Intira-Deloitte pact aims to streamline outsourcing

Longs Drug Stores, one of the largest drug store chains in North America, is looking to do more than offer customers the ability to fill prescriptions online.

Company executives say they want to streamline Longs' online and offline presence by adding richer features to its Web site, such as the ability to purchase health and wellness merchandise and to take advantage of wellness tools, such as an online pregnancy diary.

To make this happen, Longs has been working with Intira Corp., a high-end hosting firm - and got Deloitte Consulting LLC to help as well, in a package deal.

In fact, this week Intira and Deloitte are announcing a partnership that brings companies what they call a true one-stop shop for outsourcing.

"What the customer gets is the ability to turn over to Deloitte and Intira everything from the design of the application through the ongoing operation and all the infrastructure," Intira President and CEO Bernie Schneider says. "It allows businesses to focus on their core business and not on writing code or implementing servers and storage and security."

Longs' goal is "to expand and further personalize the site for our customers," says Linda Rossi, director of Internet technology services at Longs. But like many companies, Longs didn't want to handle the design, implementation and management of the new e-retailing push in-house.

Rossi says Longs has been working with Deloitte for months to determine the technologies needed to implement the e-retailing infrastructure it has in mind. The customized software application is based on BroadVision technology and includes technology from WebMethods, Siebel and Oracle. The task involves more than 27 million pages of online health and wellness content, health-related tools, and an online prescription ordering and fulfillment system.

The Intira-Deloitte partnership melds the high-end infrastructure expertise of Intira with the application design and integration know-how of Deloitte Consulting, Schneider says. With this partnership, Schneider adds, enterprises won't have the headaches of coordinating the disparate work of an integrator with that of an infrastructure provider. And they get a single point of accountability, he says.

The partnership, which includes Deloitte taking an undisclosed equity interest in Intira, is no surprise to analysts who say hosting firms will need to partner to offer the complex services required by big businesses.

"It's a trend that's taking hold in the Internet operations space," says Joel Yaffe, senior industry analyst of infrastructure services at Giga Information Group. Genuity has partnered with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, while Exodus has a long-standing relationship with Accenture.

The reason is that applications will be more workable within a business if they are developed with the infrastructure in mind, Yaffe says. "If you don't have input into what type of application environment you're developing to and what kind of underlying infrastructure you're going to be running that application on, it makes it very difficult for a hosting provider to take that application and offer you the same levels of guarantees and cost efficiencies that are attainable when you do factor those things up front," Yaffe says.

That's a big benefit for customers who take advantage of the Intira-Deloitte partnership, says Schneider, because Intira will work with Deloitte to figure out how best to design infrastructure for easy scalability and better application manageability.

From Deloitte's perspective, it now can offer customers a solid infrastructure to support their applications.

"Our clients were really expecting us to provide end-to-end services, but we took the strategic decision that we didn't want to build our own data centers, we didn't want to build our own network, we didn't want to get into that business," says Craig Hodgetts, a partner at Deloitte Consulting.

With the partnership, however, Deloitte can offer that end-to-end security, Hodgetts says. That's what Deloitte did with Longs. After helping the company develop its customized e-business application, Deloitte worked with Intira to ensure the infrastructure, built on Longs' desired HP platform, was optimized specifically for that application, allowing for flexibility and scalability as the e-retailing business evolves.

"These are not simple implementations," Schneider says. "Longs couldn't be supported by the standard application service provider out there today, which does not support the level of customization and integration that Longs was looking for to roll out to its customers."

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