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The Internet

Applications Service Providers May Change Your Life 89

HWeissfield writes "ZDNet has an interesting article by Jim Seymour concerning the recent advances by ASPs and how this new paradigm of software use could potentially change the way that productivity is created." (More below.)

HWeissfield continues "I saw this as an unsurprising evolution of the way that the Internet is influencing our society today, but I question whether we can really leave critical applications and reports to someone other than ourselves. It may be common to use the terminal paradigm on mainframes where computing power is grandeur and reliable connections can be made, but what about the chaotic and unpredictable mass that is the Internet? Where could Linux fit into this structure that may be prevalent in the future?"

For one thing, it may mean "instant" commercial accounting and tax software for Linux, BSD, BeOS etc. without begging companies that publish such things for ports to your favorite OS. For example, Intuit, publisher of Quicken, Quickbooks, and TurboTax, is reportedly ready to roll out cross-platform, Web-based apps big-time. If they do this - and if their competitors follow them - it'll save a lot of small businesses, from the need to maintain a Windows or Mac box in a corner to run financial software after they've switched to Linux, *BSD or BeOS as their primary OS.

This is a "must read it all the way through" article. It's deep and thoughtful and (as HWeissfield points out) it raises many questions. Care to take a crack at answering some of them?

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Applications Service Providers May Change Your Life

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  • What a great article! It changed my life! It's a must-read!

    Erm, where is it?

  • From the source: http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/stories/reviews/0,6755, 2348942,00.html
  • Wow...
    Check out the previous and next link's at the bottom of the article, Jim Seymour has really written alot about ASP's...
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipakNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday November 08, 1999 @03:32AM (#1553716) Homepage Journal
    Web-based applications aren't "new" - Java was Sun's venture into this line - and they do move in the direction Sun have been anticipating (the "Networked Computer"), but that doesn't make them any less fascinating.

    One problem, though - web-based applications are constrained by the limits of HTML as a presentation language. (Now, if web browsers also supported TeX, they'd be awesome! :) The fact is, whilst the web's presentation is inferior to that obtainable by a specialised, locally-running application, the local application will always be the program of choice for the majority of users.

    Then, there's the degree of control you have. This affects "geeks" (read: computer hackers) more than "real users". Where's the benefit in supercooling, overclocking your 1GHz Alpha, running Journalled Reiserfs on your home-built RAID array, expanding up to 256 megs high-speed RAM, and running the very latest Enlightenment & Gnome on X11R6.4, if none of this gives you ANY benefit whatsoever? If the application is over the web, your computer is nothing more than a dumb terminal, no matter what you've done.

    Lastly, there's a security issue, here. No ISP, AFAIK, is using IPSec, or ESN. No IPSec means no real security in any of your applications, or your data. No reliable authentication. Minimal encryption, if any. No ESN means that unstable applications or web-browsers can cause DoS. Automatic throttling of rogue processes is essential for something like this.

    P.S. To those complaining about the lack of a link: If you're looking for a ZDNet article, you might find it best to start at ZDNet's web site, and use their search facility. It's not painful, I promise. And it means the rest of us can get on with discussing more important stuff.

  • by bconway ( 63464 ) on Monday November 08, 1999 @03:45AM (#1553717) Homepage
    I am completely opposed to this approach for a variety of reasons. First off, cpu power is cheap. Period. Secondly, by centralizing such mundane tasks as word processing and office products (as Sun plans to do), the chances of needing to do a simple task and having it unavailable increases exponentially. Even the best ISPs have some downtime on services. Why should I use a centralized (or heaven forbid, web) interface if I just want to type up a report when I can get it done easily and safely on my own? This is a grotesque idea, and one for which there is no need for. Just because something can be done, does it really mean it should?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Not to mention that, if you use Intuit's online accounting software, they have access to all of your account information! SSL or IPSEC aren't going to help that.
  • ASPs are a good idea, but they won't kill off local applications completely. There are a number of reasons why:

    • Security. Would you entrust confidential corporate communications to a Hotmail account? OK, now ask yourself if you would entrust the spreadsheet with all the juicy details of your Top Secret business plan to MSExcel.com.
    • Usability. Just about every web-based application suffers from having to use HTML as a front-end. HTML is great but it is NOT the One True User Interface to Everything -- it's optimized for browsing hypertext, not word-processing or spreadsheet navigation. See Jakob Neilsen's excellent Alertbox column [useit.com] on this subject for more detail.
    • Performance. Most people are still accessing the Web through modem connections. This makes it difficult to supply data-intensive applications online, and it also adds the extra burden of having to log on to get to your application (which, unlike installing new software, is not a one-time annoyance).

    The article claims that Microsoft is developing a version of Office that would work over the web. Suuuure. Microsoft always claims to have a version of its products in the pipeline that works with whatever the buzzword of the moment is (remember Windows for Pen Computing?). They do this to look like they're on top of developments in the industry and to scare off potential challengers, not to develop killer apps for new technologies. Besides, if all applications were Web-based, Microsoft's desktop monopoly would be meaningless, and we all know how seriously they take THAT.

    So, maybe in a few years, when bandwidth improves and security improves and some other things improve, ASPs will be universal. But for now they're better for niche applications than they are for general use -- they're just not ready for prime time yet.


    -- Jason A. Lefkowitz

  • Using applications provided by some unknown site on the other site of the globe will never become a serious alternative.
    Security issues beside, what if that other machine broke down in the middle of your work? Or if the vendor just goes broke?

    OTOH is the possibility to install an application on a local intranet server. This is about the only way to really cut down TCO.

  • by GC ( 19160 )
    Go here [citrix.com] to try out Web Versions of Microsoft Excel, Word and Powerpoint via a Web-enabled Metframe server.

    Citrix haven't fully disabled the Visual Basic part of these apps so, yes, you can get a command prompt up... but I think they've disabled most network tools.
  • I can see this happening in business. One business buys their services off another. For all the hype (expect to see more) this seems more an evolution than a revolution. We buy networking services and trust the telco to keep our frame relay doing what it's meant to be doing. We hire a layers and accountants and outsource our IT departments. This seems the next logical step. If someone else can take care of all the mechanics of our business why let them take care of the software too? Let us get on with the actual -doing- business. But there are always going to be desktops and local apps. APS is only going to work if you're business is very clearly defined - you know what you do and you know what you want. There are also certain tasks that pretty much every business does and it makes sence there too.
    I can't see this takeing off for regular home uses. Not becuase it doesn't make sence - for some things it does. Just the reistance to it will be too strong. People like things they can control and things they can own. I'd have to trust Ituit and -awful- lot before I want to put my finacial life out of my control and into theirs.
    There seems to be alot of talk of this being 'the next big thing' but I can't see it being more than 'another thing.' There will be good APS's and bad APS's and big APS's and little APS's. There might be some money for the big movers and first movers but for the rest of us it'll just be buisness.
    As a side note - if you want to see how low key APS really is visit the ASP industrial constoriums homepage at www.apsindustry.org. Very low key, ho-hum how's your father web page. And this is meant to be the 'front man' of the new wave? :)
  • I have five machines in the house, two unix engines and three Win9x machines. The unix boxes are where my applications 'live', the Win9x machines are X-terminals and occasionally SMB clients.

