Application service providers (ASPs) may have their knockers, but one new venture, based around a $10 million contract to host IBM's WebSpere Commerce e-business suite, claims it has customers queuing up.
Commerce Centre, an IBM premium business partner founded by a selection of former IBM, IBM GSA and McKinsey staff, is aiming to be a one-stop shop for all e-business technology.
According to Craig Allen, Commerce Centre's business development manager, its three-year agreement with Big Blue is the foundation upon which affordable, customised e-commerce solutions will be offered to SME customers.
Dismissing the notion that Australian customers are not ready or interested in the ASP business model, Allen said Commerce Centre is being "inundated" by customers, including "a lot from Singapore and Hong Kong. Finding customers is not an issue," Allen said. "We are selling shovels in a gold rush.
"Access to the Internet and e-business solutions is going to have a huge impact on society and this is a good example of people coming up with an ASP model that will generate significant demand."
Allen said the WebShere suite is going to be offered in three ways with hosted solutions available for various individual components or the whole of WebSpehere. It is expected that the costs of services will range from as little as $500 right up to fully hosted e-business solutions with ASP contract values in excess of $500,000.
"It is the cost of ownership that makes the ASP model so critical and a viable option," Allen said. "What we will be offering is the very latest e-business hardware and software, technology and systems for a monthly fee.
"We will be offering the type of availability, scalability and security attained by high-end systems in a model that is affordable to all businesses."
Allen said that while Commerce Centre is "not offering the cheapest [ASP] version" of full e-commerce, it can offer the "real advantage that comes with all the experience and research built up by IBM".
The infrastructure and application-hosting offerings from Commerce Centre can be as simple as the extension into e-commerce functionality for existing "brochureware" Web sites or Commerce Centre can manage even the largest of portals if that is what the customer wants.
Allen said a customised "electronic store" could be developed from scratch for "between $35,000 and $100,000" while a full "e-mall" portal could be developed, hosted and maintained for "between $250,000 and $1,000,000".
Commerce Centre is looking to develop channel partnerships as a means of getting its services to market. It is quite happy for partners to own the customers while it provides the technology infrastructure and management.
"We don't create the content and we don't try and align ourselves to our merchants," Allen said. "What we do is assemble synergies. Whatever [our channel partners] are selling, they can come to us and get everything else they need."
Currently employing 30 staff, Commerce Centre will tap into the broadband access offered via UUNet (an MCI WorldCom subsidiary) which gives more than enough grunt for the purpose. Channel-savvy payment gateway provider Camtech is being utilised as the transaction engine after Commerce Centre wrote the code to link Camtech to the IBM architecture.
"This is not a two-bit operation. We have been working on this for three years," Allen said. "We went out and proved to IBM that this model would work and they then signed a deal with us."