1999 ASP Year in Review

Welcome to 1999's last issue of ASP Review UPDATE! This year has seen the beginning of broader acceptance of using server-based computing to outsource applications. Although the idea of application outsourcing isn't new, the past decade has been very PC-centric, focusing on the power of the desktop instead of the server. After all, the dominant desktop OS was Windows, the quintessential standalone client OS for individual PCs, not cooperation between computers. Windows wasn't even network-aware until Microsoft released Windows for Workgroups in 1992.

However, the standalone model of computing is reverting to the original network-oriented model. People use the Web and email every day. The next logical step is to look beyond the PC, seeing it as a way to get to the application. Then you realize that having an application on a PC isn't always the best way to get to it.

E-commerce has had a serious effect on this change in attitude. Most application service provider (ASP) customers seem to be start-ups—people who want to get their companies up and running quickly. These companies don't have the resources or the skills to manage applications in-house. Most people aren't ready to give up their fat clients. Too many users and too many applications work best in a client-centric environment. If you're already wedded to a client-centric environment, you're not likely to abandon it in favor of outsourcing applications. But a new company trying to get off the ground quickly can use an ASP to skip the application deployment cycle.

Thin-client technology in-house has also contributed to using outsourced server-based computing for applications. Using an ASP is much easier when you see that companies, such as Citrix, GraphOn, and CO, develop viable means of delivering applications to and from a variety of platforms. Some of the most valuable contributions that ASPs can provide are reducing in-house IT costs and increasing interoperability.

In short, 1999 hasn't seen a lot of companies using ASPs. However, a number of new technologies and new ways of computing in the late nineties have opened the door to an expanding ASP market. If you're interested in where server-based computing is going in 2000, go to the Windows NT Magazine Web site on January 3 for opinions from industry leaders and analysts on what's in store for thin-client devices, ASPs, in-house use of terminal services, and other predictions about the industry for 2000.

Although I don't expect any sea changes in the next 12 months, the events and attitudes of 1999 have laid the groundwork for more acceptance of server-based computing and some serious changes in how people view computing. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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