Sprint Corp. this week enhanced its application-hosting strategy by unveiling an alliance with Sun Microsystems and adding a consulting practice that will focus on mobile commerce applications.
While Sprint is playing catch-up in the data center market, integrating wireless capabilities into its hosted offering could set the provider apart from other players in the increasingly crowded managed data center market.
"Being able to offer the wireless applications will be important, especially for enterprises with large sales forces that rely heavily on mobile connections," says David Tapper, an analyst with research firm IDC.
Sprint may offer applications such as customer relationship management software that would allow mobile sales forces to check orders, availability and pricing from a mobile device or laptop.
The Sun alliance will see Sprint and Sun combine sales and marketing teams to offer enterprise customers hosted services based on Sun hardware and software and Sprint's data centers and IP backbone.
Sun products included will be Sun Enterprise servers and storage devices running Solaris and software from iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions, a Sun-Netscape venture. Sprint and Sun will also offer customers consulting.
Sprint has a lot of ground to make up in the data center market. The company recently opened its first data center in New York City and will have centers up in Boston and Kansas City, Missouri, within the next few weeks. Ultimately Sprint plans to build 18 data centers by the end of 2002.
To help companies looking to extend commerce applications to wireless devices, Sprint is introducing its E-Solutions Enterprise Mobile Practice, which will deliver network and device-independent mobile commerce applications.
"Our goal obviously would be to see customers host their mobile applications at Sprint Internet Centers," says Keith Paglusch, president of E-Solutions. "But because [the applications developed via this consulting practice will be] network-independent, they don't have to."
Tapper says Sprint's alliance with Sun was a necessary step to fulfill the needs of potential enterprise customers.
"Customers want a managed service environment," he explains. "Now Sprint can say that they have a partner that allows them to offer those services."
Sprint's alliance with Sun is not an exclusive partnership.
"Sun partners with pretty much everyone in the data center market," Tapper says.
The Sun partnership is only the first step in Sprint becoming a serious IT outsourcing provider, Tapper adds.
"They're going to have to showcase what they can do with some big accounts," he says. "That's what they're going to have to do to separate themselves from the pack."