application delivery. The ASP model can deliver from an applet to an enterprise-level application suite.

In the world of the ASP, there are two dominant methods of distribution: Citrix and Java-based applications. Of these two approaches, Java-based applications are clearly gaining the majority of market- and mindshare. Citrix-based approaches scale well in Windows 2000-based environments, yet inherently are limited to that operating system environment. One of the key indicators of a software company being capable of scaling to the true level of an ASP is its willingness to port Win32- and Win16-based applications that rely on Citrix into Java-based architectures for more pervasive distribution throughout a company.

Knowing What's Real and What Isn't

Today's market dynamics are forcing companies to quickly reinvent themselves, often claiming to be an ASP when in fact they are just as much ASPs as they are hardware manufacturers. Attracted by the acronym, companies take relatively simplistic collaboration tools and place them in a Web environment, claiming that they are truly ASP-enabled applications. Nothing can be further from the truth. So, how do you avoid getting burned by companies that claim to be ASPs, when they have not done their due diligence, in fact? Here are several key questions to ask before going with a true ASP:

  • Does the ASP know and care about your business? In the companies I have spoken with about how they made the decision to go with one ASP over another, the most common deciding factor was that the ASP knew and understood their business. Sounds so fundamental, but you would be surprised how many companies jump into contracts with ASPs who don't have a clue about the client's business models. If the ASP is working with other members of your industry—manufacturing, for example—chances are they have an appreciation for the challenges you face. In manufacturing, for example, the need for handling supply-chain automation is significant. ASPs who are already working with manufacturers will have solved the technical problems you are potentially facing with an implementation.

  • Does the selection of platforms support application claims? This is often where companies taking on the ASP name have their greatest challenges, and it's the point that can potentially impact your company most quickly and with the greatest pain. For example, if an ASP claims that it can provide you with a scalable architecture that handles transactions and does not have any ERP expertise, that's something to be concerned about. Further, many companies claiming to be ASPs claim that they have scalability when it comes to transaction-application development, yet have a collaborative tool as their basis. If a company is using Microsoft's Exchange Server or Lotus Notes, and claims to have strong transaction expertise, be wary. The fact is that many of these collaborative tools do have limited transaction tools; they are not recommended for e-business initiatives.

  • Does the ASP own its network operations center or lease space? Increasingly, companies are outsourcing their networking centers because the cost of continual innovation in their products is a higher priority than building a secure, state-of-the-art hosting center. This market dynamic is driving the development of regional, highly secure ISPs that are challenging the market leadership that Exodus has had for the last several years. Clearly, Exodus leads the industry with its orientation on security. Be sure to visit its site and see the direction it is taking, influencing the broader industry in the process. Unless you are dealing with one of the largest ASPs in the industry, those who have the financial strength to sustain their own network operations center, it's best to go with a company that has an outsourced center with one of the industry leaders in hosting, including Exodus or InFlow.

  • Is there an application roadmap? One of the attributes that I have seen when working with ASPs on their direction as a company is the relative ease or difficulty they have in articulating their vision of where they are going. It's definitely a danger sign if a company cannot tell you in succinct and clear terms where its development priorities are, what direction it is heading, and the dimensions it has when segmenting the marketplace. These are all issues that need to be addressed before you sign up with an ASP—check to make sure that it is clear about how it sees the future direction of the marketplace. If there isn't a product roadmap, be cautious even if the ASP is reselling applications. Conversely, if the ASP can provide a strong sense of direction with regard to the applications it will both create and resell, drill into where the insights came from on which the roadmap was based. Don't think this is being too cautious because the ASP's future is yours if you sign up. An example of a product roadmap is provided in Figure 1.

  • Figure 1 Example of an ASP product roadmap.

  • Is there a commitment to customer listening? Any ASP that has survived to this point either is self-sufficient or has a very strong chance to be, or else the venture capital money would be gone by now. Chances are, the companies you are considering are in this league because today's economic climate makes it imperative that those products be built to address pain points throughout an organization. The fact that the best companies in sell-side e-commerce all share the common characteristic of having a customer advisory council in place for gaining insights into what customers are looking for in the next generation of their products. Of all the companies that have adopted this approach, Dell Computer's many efforts and processes in this area, in addition to the disciplined approach that Blue Martini is taking with regard to being responsive to customers. Although both of these companies are leaders in their respective segments and so attuned to customers that the actual structure of the company has been developed to bring the best resources available to a task, the foundation of their successes is due to their ability to listen to customers. Blue Martini's many processes and its commitment to customer listening lead the industry of analytics and sell-side e-commerce vendors. The real message here is that you need to get an idea of just how well the company listens to customers, and the strength of that commitment in the context of advisory councils. Many companies think of this idea, so you want to partner with one that is able to execute on this commitment to listening to customers.

  • How many customer references? This is an area where you can readily see if the company is getting anywhere or not. Be sure to get several references in your industry area. If an ASP cannot provide more than three references, this is not a good sign; you need to get at least 10 to see how the company executes across a spectrum of implementations. Most likely, your prospective ASP will be in the mid-point of that spectrum of performance, but it's a good idea to do much due diligence during the evaluation phase of looking at ASPs.

  • What about partnerships? It's a fact that many companies today are supplementing their weaknesses by forming partnerships with companies that have counterbalancing strengths. ASPs who are without any alliances that they can thoroughly show successes from need to be dropped from your list. The interconnected nature of the ASP business and the fact that the e-commerce world is ripe with opportunities for partnerships makes forming partnerships easier than getting a frequent buyer card from your local grocery chain. Companies with strong alliance programs include Interliant, USinternetworking, and BroadVision.

  • Are there articulated value statements by product? If a company has the capability to provide this clarity of positioning by product, it's a good indication that it has done its homework when it comes to listening and interacting with customers about future directions. If an ASP cannot do this (and cannot provide a demo), be cautious. You need to see the product running and have a clear understanding of what's going on in the company's product management team before signing up with an ASP.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020