ISPCon: Sun launches Destination ASP

Joining the ranks of hardware players determined to assist ISVs push toward a service provider model of business, Sun Microsystems Inc. unveiled its Destination ASP program at ISPCon this week.

Qualified candidates earmarked for Destination ASP will be pulled directly from Sun's Sun Developer Connection community, said Seth Pinkham, group manager for Go-To-Market, Sun Developer Network, at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems. The program will offer ISVs Sun resources and tools emphasizing customized go-to-market strategies to drive end-user demand for a market still in search of solid footing and funding.

Although Destination ASP participants are not required to operate their enterprise from a Sun platform, Pinkham said that the stronger the investment from the ISV toward the hardware vendor's products and a budding sales partnership, the greater the return investment from Sun will be.

"If the partner's not willing to invest in something then we will abandon it because it won't be profitable," Pinkham said. "Sun's not developing any go-to-market program in a vacuum."

Sun is recommending that program members switch from Microsoft Windows NT to Sun Solaris servers, he added.

Destination ASP offers ISVs an online roadmap to examine which Sun products, services and partners to best assist in efforts to adopt the service delivery model. The program also includes deployment consultation and support, Web services building, market research and tools, customer outreach, self-assessment measures, and joint promotion participation.

Lew Hollerbach, managing director, Service Providers, at Boston-based research firm Aberdeen Group Inc. said Sun is taking the right approach by painstakingly outlining to prospective ASPs the mammoth go-to-market pressures they will inherently face.

"Sun is figuring out that the reason so many [ASP] dot-coms didn't work out is because they didn't have a good handle on the marketing element. There are a lot of elements that go into that complicated process. Companies need help with that," Hollerbach said.

Hollerbach was quick to note that Sun's approach differs from other large platform vendors, including IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., and Oracle Corp., in its attempts to push beyond hardware requirements and technical aspects of becoming an ASP.

In August, IBM radically altered its ASP Prime Partner Program by completely removing the ASP connotation from the program title and renaming it xSP Prime Partner Program to encompass the full range of service delivery scenarios ISVs may want to pursue for their business. The additions include MSPs (management service providers), ISPs, MSSPs (managed security services providers), and BSPs (business service providers).

Despite a still skeptical market, Pinkham said Sun is sticking to its ASP focus, hedging its bet that it will eventually become the prime delivery mechanism of Web-based applications to enterprises and large customers hungry for outsourcing.

"We can bicker about terminology all we want, but the idea of deploying services over the Web is where it's going. ASP is a contentious term, but we don't have a better one," he remarked.

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