Sprint to Toss Its Hat Into Enterprise Ring

SAN MATEO (03/20/2000) - Sprint Corp. this week will unveil plans to hone in on enterprises' growing zeal for one-stop, integrated network services and managed applications.

Specifically, the carrier will launch on Wednesday Sprint Enterprise Network Services (SENS) -- a strategic vehicle to take away business from old-line enterprise integrators such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

SENS at the sametime is Sprint's effort to get into the Internet-hosting market and eat away at the lion's share of businesses going to new-breed Internet-hosting companies such as Exodus Communications.

SENS will draw from different Sprint operations and business units to include five practices: enterprise application deployment, network security, network convergence, network management, and emerging technologies.

"Sprint was at a crossroads a couple of years ago," said Kenny Wyatt, director of marketing for SENS. "We really looked to find a way to move from being a company that delivered packets of data from point A to point B to one that thrives in a LAN environment."

For that LAN expertise and other professional service competencies, Sprint plans to parlay network consulting expertise it captured more than two years ago when the company bought Paranet, a professional services and data management company.

By Sprint's own admission, the company has been slow to announce any big plans to wrap in professional services. But Sprint executives have tapped the Paranet crew to serve as an anchor for SENS, which will be a single point of contact for Sprint enterprise customers.

SENS will function somewhat like AT&T Solutions, AT&T's division that is responsible for network outsourcing jobs for its largest corporate enterprise customers.

But David Tapper, an analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC), in Framingham, Mass., said the key to the SENS strategy lies in its promise of remote services and Sprint's use of data centers.

"The concept behind this strategy is to get servers embedded in a central location and provide necessary services for an end-to-end solution," Tapper said. "There are a lot of companies moving in that direction. We are at the very beginning of the process."

Sprint will rope in the use of five data centers to offer services such as Web hosting and managed security and database services, along with managed server and managed application offerings.

Tapper said the Sprint move puts the carrier in a potential head-to-head competition with companies such as Exodus, Digital Island, and Digex.

Sprint plays up the significance of its internal Internet backbone networks as proof that the carrier will thrive in the new space.

But some market players spin ownership of the networks as a potential liability for Sprint. "On redundancy, they may have a disadvantage," said Sam Mohamad, vice president of worldwide sales at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Exodus.

"I buy from multiple carriers and if one network goes down, or if one has poor performance, I just use the other network," Mohamad said.

Sprint could lose out as the price of fiber keeps dropping, Mohamad noted.

Exodus every six months combs the carriers for the best deal to transport traffic in and out of the company's 19 data centers.

"Finally, transport technology is changing so dramatically that we don't really want to be married to fiber. What if someone figures out a way to do all of this by satellite?" Mohamad asked.

In the end, Sprint's biggest hurdles may not be the company's networks but rather Sprint's reputation as a carrier rather than Internet player, IDC's Tapper said.

"In terms of their overall strategy, I see a potential weakness [which is] their ability to get the enterprise expertise they will need. ... They are going to have to bulletproof the system to be near 100 percent availability," Tapper said.

Sprint Corp., in Kansas City, Mo., is at www.sprint.com.

Microsoft readies broadband initiative

As part of an effort to combat America Online, Microsoft is in the early stages of putting together a range of partnerships around a forthcoming broadband initiative.

According to the company's President and CEO Steve Ballmer, Microsoft will reinvigorate its MSN efforts, leveraging its compression and streaming media technologies to create a platform for distributing Web content via DSL, cable, and satellite links.

Microsoft also hopes to recruit a broad range of content partners and service providers currently competing with AOL.

Ballmer said that, while MSN does offer content, Microsoft doesn't see itself as a media company and has no intentions of making any major acquisition in this space to counter a combined AOL/Time Warner entity.

However, industry analysts said partnerships or indeed any move to punch up MSN and position the ISP for broadband is a sound one for Microsoft.

"They have been talking about reinvigorating MSN for a year, yet we've heard very little from Microsoft," said Steven Harris, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp.

Harris said MSN has fallen from its No. 2 slot in terms of ISP rankings based on subscribers. Mindspring, now merged with Earthlink, comes in right behind ISP-leader AOL, he said.

Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., is at www.microsoft.com.

Sprint Enterprise Network Services

Offerings include the following.

* Application deployment including supply-chain management, intranets, and work group collaboration* Network security including assessment and continuity planning* Convergence services for voice, video, and data, plus management of Sprint Integrated On-demand Network (ION) services

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