If you are a PC or server provider, your ISP chum could soon be your competitor, but you already knew this didn't you? With a view to being positioned as an Internet facilitator, and embracing the emerging Internet service provider (ISP) channel, Intel formally unveiled its ISP program last week.
As first reported last month (ARN, July 7, page 4), the new Intel program acknowledges the shift in the power base in the channel, and recognises the overlap between VARs and ISPs. According to the man charged with getting the new channel up and happening in Australia, the value of the ISP business could be anything.
William Foran, Internet channel manager for Intel Australia, said that while the initial numbers don't matter, his focus is on the development of the channel.
"We would expect to have done a million dollars by the end of the year, but on a global basis, we would like it to be a multi-billion dollar channel," he said.
"When Microsoft went into the Australian retail channel in 1992, it was around half a million dollars in the first year, and it's now worth hundreds of millions a year," Foran added.
According to Intel, the lines between ISPs and the traditional channel are blurring and the number of ISPs globally is increasing. They will begin to offer application services and sell equipment.
"ISPs are evolving into one-stop-shopping sources for many new Internet-related applications, products and services, such as Web hosting and creation, e-commerce and customer premise equipment," Foran said.
And to boost this process, Intel is offering ISPs that also want to be VARs sales and marketing tools, training, a dedicated ISP Web site with public and private content, financial services such as equipment leasing, and product demo programs.
But the ISP business has already evolved through the natural course of dealing with the Internet needs of the clients. Adam Pease, network engineer and spokesperson for QuickNet, a Logan City (South of Brisbane) based ISP, explained that supplying hardware is an extension of the consulting services it provides.
"We're setting up access solutions, and we don't supply [servers and networking equipment] to undercut those who do it for a living, more as an added-value service. Up to now we've always referred clients to hardware suppliers and we are still not actively marketing hardware," he said.
Another significant part of the ISP program is the Virtual ISP (VISP), a facility housed at Intel's Sydney headquarters and designed for ISP program members to review and evaluate hardware, access and software technology.
According to Intel, the VISP, which is in its pilot stage, will allow simple access to new and relevant technology from Microsoft, Novell, Intel and third-party software and hardware vendors in the ISP space such as Sausage Software and Dialogic as well as benchmarking software utilities.
Intel will also provide systems engineering support for the VISP and access control.
And Foran claims Intel will provide its ISP partners with 24-hour support, with the VISP providing the opportunity to evaluate all components of the Internet infrastructure, from bandwidth to software.
He added that the list of available software vendors will be expanded as more relevant product and services become available.