The layered model of the infrastructure components comprising the modern IT service as described in this chapter is, of course, a simplified one. The model and its supporting narrative are not intended to address all the technical complexities of corporate computing in this burgeoning era of e-business. Rather, they are intended to orient readers to the subject of this book, application service provisioning, and to provide a business context for understanding the ASP phenomenon.
This chapter has introduced concepts and terminology that are explored in greater detail later in the book. By now, readers should have a general appreciation of what is meant by the terms "platform," "server," "network," "application," "Web enablement," "service level agreement," and so forth. Some acronyms have also been decrypted, such as LAN, WAN, ERP, CRM, and so on. Additionally, some important standards-making organizations have been identified, including IEEE and IETF. A glossary at the conclusion of this book is also available to the reader to assist in keeping up with terms, acronyms, and entities.
A second purpose of this discussion is to assist the reader in conceiving of IT as a set of services. With most business people, the mention of IT conjures to mind a complex computer or some other high-tech gadget whose inner workings are shrouded in mystery. IT staff are those people who live in the data center, keep odd hours, drink lots of caffeine, speak in an alien language, and form impenetrable cliques at corporate gatherings. They seem to march to a different drummer, have a different sense of fashion, and, in a few cases, a different concept of personal hygiene. It is easy for a businessperson to conceive of the corporate IT department as a different kind of business unit, not subject to the same rules as other business units.
More and more, IT is being subjected to familiar business criteria. IT managers and chief information officers are being held to budgets, and they are being told to show results: consistentand improvingservice levels and measurable contributions to the bottom line of corporate productivity, efficiency, and profitability. If they can't demonstrate their value, options are becoming increasingly available. ASPs are an example of one such option.
From a strictly business perspective, application services (and their enabling infrastructure) need not be the product of an internal corporate IT organization. ASPs can be harnessed to augment, or, in some cases, to completely replace, comparable, internally provided services.
Now that some of the basic context has been provided, it is time to get on with this exploration of ASPs.