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HostingCon 2008 -- Liam, you got served

Mon, 28 Jul 2008 22:43:00 -0400

Another convention, another time, another day. It started off like so many days before. That half a**ed shower, the Monster Loco Mocho energy coffee drink and obvious Nigerian cabby talking without a breath on the cell phone until I heard "$7.30".

Yes I’m back in that toddling town, the city of big shoulders, that windy city…yes - Chicago.

HostingCon 2008, you could smell it in the air. Like locusts the attendees tried to find the back end of Navy Pier. Registering they produced two forms of positive identification and matching business card to obtain their tricked out badges. You would almost think they were trying to vote or something. I call it organized.

Working against the clock we poured coffee (Got to give Navy Pier a thumbs up on the coffee) and chose from a wide selection of assorted do-nuts and Danish. On to a 9 AM panel. It should be an interesting day.

More about Tom:

NCC - the Hosting Business Broker

E-Mail Tom Direct

At HostingCon attend my M&A Seminar Flip that Hosting Company



Maximizing Your Mindshare (and Wallet Share) in the New World of SaaS

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 15:11:00 -0400

I really like SMBLive CEO Matt Howard's way of looking at software as a service. (Some argue that we should start calling it software enabled service.) Matt says running a business is all about maintaining "5 conversations": with oneself, co-workers, external partners (vendors/contractors/distributors), customers and the general public. So ideally, web apps should facilitate personal productivity,
collaboration, vendor management, CRM and sales/marketing.



Traditionally, hosting providers have focused on helping customers maintain a web presence - which only fulfills 20% of the functionalities Matt describes. So I thought it was pretty awesome when Barbara Branaman mentioned that Concentric is in the process of integrating its new collaboration service with its clustered hosting and email solutions. I said the unified offering should help Concentric increase mindshare. Barbara said also importantly, it will boost wallet share. The goal is to earn a larger slice of more customers' IT budgets.



Barbara will need to keep a close eye on Google, whose Apps Premier cover about half of the 5 conversations. Remember last December's headlines about Microsoft battling Gmail for corporate workers' attention? It seems Redmond faces an even tougher challenge with respect to productivity apps: Ars Technica reported yesterday that Google Docs and Spreadsheet account for a 92% share of unique visitors, and 95% of the amount of time spent. I'm not impressed with Google Pages, but Blogger is pretty popular. I'm sure sooner or later both will be rolled into Google Apps, along with Google Base.



Meanwhile, have you heard about eBay's new partnerships with ERP/CRM provider NetSuite (spotted via Mark Crofton's blog) and popular social network Bebo? And SalesForce is looking to build a "circle of success" around its CRM app; David Berlind says their odds are decent.



Earlier David Snead asked via a comment on an earlier post whether easy interoperability between different vendors' apps will obviate the need for hosting providers to customize services for any audience. Based on Rodney Loges' experience, I think the answer is no.



Rodney (who was instrumental in digitalNATION's $100 million sale to Verio as well as Rackspace's launch of its Intensive service) has transformed his company from a web development firm into a SaaS provider by assembling a suite of best-of-breed content management, web analytics, collaboration, etc, tools for associations and non-profits. Each hand-picked application meets specific requirements that his customers share. I think that's what it takes to win in SaaS/SES - of which hosting is just a small percent. In other words, the key is customer segmentation.





Customization vs Standardization, or What Amazon and Rackshack Have in Common

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 23:27:00 -0400

In early 2001, just a few months before Exodus filed for bankruptcy, Robert Marsh launched Rackshack. Unlike his struggling competitors, who typically built servers to spec, Robert sold $99 Cobalt RaQs. Only one configuration was available, and orders were provisioned instantly and automatically. And instead of demanding multi-year commitments, Rackshack offered month to month service. By the time I joined the company in early 2003, Rackshack (which later changed its name to EV1Servers) had become the world's largest dedicated server provider.



A year or so later, Robert unveiled EV1's private racks program during a customer gathering; two attendees signed up on the spot. Soon other orders starting pouring in, along with complicated network diagrams and super detailed server specs from customers who wanted their systems built just so. We did our best to accommodate any and all requests, which were a huge challenge to keep track of. Only much later did I learn about ITIL from Rich Bader over at EasyStreet. By that time, Amazon had already launched S3 and would soon introduce EC2.



Unlike EV1's Custom Order team, who gladly built whatever customers asked, EC2 sells only $0.10 virtual server instances. There's just one configuration available, and orders are provisioned instantly and automatically. Instead of demanding month-long commitments, Amazon offers pay-as-you-go service in 1 hour units.



According to Vinne Marchanadi from Deal Architect, pay-as-you-go is what large customers nowadays are looking for. (A former Gartner analyst, Vinnie now advises enterprise IT buyers on vendor selection.) He offers the analogy of plugging into an efficient power source versus buying fancy generators. On behalf of his clients, he says:



"Message to vendors - so long as you meet our security, privacy and compliance standards, we want as vanilla, standardized a service as possible. Sell us capacity by unit of consumption. We want to leverage all your economies - in financing, procurement, operations, everything. In return, we want to fit as much as possible in to your standards."



Another couple of years from now, will standardization again give way to customization? I think the answer is yes. And no. Amazon recently started offering Machine Image sharing. And VMWare's virtual appliance marketplace features about 400 listings. And SalesForce.com offers over 500 partner apps on AppExchange. And earlier this month Netvibes unveiled its universal widget API... It seems service delivery platforms will become more - not less - standardized, while each user will have increasing freedom to mix and match a wide range of interoperable applications into highly customized solutions. Doesn't that sound like the best of both worlds?






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