    The unix machines are backed up regularly. The Win9x machines have nothing on them worth keeping (even my Netscape bookmark file is shared via SMB).

    Alrescha
    (old mainframe guy who never understood what people see in these new-fangled PeeCees.. :-)
  • I read about this in a magizine.. here is an example of an ASP ..http://www.globalenglish.com [globalenglish.com].. you will need windows and Explorer to get the full effect thou :-(

    Interesting part is that they are an ASP (Applicatino Service Provider) running asp (active server pages). :-)

    send flames > /dev/null

  • There are a few issues I'd demand to see addressed before I'd willingly switch to a remote application server:

    • Backup.
      Local: Oh, damn, I deleted September?!? Hey, Matt, could you pop the September end-of-month DAT in?
      Remote: [hold music while my credit card charge for "advanced services" clears]
    • Security. What security model does the service use? Does one root user have access to every user's data? If so, I want that job. Screw insider trading!
    • Bandwidth. I'm sorry, but this seems to be glossed over too often. Yeah, I know, we'll all have our own private T-1s next year, and xDSL in our country retreats... Sure. For now, I suspect that the vast majority of personal users are browsing over analog, and I don't know too many businesses ready to upgrade their dual-channel ISDN to a DS-3 so that the secretarial pool can run WordPerfect. I don't care if it does get cheaper - so will the local hardware it would be replacing.
    • The Slashdot Effect. Services will make design decisions based on expected average load, not peaks. What happens when I've absolutely, positively, got to have this report finished by noon, but it's final report time at Schmuckitelly University (who's a paid user of the same service)? Can the service (for a premium, even) guarantee that my requests can get a higher priority?
    • Liability. What happens when the service deletes September (see above)? You can bet that there will be limited liability clauses left and right, so how far are you willing to trust their assurances?
    • Better than local servers? Related to the Bandwidth entry, hardware is getting cheaper just as quickly as bandwidth (except for that $#!(*(%! RAM!). How can a remote server expect to remain as cost-effective as a local one? And how will you feel the first time that a service decides to subsidize their rental income with banner adds across the top of your spreadsheet? And what about when you realize that those banner ads are specifically targeted to whatever spreadsheet you're currently working on?

    Maybe I'm wrong; I certainly hope so. But part of my paycheck derives from a healthy sense of paranoia. I just couldn't, in good faith, encourage my employer to jump on this particular bandwagon.

  • It is worth noting that there are very different markets for software. For example, I expect server-based applications to be quite successful within the intranets of large and medium-sized corporations. There is plenty of bandwidth and control, no problems with trust and security (at least, no more than they already have), tech support becomes noticeably easier, and collaborative work could become easier. Not to forget about the eagerness with which the IT departments will jump on the opportunity to wrest control back from those pesky and unruly users.

    However for outsourcing applications the case is completely different. I doubt we'll see many individuals or companies relying on their applications for external entities. There might be exceptions (e.g. for stuff like payroll and accounting), but basic stuff like word processing and spreadsheets will remain local for a loooong time.

    To summarize, if you work for a big corporation, prepare to see your PC morph into a semi-dumb terminal. If not, don't worry, be happy.

    Kaa
  • My worry would be that the sites would use non-standard IE 'features' that would leave OSes like BeOS and Linux, which don't have IE, out of the loop.

    If we find sites that are too IE-friendly, Netscape/Mozilla/Opera users have to put pressure on them early to ensure they are standards compliant!

    Dana
  • I agree that it doesn't make sense for normal desktop computers. But what about Palms and their contemporaries? Itty-bitty computers like that (nano-computers? femto-computers?) would benefit substantially from the ability to run non-resident programs. And since Palms, along with ubiquitous networking, are probably the most significant things happening in computer technology right now, it seems to me that distributed apps are a good idea.
  • All those apps will probably end up being IE-Only, using some proprietary Microsoft crap.
  • I really don't think this will end up changing much. Everyone will roll out web-based apps and everything will be happy at first. But soon, as the competition between apps increases, companies will start thinking, "hey, I can make my web-app even better if I just add a small plug-in...". It won't be long before Linux users will be screwed again due to a non-available plugin.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I see a great number of posts in here that are quite critical of the conept of the ASP. I for one would love to be able to rent or lease the use of softwaer for a short period of time, without having to worry about installation, maintainance, etc. I only use certain apps maybe once or twice a year (graphics, word processing, etc), and I really have no interest in buying it for good.

    For those worried about security - you already trust far more important bits (the most important bits) to someone else - your bank account, so you should feel comfortable sharing a word processing document on the same hard drive as someone else's. Obviously encryption will be used. If you're still not convinced of the efficacy of currently available security measures, you certainly should not be using a credit card, and you should defeinitely keep your money in a sock.

  • This is a good reminder that getting too wrapped up in the "we must out-do Windows" nonsense may be a bad thing. Right now, much effort is going into writing a Windows-like desktop environment for Linux that's better than Windows. At the same time, the people working on these environments are duplicating many of the UI mistakes that Microsoft has been making over the years (for example, a heavy reliance on nested "pull right" menus, which the human interface folks have been preaching against for years).

    ASPs may not be the only future, but it's one of many that's being neglected in the race to write a better Windows for Linux.
  • by mr ( 88570 ) on Monday November 08, 1999 @04:28AM (#1553738)
    Microsoft (and others) have been trying to figure out a way to improve the revenue stream.

    The way the shrink-wrapped world most of us life in goes like this:
    The package is sold (cash for producer)
    You use the package.

    Barring some lame file format changes, or an OS change, if the software worked for you in 1980, and your needs haven't changed, why would you help the software developers bottom line by buying a new version? (And it is possible to run that 3.3 copy of CP/M WordStar :-) ) You can see why, to developers, Microsoft is the company they love to hate. Note too, how among the Macintosh faithful, how the Mac OS allowed older code to run un-modified worked to the Mac's advantage.

    The model of a limited time license you need to re-up doesn't work well on the shrink-wrapped PC platform. (Although Microsoft has that as a 2 year site license for businesses using Office 97/98)

    The model of charging a yearly maintenance fee is tried by many shrink-wrapped vendors. But, this is used more as a warranty program. In exchange for money, (and evening out our cash flow) we will send you the new software when we make it.

    If you try to follow the model of buying the features you need, then the maintenance model doesn't work. And how does the vendor get more money out the users.

