MERANT ASaP Revolutionizes the ASP Model
In a world that craves instant gratification, needing or wanting a commodity or service ASAP-the well-known that stands for As Soon As Possible-is a common request. The fast-paced and cutthroat environment that characterizes today's eCommerce world continually creates an appetite for business solutions software that is sorely taxing the gurus of information technology. But rising from the dust and shambles of the first-generation ASP crash and burn is a contingent of surviving companies that are fulfilling the empty promises of the plethora of flash-in-the-pan ASPs that dotted the ERP solution landscape a mere twelve to eighteen months ago. One in particular, MERANT ASaP, has taken a unique approach to the ASP model.
The Online Tool Shop
MERANT ASaP provides the complex development tools utilized by software developers to create eBusiness applications. Via the Internet, MERANT allows distributed software development teams the ability to share a single, hosted resource that can store software code and track and archive all changes during the development process. And because their tools are Web-enabled, the "a" in ASaP, according to Keith White, MERANT's V.P. and general manager of ASP, is "a play on words with an emphasis on the speed of delivery, that we're able to deliver solutions . . . immediately." A sort of ASP ASAP.
Subscribers to MERANT ASaP log onto the site one time and have instant access to all of its tools. It's an integrated workspace that houses the developer's code in a secure data center managed by Intel Online Services. Backup, firewall security and disaster recovery are monitored by software that costs tens of millions of dollars. These types of resources are outside the reach of many application development shops. MERANT's infrastructure protects software developers'code with a version control which prevents it from being overwritten even though it can be accessed by fellow developers located anywhere in the world. There are also tracking tools that allow you to communicate bugs and follow them through to completion. Collaboration tools like chat and discussion groups and instant messaging are available. Three main services are offered: administration, which includes adding or deleting users and projects; support, which allows a developer to submit requests or call a technical account manager assigned to the account; and online training videos that give instructions on how to use the products. "We call it development on demand," White says. "You can develop anywhere, anytime, on any machine, without the overhead and administration of having to maintain those systems and all the costs associated with that. We're able to do it through ASP with economies of scale and efficiencies, and sharing resources and servers and infrastructure."
The "One-to-Many" Dilemma
As White sees it, one of the reasons the first wave of ASPs failed was because they had not fully worked out the one-to-many dilemma intrinsic to hosting ERP solutions for many companies with different needs. "A lot of ASPs failed because they truly couldn't get the economies of scale and the advantages of the ASP model using these large cumbersome packages and products," White says, adding that ASPs found themselves having to customize so much they lost the administrative and overhead cost advantages they were hired to deliver.
Instead of trying to host big ERP solutions, the brain trust at MERANT listened to their customers, stepped out of the box and took a different approach to the ASP model. The result was their hosted development service. MERANT's White explains: "We said, 'Look, this one-to-many model could really play very well to development teams who struggle today with deploying their tools and dealing with the distributed development dilemma of cost overruns on projects and the inability to manage the time frame in which those projects are to be done. We can instantly supply them with a robust development workspace that would give them access to instant collaboration among all of their team members. Same tools, same content. And do it on a subscription basis that would allow them to project and manage their costs."
What Lies Ahead?
White reasons that the technology the unsuccessful ASPs tried to host didn't fit well into the one-to-many model; therefore, they didn't achieve the promised efficiency necessary to do tasks better, faster and cheaper than their clients. They had overestimated their ability to write a software solution that could be replicated many, many times over. Consequently, they wound up having to customize, the antithesis of what they were trying to accomplish in the first place.
White sees a time when software will be solely distributed via the Internet, with no need to even download it to your own machine. He cites how he prepared his own tax return last year for the nominal fee of $9.99. "I didn't download anything. I didn't have to configure anything. I just went to the Web site and rented the software for a couple of hours and left. No burning a CD and packaging it in a box for sale. You just go the Internet and it's there. You're transforming software into a pure service, with all the benefits of software without the headaches of ownership."
In terms of security, MERANT employs the highest level of technology available today: secure socket layering at 128-bit encryption. Even if a client's data were intercepted during transmission, it would be unreadable. However, White says the enemy usually lies within. "Let's face it. The biggest security risk today is internal. Eighty-five percent of all security violations occur from a company's own employees. Because we have the code off-site and secure, we've just eliminated 85 percent of your security problem."
The evolution of ASPs will continue to be dependent upon the collective wisdom, foresight and experience of the companies occupying that space. MERANT has set the standard in changing the face of the ASP model. Maybe one size can fit all.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:
- Companies in the ASP space initially overestimated their ability to host efficient "one-to-many" ERP solutions via the Internet.
- By listening to its customers, MERANT realized the ASP model was well suited to providing development tools for software engineers on a mass scale.
- ASPs will gain greater prominence as software deliverance increasingly moves towards the Internet.