EDS moves into Web hosting, e-commerce enablement

EDS has begun its move into the SME market with a newly launched suite of prepackaged e-business services.

The global company has traditionally played in the large corporate arena, but EDS is now targeting smaller businesses which it says is the main growth area at the moment.

It has launched a suite of Web hosting services allowing businesses to manage and operate their e-commerce solutions without pouring large amounts of money into infrastructure.

Operating under Web Vault Solutions, the service has been operating in the US since the end of February. EDS has extended its reach into the Australian market in the hope of grabbing a slice of the fast growing SME arena.

"We are looking at two types of markets - the classic corporate market and small companies with big plans who want a scalable solution," said EDS marketing and portfolio management director Virginia Walker. "We are reaching out quite specifically to these startup companies because we are taking the capability which we have had for some time and pointing it at the growth market in this area.

"Small and large don't mean as much in terms of physical size in the online world - it is what you do that is important."

WebVault offers four predefined Web hosting packages for customers which can be "optioned up" depending on the needs of the business. The solutions run on Windows NT or Unix systems.

"Our company is not into e-business itself so as much as enabling other businesses to do that," said EDS Service Line manager Bill LeBlanc. "We have always offered this kind of service, however for the first time it has been packaged."

The company is also offering a wholesale version for the channel. "We are not just selling to end users," LeBlanc said. "We are also providing a wholesales service which resellers can use to add to their services."

The EDS service focuses on infrastructure, not applications. However, an ASP model is just around the corner. The company has recently signed a deal with Hewlett-Packard in the US to go to the ASP marketplace.

"We can see that side of the business evolving quite quickly, because the infrastructure we are taking out to the market will trigger application services," Walker said.

LeBlanc said resellers could access the ASP market without having to incur enormous infrastructure costs.

"Our wholesale offering may fit a company that wants to get into that market," he said. "Companies can use our service two ways - the EDS name will give them some clout because we have a secure, reliable image, or we can be in the background, looking after the infrastructure while the reseller brands their own solution."

He said the company could "provide iron clad guarantees in terms of service availability".

EDS has already signed big-name companies to its Web-hosting service - the Australian Tax Office, the Commonwealth Bank, Caltex, Holden and the Department of Education.

According to Walker, the company does not think its "global" tag will adversely effect its drive into the SME marketplace.

"We always make sure our customers have a single point of accountability with a client so they don't have to find their way through the organisation to talk to somebody," she said. "And our scale enables us to access a breadth of skills to provide total solutions."

The company will be competing with Australian Web hosting heavyweights such as Telstra, OzEmail and WebCentral but promised it would not infringe on small operators.

"We won't get in and compete with the garage guys because that is not the market we are going to play in," LeBlanc pledged.

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