    Ok, how about the model of a yearly licensing fee? This has not worked, other companies rush in and take your customers, by pointing out how they have a lower cost of ownership. (assuming an infinite ownership time)

    Now, what if you charged a company or person every time they used a service (Really, the software)? This model is:
    Recession resistant. (if the business cycle takes a downturn, you can't sit out an upgrade cycle, now can you?)
    Evens out the cash flow
    Simpler to control the licenses and therefore the revenue stream. (harder to pirate)


    Remember the stink about how Microsoft was going to rent software? And no one really wanted it? The ASP is just another form of rental.
    And a way to provide steady and increased cash flow.
  • I was predicting that this was going to happen years ago - there are too many control advantages for the companies who are providing these services (controlling piracy, access, upgrades, etc). Assuming a reliable network with reasonable latency & bandwidth (yeah, I know, a huge assumption :), it's the only way to go in today's business climate. Frankly, for most people's purposes, I don't really think it's a bad thing (except maybe for privacy).

    I expect that "operating systems" will probaby become platforms for those client applications, and the little "utilities" which would be too wasteful to run on the servers. (Which might include simple viewers & stuff like word processors, etc.) This is actually not necessarily a bad thing either, since it will keep the operating systems relatively simple instead of continually adding "features" to the operating system to try and make specific applications "better".

    An interesting concept would be whether the companies giving you these "client" applications would try and use their client applications to send you "distributed work", in effect trying to use your client's resources to perform the company's activities. From the company's side, this would be great - from the consumer's side, there should probably be a way to control this kind of thing.
  • How secure could it be to do, for example, company accounting over the internet? With all the hacking going on--even by our own government--what's to prevent someone's data from being compromised if not even altered? ...to be used later to frame that (competitor) company...

    What's to prevent massive "profiling"--data-mining of corporations--only to be sold to the highest bidder?

    Also, I think that moving from client side software to ASP computing is like going from cars to public transportation. Most don't want to lose the control they have despite what Larry Ellison says.

    One last point: Ziff-Davis, journalistic whores that they are, are going to support these revenue milking schemes more than they would something like open source because that's how they get paid. I can't imagine software treated like an electric utility. You get a bill at the end of the month for 40 hours use of some word-processor, 25 with a spreadsheet, etc?

  • You seem to be under the impression that these ASP are subject to the kind of strict regulations that apply to banks and other financial institutions. I didn't see any evidence to support that belief.

    Banks are generally not "fly-by-night" operations because there are fairly severe penalties for people who run their financial business in a casual anything goes manner. Since ASPs are so new, I doubt that there are any regulations. The individual ASPs will probably be making up their policies as they go along and doing whatever they can get away with.
  • Far from it. Originally, the idea for home computers (way back when, back when IBM was king of the heap, like M$ is now, and deserved the title 'big blue') was to have them be dumb terminals for a larger server system running at the other end of a network... remember the famously inaccurate quote about 'the world will need four or five computers, max'? That's exactly what they meant... but what was discovered was that the cost of implementing that kind of network was simply not possible to justify, even if the technology was in place. The fact that it's being re-explored as an option is interesting, in a contained experiment sort of way, but I really don't think it'll fly. People can run a word processor better on even a POS home PC, not net connect required. Why would you want to tie up a phone line, or pay for an expensive digital line, if your computer can already do the same thing without, and for less money? And anyone with a powerful computer would simply laugh at the idea of making there computer a dumb terminal. I suppose if you where using a net connect as it was, it would be useful, but I really don't think anyone would rely on it...

    As for using this on internal networks, I don't think that will fly either. If you really want to take the time to set that up, you can do it better, faster, and more stable with gnu/linux and X. X was built with this in mind, after all...

    note: I'm a relatively young hacker, who's just payed attention to history, and is making observations. I don't claim to be 100% accurate, and I'm just expressing my views on this... but I did want to make my point.
  • Remember all the talk about how, if Linux loses the battle over browser compatibility, it loses the war for the desktop?

    This, my friends, is a large reason why.

    Only two things have prevented ASPs from becoming an integral part of the standard computing experience:

    A) Lack of widespread high speed networking.
    B) Immature tools for representing quality interfaces over HTML/Java/etc.

    The judicious use of the extensions offered in Internet Explorer 5 arguably makes somewhat irrelevant the former(there's still the problem in that it's not particularly efficient or stable to have application functionality dependant upon a network connection; but then again it's arguable a server is much more likely to Autorecover much more reliably than a desktop OS) and almost totally obviates the latter.

    The only thing preventing more applications from being designed in this manner is the fact that IE5 is nowhere near ubiquitous. Don't laugh--critical applications are already being designed according to Microsoft's master plan: Dialpad.Com [dialpad.com], the surprisingly effective free Voice-Over-IP-To-Any-Landline-Telephone, is written in Java with some kind of Windows specific extensions.

    Why? Two reasons: One, Sun has utterly bungled Java beyond belief when it comes to deploying new libraries, and two, Dialpad figures (witheringly reasonably) that the majority of their users can successfully *use* Windows specific extensions.

    Of course, the fact that Dialpad apparently works successfully on Netscape for Windows hints at broken not-quite-cross-platform code somewhere in the pipeline. (Probably some native methods being used.) Either that, or the system's intentionally limited. I doubt that though--Dialpad actually added detailed Linux Masq instructions to their site. (Joy!)

    Dialpad, incidentally, is a fascinating case study in how an ASP can operate. They are actually entirely standards-compliant, using H.323 to move their voicestreams around. However, they implemented a system they call Split-323(patent patending, which is slightly silly since the core concept is found all over the place) where most of the heavy H.323 lifting is done on the server side, with only the voice codec'ing remaining for the client to execute. Quite nifty, and is likely the general paradigm we're likely to see for systems that traditionally required binary application deployment--a small application, usually net-deployed, that executes whatever specifically requires a presence on the individual host(in this case, digital audio in, out, and compression) with the rest being left on some server out on the global Internet.

    I said this is what we're likely to see. I didn't say it's the greatest idea known to man.

    On the one hand, ASP style deployments work beautifully for applications that are inherently communication oriented. Dialpad is about connecting to other phone lines. MindTerm [mindbright.se], the mind-bogglingly(sorry) cool Java deployed and amazingly full featured and GPL'd SSH client, brings high end communicative security in package that requires no installation beyond accessing a web page.

    But do we really want non-communication based applications to require a network connection?

    Pundits like to go on and on about how broadband is going to be all over the place in a few years. Bruce Schnier, author of Applied Cryptography and creator of the excellent Blowfish encryption algorithm, observed that while high end processing power will increase on and on ad infinitum, the low end never goes away--it just gets smaller, deployed for never-before imagined applications, etc. Smoothly scaling performance from the high end to the extremely low end is, therefore, a value. I posit that bandwidth is much the same way--maximum speeds will get higher and higher(indeed, in the course of the last 5 years I've gone from a 2400bit link to a 1,500,000bit link!), but there's always going to be something puttering along damn slowly and not entirely reliably. Look at the proliferation of wireless technologies proudly proclaiming speeds that are laughable in wired realm but are actually pretty cool once made wireless.

