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SmartAdvice: Business-Intelligence Tools For Linux On The Horizon

As Linux gets more robust, database analytical tools and report-generation capabilities will be added, The Advisory Council says. Also, cost isn't the only factor to consider in evaluating application service provider options.

Question B: How should we evaluate the available applications service sourcing options?

Our advice: The first key factor is to have a clear and unbiased understanding of your organization's maturity level. If your company is still struggling to deliver basic services without well-defined processes and metrics, it will be hard to successfully source application services externally based upon solid service-level agreements.

For organizations with well-defined processes and metrics, several other factors come into play. Systems size and complexity are important in deciding your service options. Most application service providers give their best services around specific, homogeneous product solutions. Most IT environments are the exact opposite. If you can break down the complexity of your existing environment and create strong, independent service areas which can then be serviced, you're much more likely to be successful with your service provider. Removing complexity from their areas of service widens your options as to who can deliver services to you.

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Adaptive RFID


Application service providers come in basically three sizes: economy class, business class, and "build your own airplane." The differences between the first two are usually about details in the service-level agreement regarding who performs what set of tasks. When most of the maintenance tasks of the application are on your side of the agreement, and they're basically providing infrastructure only, it's economy class. When they're providing value-added services around the applications such as code maintenance, patches, security updates, application updates, performance monitoring, etc., then it moves into business class. These two classes of application service providers are your primary options. Unfortunately, custom (i.e., build-your-own airplane) application service providers abound. Most of these are no more than custom consulting solutions with defined service levels. These are obviously the most expensive, time-consuming, and have the greatest risk of failure.

Cost is usually the main factor that causes companies to examine application services outsourcing. One thing you should bear in mind is that cost isn't the only factor to consider in evaluating your options. All business applications carry with them the business value. The goal of application services outsourcing is to lower that cost of delivery while improving the delivery of that business value, not reducing it. Fortunately, the application service provider community has matured so that there are business-value-creating options and measurements.

Taking the time to assess your organizational maturity, reviewing your enterprise architecture to clearly segregate systems to be managed, understanding the business value delivered by the application services under consideration, and articulating that to your service providers, will be essential to successfully evaluating their ability to meet your requirements.

-- Jay Williams

Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT-delivery organizations from user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future.

Jay Williams, TAC Expert, has more than 20 years experience building and developing advanced information technology solutions. He consults extensively in the fields of IT architecture and strategy. He also is the CTO of Adaptive RFID, a hosted-software service provider.

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