Alta bets on infrastructure

Among the flurry of software vendors, Internet service providers, telcos and Web hosting organisations rushing to join the application service provider (ASP) bandwagon, two business methodologies are emerging in the market: those that do management services and those that don't.

For most that choose the latter, the strategy is a by-product of the company hurrying to be a part of the ASP hype in whatever way they can.

But for Sydney-based Alta Internet Business Centres, the approach is a calculated one.

When George Caravias, the man who helped build Axicorp into a $300 million company, joined with some former colleagues to establish Alta in late 1997, they recognised their forte was infrastructure, not services.

Accordingly, they spent the next year or so working to develop an infrastructure and basket of applications robust enough to meet the performance and redundancy needs of medium-sized companies.

As for the services around those applications, Alta chose to leave that to the experts.

"Professional services companies are really the only organisations that can tailor packages into specific business processes [and] we made a deliberate decision not to do that," Caravias, who now serves as Alta's chief executive, told Computerworld. "Our specialty is making these applications run on a high performance basis.

"So that means our customers require two relationships - one, with us [for the applications serving], and the other with a professional services company that will take [the applications] and implement them for a specific requirement."

Caravias described Alta as "essentially an organisation with lots of servers". The company's business model involves it hooking up to a customer's internal network via a specially-created private connection like frame relay or ATM.

Caravias claimed this methodology enables Alta to maintain a more consistent, higher performance service delivery.

"A lot of focus in the ASP market is on browser-based access," he said. "But we see problems with that for enterprise applications because the quality of service that you get on a public, ISP-based network is variable."

Caravias said Alta has "quite a number" of dot com companies as clients, particularly those that require dynamic environments or tailored combinations of platforms for their Web environments.

But he added Alta is increasingly acquiring traditional companies that require specific delivery capabilities or enterprise applications to fill voids in their online capabilities.

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