    It's the wireless side, specifically laptops, that suffer the most from the ASP paradigm--wireless bandwidth is far more scarce, and many applications already deployed on them are intrinsically non-communication oriented. To force laptops to initiate connections whenever basic applications are to be used removes much of the freedom intrinsic in a battery powered, portable computing environment.

    On the flip side, I'll be the first to admit that laptops have been made much less free by the degree to which communicative uses have taken over the actual applications people run. The concept that a laptop would become almost entirely useless, though, without Net.Mommy somehow being able to tunnel a link to it is rather bothersome nonetheless.

    Security is a far more pressing concern. People fail to grasp the vast amount of security embedded in the simple fact that their files are located on their hard drives, in their homes, on a machine that is running no remote access services and is not permanently connected to the Internet. This security is eroded constantly by a disturbingly large number of intentional(in the RealNetworks fiasco) and unintentional(insert browser vulnerability here) ways, but literally moving the location of an application from onsite to a remote location introduces an incredible number of possible points of attack, from data corruption to privacy violation / industrial espionage.

    A perfect example: GPS-Assisted Destination Routing. Take something like Mapquest.Com vs. a traditional CD-ROM based Street Atlas USA.

    Mapquest requires no CD-ROM sale, would never have out of data information on the marketplace, could probably add a Dialpad-style applet to receive location data from a GPS receiver, and would probably require some form of wireless connectivity a la (the soon to be ridiculously oversubscribed) Ricochet service.

    In comparison, Street Atlas USA does require a CD-ROM sale, would eventually suffer from stale data, would have GPS easily integratable with the core application, and would require no (expensive) wireless networking to function.

    How easy it is to ignore that Mapquest would be receiving up-to-the-minute accurate positional and destination data for whoever's using their service. Combine the ridiculously pitiful privacy standards that Corporate America operates under with constant pressure from VC's to find sources of funding and the ease at which Net vendors can pass off security and privacy lapses as "accidental occurances which have already been fixed" and suddenly the ASP picture becomes much more dangerous for the end user.

    The bottom line is, when it comes to security, trust, no matter how great, is no competition to a brick wall: Security Through Impossibility is simultaneously the simplest and most effective means by which sensitive data can be protected from malicious agents. ASP's demand much trust to be usable, and while benefits from ease of deployment and harms from reduced functionality and accessiblity are significant concerns for any business considering employing an ASP, one has to wonder at what times it is justified to remove the brick wall inherent in on-site deployed solutions.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com

  • I like your points, and I think they will prevent "anonymous" services from being a dominant player. But, what if, say, Xerox, chooses to contract a third party to set this up in house? Xerox could use this internally (and, BTW, allow workers from home the same access). This solves most of your concerns - bandwith is controlled at the local level, security, slashdot effect, liability - not issue if your company is forcing you to do this!

    Could make West coast/East coast collaboration easier, which I know is an issue for Xerox. Probably many other companies as well.

    And, it allows all the different groups in these companies the freedom to choose their hardware/OS.
  • Though, actually, to add to my last post, I can see one useful outcome of this experiment, for the standard pc user, and that is to have ther ISP contain an application server with a nice, stable, ftp client, mail client, etc. Browsers these days have to many bells and wistles to make them run well over a network though. Once again, just a though...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    From a corporate perspective (hi boss!), the ASP model is extremely compelling for two reasons:
    1. Recurring income. This was pointed out by a previous poster, but I mention it again because it's relevant.
    2. Lock-in. This is where we need to get scared, kiddies. If you're using hosted, outsourced software, who really controls your data? Here's a hint: it's not you.
    Once you've built up a backlog of data on your host, you're locked-in, forever. You'll never be able to migrate off their system, because THEY have all their data!

    I come from the mainframe world, where this type of lock-in is standard practice. Once you get your system into a customer, you start turning all of their OWN data into your proprietary format. In the mainframe world, this mostly happened by accident, because people HAD to just invent file formats left and right. In the outsourced ASP model, it will happen ON PURPOSE.

    So, let's assume that you're using XYZ Accounting, an ASP package. Maybe you decide that you want to use QRS Accounting instead, and you notify XYZ that you want your data.

    They say no. Or, if you were careful in writing your contract, they'll respond by charging you a fortune in "conversion services" -- which you agreed to when you signed the contract.

    And I'm sure some of you are thinking "hey, that's my data, they can't do that!". Well, let's think about the credit card companies -- it's YOUR purchasing patterns that they monitor, and they get to sell them for a profit. If you want to see your "own" data, you have to jump through their hoops. If it hadn't been for an Act of Congress, you probably wouldn't be allowed to see that data AT ALL!.

    In summary: if any of you are thinking about going down the ASP route, be sure that you have clauses in your contracts that give you final ownership of any data you generate. If you don't, you'll get screwed.

    Take it from me; I've seen it happen by accident. Now it's going to happen on purpose . . .

  • Actually, if done right, the chance of having the service should be increased this way. With redundant CORBA servers doing the work, one down server is transparently "covered for" by another, all at run-time. CORBA is way cool for this sort of thing. The only trouble spot is the network cable and routers. But many employees go days and weeks waiting for support to come fix their problem when their individual computer breaks.

    Which brings me to your first point, that it's not the expense of the hardware that's the issue, its the expense of maintenance when everything that breaks rests on thousands and thousands of individual desktops, rather than in one central location. Updates, maintenance, fixing things is a nightmare in most places today.

    I'd never do it at home (puhleeese!), but I would expect a smart company to look at this seriously for in house stuff.
  • Let me address this in the context of Citrix Metaframe (note: these opinions are my own and not sanctioned by Citrix):

    • Backup / Security / Liability
      Although your application runs remotely, your data can stay local. Therefore, you can do your own backup if you wish. Of course, one of the benefits of the ASP model is that your data can be backed up by the ASP, if you choose to store it remotely. The tradeoff is yours to make. While it is true that an unscrupulous ASP could dump the system memory on the server, this is an obvious violation of privacy laws, and can be dealt with in a court of law.
    • Bandwidth
      Bandwidth really is becoming less of an issue. Metaframe is certainly useable over a 28.8 modem, and practically seamless over a LAN connection.
    • The Slashdot Effect
      Simple answer: more servers, with load balancing. The costs can be offset by serving more people, in different time zones (thus with different peak usage times).
    • Cost
      Although you didn't have cost as a point, you did mention it. "[T]he local hardware it would be replacing [will get cheaper]." This may be true, but with the ASP model, you never need to replace the local hardware, even if applications become much more resource intensive. The real cost savings with an ASP comes with reduced system administration costs. You never need to upgrade your software, you don't need to worry about backups, you don't need to hire a tech to do sysadmin work - these are all taken care of by the ASP.
    • Better than local servers?
      The answer is: depends. I'm not going to claim that remote applications are a panacea for everyone, but it does make sense in many business applications. Those who want a computer to play 3D shooters will probably never be served by an ASP. But those who use a computer for business applications can certainly get a benefit from remote applications.

