Customers of Singapore-based application service providers (ASP), should get to enjoy better services shortly, thanks to the launch of an alliance here -- comprising ASPs, systems integrators, hardware, software, and telecommunications companies -- that is currently working on an ASP service level guideline.
The ASP Alliance Committee (AAC) is working on defining the appropriate minimum service levels that its members should meet, said its chairman, Leong Han Kong.
"We plan to define how the ASP market here should look like," Leong said. "We hope to develop and promote the ASP industry in Singapore with the eventual objective of exporting its services throughout Asia-Pacific."
Pioneer members are CalendarOne.com, Cisco Systems, Ecpod.com, eGain Communications, Hewlett-Packard, iASPire.net, Microsoft Singapore, Symix Singapore, Powerlan Singapore, Progress Software, Solomon Software, Sun Microsystems, and StarHub Internet. The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is an honorary member.
Although AAC members are free to decide whether to adopt the service level recommendations, ASP members Computerworld spoke with noted that the guidelines will benefit all -- customer, provider and nation.
"The minimum service level is to protect customers," emphasized Goh Kim Siew, founder and chief executive officer of CalendarONE.com.
Currently there is a lack of confidence from local enterprises towards adopting the ASP model for software and services, said Barrie Williams, Asia-Pacific vice president, Symix.
"Setting a minimum service level standard would be a positive step towards building up the confidence of potential subscribers of ASPs," said Williams.
"Service level agreements (SLAs) reduce the risk of non-availability and non-performance of ASPs for end-users, protecting customers from inconsistent service and other potential security infringements."
Defining the SLA is a key component of any ASP offering, especially if these ASP offerings are mission-critical applications, added Christopher Yeo, South Asia managing director, Progress Software.
"The SLA sets out standards or benchmarks to measure the ASP delivery channels and mechanisms," Yeo said.
At the least, the SLA should spell out the performance and reliability requirements relating to network availability and bandwidth specifications, application availability specifying the amount of scheduled and unscheduled downtime expected, and call response which is the time allowed to respond to and resolve support calls, Yeo said.
Since the AAC's role is to protect the trust and integrity of the ASP business, it is important to have a minimum SLA for local ASPs, said Woon Yew Thong, general manager, Powerlan.
"We could have a situation where a rogue ASP that sacrifices its client's confidentiality, and ruins a client's business because the client could not access critical business data," Woon said.
With a minimum SLA, potential clients of a certified ASP would have more confidence that it has the necessary commitment."
Currently there is still some disagreement and lack of clarity about the fundamental levels of service. Through education and the strict adherence of basic standards, this situation can change rapidly with "non-conforming" ASPs being forced to accept a different class of service, said Williams.
"Once we see a significant improvement in the SLAs and the quality of service, one would also expect that there would be a fall-out of all the non-conforming ASPs," he continued.
These guidelines should therefore be defined as soon as possible, he said.
"Following that, they need to define the increasing levels of performance delivery for which the ASP receives a bonus. This is needed to reach a middle ground between the high expectations of delivery and the high costs of guaranteeing delivery," Williams said.
Powerlan's Woon would like to see AAC's white paper on its recommendations not later than six months from now.
"I expect the AAC Policy sub-committee to help define at least some of the service level definitions and standards within the next three months," said Yeo of Progress Software.
AAC runs under the auspices of the Singapore Information Technology Federation (SITF), a trade organization representing 480 corporate members from Singapore's IT industry.