What Makes a Top ASP?

By Dan Muse

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Each month, internet.com's ASPnews recognizes industry leaders in its lists of the Top 20 ASPs and Infrastructure Providers. Yesterday at ASPCON in Las Vegas, in a presentation titled "What Makes a Top 20 ASP," ASPnews founder and consulting analyst Phil Wainewright provided a detailed look at how the lists are compiled.

The Top 20 ASP List
To be considered for the top ASP list, companies must be able to demonstrate an active customer base. However, the number of customers and users varies widely depending on type of business. For example, Top 20 ASP McAfee boasts a million customers, while enterprise ASP USinternetworking has 100 customers.

Because so many types of business models permeate the ASP industry, to earn a spot on the Top 20 list, companies must meet two out of these three criteria:

Anticipating growth, Wainewright said he expects the following thresholds to apply next year: ASPs must be pure-play providers, which means that more than 50 percent of its revenues must come from software-based services. Only direct ASP revenues are counted (i.e., setup fee plus subscription). Consulting fees, for example, are not considered ASP revenue. This approach eliminates many big fish, according to Wainewright. Independent software vendors (ISVs) such as Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP, Microsoft bCentral; portal providers such as Yahoo! and eBay; outsourcers and system integrators like IBM and EDS do not qualify for the Top 20 ASP lists. (However, many of those companies do qualify for the Infrastructure Provider list — see below).

ASPs must also be able to demonstrate innovation. Wainewright cites Top 20 ASP OpenAir for its integration and wireless work and McAfee for its .NET development as examples of technological innovation. He points to Intranets.com's conversion to paid services and ManagedOps channel developments as examples of business-model innovation.


BEA Systems
Cable & Wireless

Top ASPs also must act like leaders in terms of goodwill, participation in industry bodies and so on. Companies also earn points for recognition by vendor accreditation programs, industry analysts and the media.

The Top 20 Infrastructure Provider List
For inclusion as a Top Infrastructure Provider, companies must demonstrate a substantial, active ASP partner or customer base. ISVs that help the ASP channel are recognized. J.D. Edwards, Lawson Software and Progress Software are good examples of companies that meet this criteria. Companies such as IBM and Sun earn spots for their investment in marketing and developing ASP partners.

As with the ASP list, the ability to innovate on both the technology and business sides are key factors. Wainewright points to Abridean's multi-vendor XML-based Solution Sets, Progress' ASPen and Sonic initiatives and Qwest's Apptimum program as examples of innovation.

Trends to Watch
ASPnews consulting analyst Phil Wainewright said he expects ASPs to begin to extend into the large enterprise, move to Web services-centric models, show healthy revenue growth and begin to reach profitability.

On the infrastructure side, he said to expect industry consolidation and that hosting companies will fail to impress.

Other criteria include recognizable leadership activity as shown by Hewlett Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun; and single-minded commitment to the ASP model as typified by Onyx and Xevo.

The ASPnews Top 20 ASP and Infrastructure Provider lists are updated on the second Tuesday of each month. Only companies that have been selected for the Global 200 (and the accompanying 80 companies listed "worth watching") are considered for the Top 20 lists. The Global 200 is published by CyberAtlas and is also included monthly in ASP News Review.