    -TomK

  • Sorry, but ASP would only make it different. The only thing that will change my life right now in a good way is a huge infusion of cash. Can we talk about that?
    -------------------------------------------
  • IBM's techexplorer [ibm.com] plugin does this rather well - works with Netscape and MSIE, available for Linux, AIX, SOlaris, SGI. It's pretty impressive stuff. The "introductory version", which is all that's available on the UNIX systems, is free. Not open-source though...
  • Backup / Security / Liability
    Although your application runs remotely, your data can stay local.

    I think perhaps that my morning coffee hasn't kicked in yet, but I don't see how that would work. Do you upload foo.txt to the server, run the app remotely, and download foo.txt when you're done?

    The Slashdot Effect
    Simple answer: more servers, with load balancing.

    I have to admit that I don't particularly like that idea. See, if I run a local application server, and it's starting to bog, I can take the initiative to fix it right now. If I were renting remote apps, then I have to trust that the service is going to maintain their gear at a level that gives performance that I consider acceptable. I don't believe that every (or even most) vendors would slack in that arena, but it's still a potential problem. I mean, it's terribly annoying when a remote mailserver is overloaded and holding your mail too long. What if that mailserver was instead running your appointment scheduler?

    I'm not going to claim that remote applications are a panacea for everyone, but it does make sense in many business applications.

    Thanks for your answer. I'm really not trying to be argumentative - honest! :) I would agree that app servers may be the answer for some companies. The niche I imagine, though, would be small/new companies who lack the capital to buy their own local equipment. There would be a definite benefit in borrowing a high-dollar database until you can afford your own.

  • Plus, there are alot of things that you just can't do over the web. And yes i refuse to downlaod 500 ActiveX controls just to view a web page, let alone do work with it. Besides i don't use IE. Anyway its just scary, image if you would do your work like that. Any one (including the company whos site your using) would be able to see what your sending. What if its a letter of complaint or about something very personal. Yuck.
  • My company has outgrown Quickbooks [intuit.com]. In light of that, we have been investigating several Application Service Providers for potential financial service candidacy. The big debate has been to use an ASP for accounting services or purchase a reputable software package, a server to run it on and keep it in-house. The final verdict: the latter, and here's why:

    Small to mid-size biz
    Several of the ASP's I researched and spoke with advertise that they specialize in solutions for the small to mid-size biz. Dell [dell.com] defines a small to mid-size business as a company with = 10 concurrent users. For a biz that cannot afford a $20,000USD accounting package, I can hardly see how that same biz can swing the cost for an ASP (see below)

    Cost
    For a 15 install/user-base (their minimum requirement) Corio [corio.com] charges approximately $13,000USD per month for software, hardware, bandwidth and technical support for financial services. PeopleSoft is used as the backend and I do understand that PS isn't exactly $15 shareware from Tucows [tucows.com], but $13K is a lot of money, regardless.

    I realize that the Application Service Provider market, as it is defined these days, is a relatively new field of service. However, the cost is excessive, the requirements haven't been as accurate as they appear and all of this causes the people that could benefit the most, to be shut out.

    It's an excellent idea, but the market needs more competition. Lower the prices and scale to what you advertise.
  • Anyone ever heard of this things called X? It allows me to run applications over the Internet today, and did so many years ago. It's not tied to any particular programming language or some retarded markup. It also has reasonable security features. You should check it out sometime.

    But wait, Jim Seymour must be running this other operating system with propriatory windowing system. Too bad for him.

  • I have huge doubts that this will ever happen. Try running VNC over a LAN to see how slow sending just screen updates over the internet can be. Just imagine the size of servers that will be required for this. Why would I want to pay $50 a month for reasonable bandwidth when I can just add a $7 Cyrix processor to my 'dumb terminal'. Terminal-style computing may have worked back in the old days, but today's users (read non-geeks) demand a hoggish UI that will consume bandwidth like we've never even seen before.

    Software companies all seem to have this unattainable vision of charging ever user by the minute for the use of their product. I cannot see how this could ever take off. It made sense back in the old days when memory and cpus were extremely expensive, but with the advent of powerful microcomputers a full blown workstation can be had for only a few more bucks than a dumb terminal.

    This sort of 'revolution' will have about the same impact on our lives as the huge 'revolution' of Java did 2 years ago.

  • I'd like to remind the poster of this article that productivity is neither created nor destroyed.

    The law of productivity conservation requires the ratio of productive activity to non-productive activity be less than 1.

    - Shaheen
  • The whole "paradigm" (yech, I hate that word) of network-distributed applications falls right in the laps of Free OS's like *BSD and Linux. Here, they can offer low-cost, high-availability servers running on commodity hardware. The platforms are exceptionally well-suited to becoming application servers in much the same way they've already proven themselves as http and ftp servers.

    IMHO, this is such an easy win for these systems it's not even funny. It would be a shame if a myopic infatuation with Linux on the desktop led to this opportunity being lost. By the time Linux is accepted as a "desktop OS", distributed apps may make the desktop OS an outdated concept. Why not get an early start on tomorrow's goals right now?
  • Let's say all this happens, and average consumer boxes are shipped with net software and a text editor but no word processor. Standard open formats will probably displace .doc as the default. Specifically:

    Paper: people will keep a hard copy of everything in case the ASP crashes/goes out of business/runs out of disk space
    ASCII: for documents that never needed formatting anyway, a text editor will be more responsive and less net/broken/hassle.

  • Hi, I have been involved in several ASP designs, but these are my own opinions and not necessarily shared by my employer's

    * Backup
    Your ASP can have a higher security for the backup's, longer storage-time, faster access time, and third-party storage-areas (vault's etc.) than you can, and you don't have to pay "Matt" to load that DAT tape...
    Sure, they will bill you for that, but keeping that kind of staff, if you don't have an IT-firm, is also expensive.

    * Security
    Yes... the most ASP's don't use crypto to store your data, and they can get it anyway...
    But that can you accounting firm do to, this are all protected by the contract and the law...

    * Bandwidth
    Most distributed graphic's protocol's (Microsoft RDP, Citrix ICA, GraphOn RapidX, SCO AIP) are suited for low bandwidth (28.8/56k)

    * The Slashdot Effect
    To assure that you always get to your mission-critical applications there are several ways to go.
    One is to add servers and make clusters, another thing that you can do is to use bandwidth-control like Packeteer where you can reserve bandwidth to a specific user or a specific URL (Layer 2-7 in the OSI model).

