Hosted Applications

In the very old days, software used to be run on huge computers (mainframes) and accessed using ‘dumb’ terminals as clients – dumb because they did not process anything themselves. Then personal computers arrived and it became possible to run software on the clients. At the same time as the arrival of the Internet, it became generally agreed that the best place for large-scale applications was on servers, and clients were best dumbed-down, as graphical displays. This oversimplification leads us to the question – what if the Internet is used to provide the connection between the server and the client? If this was the case, applications could be accessed from, and situated, anywhere, potentially managed by a third party. The concept of hosted applications was born.

What are Hosted applications?

A good place to start with Hosted applications is the phrase ‘applications over the wire’. Rather than installing and running applications on your own server, you can outsource them to a third party and access them over the Internet. The third party gives you application access in the same way that an Internet Service Provider gives you Internet access. (Note – they don’t have to be the same party)
As usual, from this simple definition things can get quite complicated – there are as many types of hosted application as there are ways of hosting and delivering an application over the Internet.

Business Benefits of the Hosted Model

The benefits of hosted applications are a combination of the benefits of outsourcing, with the reduced costs of using the Internet as infrastructure. For the former, consider the following:

  • time to market – another company can provide an application faster than you can build it
  • reduced overheads – is cheaper for one organisation to manage an application for multiple companies, than for each to manage their own
  • resource management – maybe you haven’t go the facilities to deploy or manage the application anyway

Deploying the Hosted Model in the Corporate Environment

Some basics on deploying Hosted applications:

  • Be proactive – don’t think that the handover of control to an hosted application provider is a simple process.
  • Remember security – like other Internet-based applications, security is a primary concern.
  • Service levels are essential – be sure you are given (legally) satisfactory guarantees about the service you will be given.

Issues with Hosted Applications

Key to the success of a hosted application is its ability to deliver managed service levels, and key to a company’s use of a hosted application is the specification (and guarantee) of appropriate service levels for the business.

The Future of Hosted Applications

The future of hosted applications is intertwined with that of Web services and SOA. Hosted applications are seen by some to be a temporary situation. It is generally agreed that service providers in general are going through various evolutions, and that the worlds of communications, media and the Internet are merging. It looks likely (how do we know? OK, we guessed) that service providers will form into two categories:

  • general service providers, who cover all the bases
  • specialist service providers, covering such areas as security, application hosting, business services and the like.

For further information and an update on the Cloud Computing view, see here.

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