    * Liability
    An honest ASP doesn't hesitate to explain witch insurance's they have and what they cover...
    Exactly like you accountant firm.

    * Better than local servers
    Sure, you don't have to add server capacity when Office grows to enormous proportions, you only pay a monthly fee that you easily can add to you budget, not like the added hw/crash recovery cost's you have otherwise.
    But, obviously, ASP isn't the answer to everything, intense graphics and a few other things aren't suited for distributed graphics.

    I don't see the ASP solution as a wonder-medicine for all companies, but a lot of them could really benefit from focusing their effort towards their main-business and not having some people doing half-time as "sysadmin's".
  • any idea why DialPad wants to have network access...
  • any idea why DialPad wants to have network access...

    Well, I'd venture it has something to do with the fact that it lets you call up telephones via the Internet for free.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com
  • First, on the article itself:

    Enterprise Resource Planning:
    What company, in their right mind, let information ,that in the old days before computers would be placed in big steel safes, placed in a room with a sturdy metal door, be hosted by OTHER COMPANIES, in a location not under their control?

    Graphics Software:
    You can't see this kind of service on the strength of some button generators - I assume we're talking something close to the power of Photoshop here, so there is only one question: how long does it take to send over a 1280x1024 jpeg, and what kind of processor power the server will need?

    Productivity Applications:
    You might not need tech support for the buggy applications anymore, but how does one go about PRINTING things out? Provision for local networking to a print server? (and that doesn't require support?) A special print server/printer that connects to your ASP that sends the print jobs over? (the idea just sounds silly)

    Now some extra ramblings:
    The only reason some companies will find saving using ASPs would be that they have a bloated, mismanaged IT department that sucks up more money than the ASPs would with monthly charges.

    Why companies keep on trying to make the whole ASP thing work? What better way profit from software can you think of - develop once, then you get paid per user on a monthly basis, additional cost only from bugfix/more server and bandwidth/new features to compete with other ASPs
  • A neat protocol suited for this task.
    Or maybe GraphOn's Rapid-X
  • * Security
    Well, I wouldn't trust my data to a free ASP either, but if I buy the service, I can demand service and security, like on my accountant firm.

    *Usability
    Look at the methods used by ASP's today!
    Citrix MetaFrame, GraphOn's GlobalHost, SCO's Tarantella, neither of those use HTML for the application, they all use distributed graphic's (like LowBandwith-X, LBX or X11R6.4)

    *Performance
    The above described protocols are all useable over modem-lines.

    The solution's from Microsoft and Sun with web-based office kit's will sertainly be nice for the average home user, but I wouldn't trust my MissionCritical data on that...
  • (Local apps also not suited to all tasks shock, horror!)

    ASPs are a good idea, but they won't kill off local applications completely.

    I should hope not! There are some things that ASPs are suited to providing and some they are definitely not.

    I'm currently working on a web application that performs certain processor-hungry data-processing on large data-sets. It's not a very interactive task: you just tell it to go do a job and it comes back when it's done. This is clearly suited to being done by an ASP, and does not require much of the browser user. (Yes, it works with Lynx and everything.) Batch-style tasks are a good candidate for ASP.

    But when I followed the link to GIFWorks I experienced a mixture of awe (that Andover had managed to get it to work so well) and horror (at the sheer amount of hack effort that must lie behind it, at both the browser and especially the server end).

    Interactive content creation/editing software is not a good candidate for running through an ASP! Text editors, graphics editors, sound sequencers... all these things benefit from instant-effect interaction. Which means either using DHTML - with the usability hit you (and Jakob Nielsen) mention, and grievous server-side implementation worries (probably leading to more bugs) - or some sort of applet that shifts the majority of the processing over to the client anyway.

    Information management tasks can be good candidates for ASP. Especially where communication of the information is inherent to the service. I suppose webmail is an example of this, though personally I still see it as a bit of a hack and it's definitely less usable than a good mailer.

    One reason why web interfaces can be useful, though, is simply that many employees are stuck behind firewalls or NATs that only allow the likes of port 80 through. And probably aren't allowed to install their own software anyway. Leaving HTTP the only escape route.

    OK, now ask yourself if you would entrust the spreadsheet with all the juicy details of your Top Secret business plan to MSExcel.com.

    And, as others have noted, it's a question of ownership. Software vendors can already virtually own your data by hiding it in their proprietary formats. Now they can technically - and, I guess, even legally own your data.

    Anyway. Last in this series of random unedited thoughts: I personally would expect more popular web services to be built by single organisations who have come up with a cool idea than a few distinct ASP firms as the article implies.


    --
    This comment was brought to you by And Clover.
  • The lab I network admin at recently did some testing for a big client that required a Winframe connection to the client to do the testing. Since I had to set up the machines, I got a chance to see exactly how well winframe worked. Going over a 28.8 (barely) connection to the clients dial in which serviced all of the company's sales force, the performance was amazing. Admitedly they load balanced the terminal server connections, but once you connect you are locked to that server. I thought it would be like vnc (horribly slow over some networks) but it was as if I were sitting at the machine itself. you see you local drives in the remote file manager. It is truly sad that Microsoft sucked up another comapnies great technology and claimed it as their own.
    "We hope you find fun and laughter in the new millenium" - Top half of fastfood gamepiece
  • if you use Intuit's online accounting software, they have access to all of your account information!

    Imagine... "Newsletter to special customers #1 - We are glad to notice you have payed more than $1200 for your new [geeky-device], so we finally have a proof that you afford our advanced services for just $120 monthly!" "Newsletter to special customers #2 - We are glad to notice you wanted to pay $50 to our rival, but we refused that transaction in your advantage! We can do the same for $49.9! You don't have to leave us anymore!"

    On the other hand, if people didn't bother their phone company can listen in their conversations, I don't know why this would bother them :) [Me? Yes, I do something about it, and I think wherever "we" go, "we" will certainly have our chances to do what we really want..]

  • Do you upload foo.txt to the server, run the app remotely, and download foo.txt when you're done?

    Nope, with MetaFrame, your local drives are automatically mapped at connection time. Therefore, if you save to drive "w:" for example, the data is saved on your local "c:" drive (or home directory, or whatever.)

    -TomK
  • One thing the author keeps jumping up and down about is how we "won't need an IT department" anymore after the move to ASPs.

    Ummmm, who exactly is going to connect up all thse network workstations to the net in the first place? Who's going to run the LAN? Remember, now, folks, your average biz user has about as much interest in IP subnetting as the contents of Rob Malda's stomach. And rightfully so -- the whole point of IT folks like me is so they don't have to worry about 40 acronyms that end in "P".

    It would be nice not to have to fight with Windows/Office/etc. all the time, but I really don't see IT departments going by the way side just because you're dependent on the outside network now.
  • This ASP thing has been Ballmer's wet dream for a couple of years now. It's one of the reasons they invested so heavily in IE, and MAD (Microsoft Active Directory).

    However, this is a thing that the software companies are pushing for, and the analysts that are in their pockets.

    I suspect that most people will not buy into this idea. It's an issue of trust, and "having the biggest dick" (fastest desktop machine). While the ASP model may be adopted roundly as an internal corporate thing, the vast majority of users out there will not adopt this stuff if they have the choice. It is bad, economically for consumers. It's like the difference between owning and leasing a car. Or owning your home and renting it. The data security issues go on top of that.

    Unfortunately, like I said, if there's a choice, consumers won't buy into this - however, the way the software industry looks today, there's not much choice out there. Software vendors only have to tweak their pricing structures to make "renting" more attractive (short term), and owning economically unfeasible (like, when was the last hobbyist you talked to who actually BOUGHT a copy of Photoshop? I know ONLY professionals who pay the exorbitant fees Adobe charges). So, MS Office = $30/month through ASP, or you can BUY a copy for $1500. Don't like it? So? - Intuit. Quicken via the web = $30 a month, except for April, where they'll charge $50 because of increased demand, CD, $1000 (or more likely, unavailable).

    Ballmer would just love to become a software slumlord, rather than a salesman. It's all about steady revenue streams, and captive audiences.

    I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said "Information wants to be free".
  • I am completely opposed to this approach for a variety of reasons. First off, cpu power is cheap. Period.

    Yes, but most CPUs are sitting idle most of the time. If we instead had a bunch of CPUs being shared by legions of terminals we wouldn't need as many CPUs total, thus CPU power would in effect be even cheaper. Waste not, want not.

    Secondly, by centralizing such mundane tasks as word processing and office products (as Sun plans to do), the chances of needing to do a simple task and having it unavailable increases exponentially. Even the best ISPs have some downtime on services.

    By keeping stuff on your own computer you have the same problems. Even the best techies have downtime on their PCs/workstations.

    With a whole bunch of users screaming at them, you can bet ASPs would fix any problems real quick. And with economies of scale ASPs can afford hardware that is much more reliable than what we seen in todays cheap PCs.

    For the average user who can't even reinstall Windows this would all mean more reliability, not less.

    Why should I use a centralized (or heaven forbid, web) interface if I just want to type up a report when I can get it done easily and safely on my own?

    Why buy an expensive new PC just to type up a report when you can easily and safely get it done on a sub-$200 network appliance, and be able to access it from any terminal you want?

    Personally, I like having real computer power on my desk, as probably a lot of slashdot folks do. It gives us a great deal of control over our digital work space. But for J. Random User, the pain of maintaining a desktop PC is just not worth it.

  • From my personal point ov view, my own machine is down more than my ISP...
    As a employee of a ASP firm I might be colored, but at work I use X-terminal's and Linux and that is a good world, but at home I use a W-95 box and I wouldn't trust it to give me the time of day...
    All I run on it besides games is Netscape and my client programs.
    I have purified this after my last hdd crash...

    How many small biz./home users have a backup and crash-recovery plan?
    I don't, I just hopes it doesn't crash.
    And upgrade the server hw and software to the latest Office 420000?
    I don't, I sit on a P200/32

    I think the safest place to have your data and application's is a central ASP, one that you trust, it might bee a free portal like Sun or M$ for your personal use or it might be a commercial ASP for your mission critical applications.

    One thing you *must* concider is that you *can't* demand full service from the free stuff...
  • I'm afraid, not, but still....
    Apart of Mr. Seymour writes about some really strange
    things like `terminal/host time share'. Maybe he's dreaming about inventing something. Like Al Gore.
    OK, people do dream. But the whole buzz about ASP
    is annoying. What benefits are people going to have?
    Performance? No. Stability? Don't make me laugh.
    Bigger dicks? Not even this! HDD space is cheap as
    dirt and the list of free sofwtare is huge and growing.
    On the other hand, bandwidth is still precious and
    the 'Net is full of noise and we must say NO. That way. ;)
  • Although I completely agree with your remark
    about `Windows better than Windows', I feel like
    you are missing the point abit.
    This is not a Win vs Linux matter. What it takes
    is thinking vs being wide open to the media hype.
    The whole ASP `idea', IMHO, has two major show
    stopping issues- low bandwidth and security. In
    the article, J. S. mentions an `unbelieveable
    success of Hotmail web based mailservice'. But he's
    too modest to tell his readers how many times HM had been cracked. And this is just a mail service used mainly to receive the junk. Imagine what will happen when classified financial data will fly over the net.
  • Nobody's going to depend solely on ASP for anything important when there's another way. Here's a couple of real-life reasons why:

    First, at work, there's a small database that's stored on a few servers 50 feet away from some very competent network guys. One server hiccupped, and for 15 minutes, nobody could log in. This irritated close to a hundred college students even though the problem was fixed ASAP. Several people lost files. And this was in what you could call a best-case scenario--the desktops were all LAN-connected, with the server less than 100 feet away and competent staff very close.

    Second, at the U of M (major university, reasonably clued-in IT department) there have been a couple of fires/machine room troubles in the last couple of months, resulting in sporadic, 1-2 day lossages of E-mail (the original ASP 'killer app' IIRC.) Boy, were people pissed off.

    Third, clueful folks know you can't depend on the network, the local hard drive, or really much of anything. It's almost essential to have a backup plan that'll let you accomplish X if the preferred method fails. If you can only run FooApp via a remote server, and some klutz with a backhoe severs your business's T1 line....

    Others have made valid points regarding privacy, data ownership, and vendor lock-in. I'd say that the privacy and data ownership questions could be solved by looking at the policies of ISPs that handle E-mail (provided there are any ISPs that have rational E-mail policies.) "Does FooNet own that sexually explicit message I sent? Could they read it and distribute it at whim?" (common sense says "Hell no!" to both; let's hope the law follows.)

    Lock-in exists in most computing places today, and only widespread adoption of open file formats/+open source could ever eradicate it. (here's hoping.) People have been dealing with lock-in ever since mainframes and will continue to do so. Sad, but true....


  • Last year, I filed my taxes on WebTurboTax. This
    site is unbelievably great. It is just as detailed
    as any client-side tax preparation program, only
    it uses HTML, DynamicHTML, Java, and Acrobat/PDF,
    and works anywhere on Netscape or IE.

    I used Netscape 4 and it took big advantage of layers and JavaScript for its interface.

    At the end, all I did was give my CC# and
    I got a PDF file I could print out and send to
    the IRS, or, I could just do an electronic filing.

    Either way, as a web developer for the last 6
    years, I thought it was one of the finest pieces of server-side/client-side integration I have seen.

    (Did I mention it gracefully handled Netscape crashing without losing any data, and that it handled all the funky cases of idiot users trying to bookmark, or reload POST CGIs, etc)

    For small companies, outsourcing to an ASP rocks. No one in a small startup wants to handle the ugly details of HR, Payroll, accounting, etc.

  • Well if the suits end up tethering all of us to centralized servers using software we can't own, I'll be happy to put them out of business by offering consumers a package they can take home and actually own outright, even if my degree isn't CS, like they seem to banish you if you don't have.
  • I think ASP's can be divided into two categories: "wholesale" and "retail."

    Wholesale: Products which offer a client/server interface to customer programs. Products like Oracle encourage ASP hosting because:

    1. They are hard to admin correctly, encouraging amortization of the admin cost across a broad user base.
    2. Licensing fees are frequently related to total processor power, which penalizes small users who want headroom to handle spikes. The big ASP could load average many small users, delivering consistent service with a small proportional headroom.
    3. The ASP will be more able to get Oracle's (or other vendor's) attention when problems arise, due the volume of business.

    Retail:Desktop applications for consumers or employees. They make sense because:

    1. Consumers and small businesses don't want to take sysadmin responsibility for a complicated system.
    2. Consumers shouldn't have to invest in a technology (software) which they'll never have time to research adequately. The ASP is in a perfect position to invest wisely in software acquisition/development.
    3. Sophisticated web apps will allow the small business owner/manager to define the roles and permissions of each employee relative to company data. This is not a good fit with the PC-centric model.
    4. Employees will be more able to use their normal work environment while at home or travelling.
    5. ASP's can use their logs to determine what parts of an app are buggy or frustrating to users and rapidly upgrade them. Boxware vendors like MSFT are forced to rely on the user's anecdotal and distorted account of what went wrong on the "PC". Understandably, they tend to discount consumer complaints - witness Gates' famous comment that people complain about bugs in Windows in order to look cool.

    Other Stuff:

    1. Stop thinking of this from a geek's standpoint. These services are mostly not for geeks. They will be created and maintained by geeks, but their main beneficiaries will be the ordinary people who are currently forced to admin their own Windows boxes.
    2. Backups and disk mirroring will be a major strong point. Most people never back up their PC's data and everyone has heard heart-rending stories of major projects lost.
    3. If you hate the ASP model, please never use the phone again. Switch over to ham radio. Every criticism leveled at the ASP idea goes double for telephony.
    4. The real problem will be differentiating the free/low-cost ASPs, which will be under-provisioned and burdened with animated GIF's, from the serious and expensive ASP's which will invest in bandwidth, disk, backup, sysadmins, and development.

    The bottom line is that consumers never wanted to be sysadmins any more than they wanted to run nuclear power plants or global communication networks. They just want power, phone, and data conveniently on tap.

  • Server-side software is usually insanely expensive (unless it's Open Source.) Have you ever checked prices on a nice fat copy of NT Server? Win2k, egad. Generally, people pay this much because it's how much they *think* they should pay. Good software can't come cheap, they think. So it goes: direly expensive MS software and tech support.

    Say the ASP were to become common. Multiple instances of MS Office, for example. The customer pays for access to the program, and the admin pays for the big fat software suite to run off the server.

    The PC becomes a thing of the past. Bandwidth is the factor here. And all the while, bigger and bigger software suites come out server-side, and the customers keep shelling out more and more.

    In the short run, this may save the corporate scene money. It's gotta be cheaper to get licences for software off the ASP than to buy bloaty, exhorbitant MS packages and pay for licenses. However, given the inflation and bloat of the majority of the software represented here, woudlnt it just be more costly in the long run?

    Just my $.02.

  • That may be the case, however, if the user is required to have a pentium iii 550 just for a dumb terminal to operate at full speed, why not just run the applications on the client!?
  • Why is everybody suddenly scared about security for storing their status reports on some ASP somewhere? Yes there are some security concerns, and the lawyers will have to get involved.

    But already on the personal level nearly everything we do is logged somewhere. All our credit card transactions, cash card withdrawls, phone calls, bank accounts, even your ISP has logs. Nearly everything we do is tracable somehow, and it hasn't drastically changed our lives.

    Yes, if the data is sensitive we will have to hold the ASPs to the same security level as banks and and credit card companies, or just keep that spreadsheet locally. But overall, the benefits probably out-weigh the problems.
  • Remember the 3 of the Twelve Networking Truths [ohio-state.edu]

    (3) With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. However, this is
    not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they
    are going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them
    as they fly overhead.


    At first blush I would tend to agree with you, but let's dream a little. IPv6 has the potential for revolutionizing autoconfiguration of devices on a network, as does Jini or whatever Sun's NC flavor of the month is. I can imagine a world in which computer networks are set up like telephone networks or electrical networks. A professional contractor comes out to install and maintain the major hardware, but the individual user can plug in an individual device that doesn't need any configuration to be useful.

    But never fear, pager jockeys aren't likely to be out of work anytime soon.
    --
  • Since ASP providers never distribute their program, it would seem to me that they could integrate GPL software into their offering without redistributing source. If ASP became ubiquitous (a big if), this could lead to interesting conflicts.

    I'm not terribly concerned since it would simply make GPL software more BSDish, and BSD software seems to be doing just fine.
    --
  • Well, I have to share some points that I feel will be useful to (at least) some of you.

    I travel a lot, and I use mainly a laptop (company issued) with Windows 98 on it (yeah, yeah, but I have to use it for Arabic support, as well as exchanging documents with colleagues and customers - so it will stay for a while). I also use a Palm Pilot, and have my home computer (dual boot on Linux).

    Moving the data back and forth on these three platforms is a royal pain (in all places!)

    My dream would be a web service that allows ALL of the following to be done:

    • Access and Reply e-mail from whatever host(s) you access our e-mail from
    • Sync my Pilot remotely, so as to have all my e-mails, addresses, appointments both on the Pilot and on that virtual desk top
    • Upload and sync all my bookmarks
    • Visto Briefcase [visto.com] has most of this, but the sync doesn't work well.
      Netscape Netcenter [netscape.com] also has some of this functionality, but the bookmarks do not upload all of them. The same happens to synching my address book. Not all addresses are uploaded (truncation). It has Portfolio, Weather, News which are all nice, but still not the one true desktop
      Other sites I am looking at are
      WorkSpot.Net [workspot.net] are a Linux deskop over the net, and was featured in a Slashdot article a few hours ago.

      So, I am yet to find an ideal web site that I can use as a one stop shopping for all this.

      Security you say? Who cares? I just have to be aware that there is a potential security issue, and not to put sensitive data there? Same goes for ICQ, ...etc. Regards.

      --

  • No this is not what is happenning. This is ICA and is very much like running an X Server Display in a Web Page and running an X application on a remote server.
    I would fiddle with the options. This is certainly not "exec powerpoint.exe" unless Powerpoint was included with Slackware 4.0 :)

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