Minding your online business
- By Cheryl Gerber
- Jun 04, 2001
As the business of Internet service providers has grown beyond basic Web
site hosting into a suite of services, agencies increasingly have used
these companies as outsourcing partners when building e-government systems.
Many agencies have begun to tap an array of new services, from managed security
to database administration to backup and recovery.
"Managed Web hosting has blossomed," said Ted Chamberlin, a Gartner
Inc. networking research analyst. "We anticipate the hosting market to grow
from $3 billion now to $9 [billion] to $20 billion by 2004."
On the industry side, one of the biggest stories of the past year has been
the integration of Web hosting, also referred to as co-location services,
with access to high-speed, long-distance network backbones. After a series
of acquisitions and alliances, every major Web-hosting provider emerged
either owning a network backbone or having tight relationships with providers
For example, IBM Corp. doesn't own a network backbone, but it has strategic
relationships with AT&T and Qwest Communications International Inc.
to provide direct access to those companies' backbones. "Some of our e-business
hosting centers actually reside right on AT&T or Qwest's backbone,"
said Chris Nicoletti, director of complex Web hosting forum.
tight integration include reduced network latency for Web applications,
fewer points for potential failure and better handling of data transmissions.
The marriage between the Web hoster and the network backbone has also
raised confidence among federal users. For one thing, security is less of
a concern. "Security was not a major differential factor during the competitive
selection process, since all of the potential commercial vendors gave every
indication of being able to comply with security requirements," said Capt.
Kurt Hendrix, Naval Supply Systems Command (Navsup) One Touch program manager.
Using the NASA Sci.entific and Engineering Workstation Procurement
contract, the command awarded a Web-hosting services contract to IBM last
June to provide a commercially hosted Web site at an IBM center in Boulder,
Colo. The site (www.onetouch.navy.mil) links Navy users to 20,000 suppliers
and manufacturers in a commerce services network. IBM also provides application
monitoring services and has integrated business-to-business software from
Ariba Inc. and Vignette Corp.
Web hosters are also now able to offer agencies more advanced communications
options. "Qwest's data centers sit directly on Qwest's fiber-optic backbone
based on SONET architecture," said Bill Hoffman, national account manager
for Qwest Government Systems. Synchronous Optical Network combines high-speed
traffic from multiple sources into one stream on fiber-optic cabling at
various Optical Carrier (OC) levels. The higher OC numbers represent more
advanced capabilities, with services ranging from OC-1 up to OC-768.
"The U.S. Mint takes full advantage of the redundancy and speed of the
OC-192 backbone," Hoffman said. Last year, after experiencing poor network
availability and frequent outages with its previous ISP, Mint officials
realized that the provider could not scale the service to the needs of the
agency's growing Web site.
"We wanted a site that would stay up with industrial strength," said Glenn
Hall, director of the Mint's Office of Electronic Business. "Qwest has its
own backbone of the highest capacity, and we needed massive redundancy."
"They started full-tilt with managed Web hosting right from the start,"
Hoffman said. Last year, Qwest installed the Mint site in its Virginia and
California data centers in just 55 days. The two sites are redundant, with
30 servers each, including databases, graphic and media servers, load-balancing
devices and firewalls.
"We bought all the services real estate, cybercenter, backbone, engineers,
24/7 technical support and account support, which means a dedicated team,"
Hall said. As the relationship between Qwest and the Mint has grown, other
services have been added to the original arrangement. Qwest's Internet Solutions
now provides application support services, including architecture and Web
With its exemption from federal acquisition regulations, the Mint did
a standard procurement when it selected Qwest. But for most agencies, there
are three General Services Administration contract vehicles for procuring
Web- hosting services, said Linda Edmonston, director of strategic programs
at BTG Inc. They are the Federal Technology Service 2001 contract; Millennia
Light, a GSA FTS contract awarded to 12 companies in June 2000 with BTG
Inc. as the prime contractor; and the Cinema (Commerce, Internet, E-Mail
The Voice of America used Cinema (see "Agency finds its Web voice"),
which is a complement to the FTS 2000 and FTS 2001 telecommunications contracts.
Federal agencies can also obtain Web-hosting services through the Information
Technology Professional Services contract. There are three ITPS billing
areas: labor, travel and other direct costs. "This is one way we bid and
bill Web-hosting services contractually under "other direct costs' or
"miscellaneous costs,'" said Cliff Cummins, vice president of procurement
solutions for Leads Corp., Arlington, Va.
Leads works with Exodus Communications Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., and
Digex Inc., Laurel, Md., which offer their Web-hosting services through
Leads' GSA schedule contract. "We allow them to avoid the upfront costs
and do what they do best the technological stuff while we take care
of the government contracting," Cummins said.
Most Web-hosting providers today offer a tiered approach to their services.
"We started out with basic co-location services and added managed services
to that. Today, there's a long list of services," said Bruce Talley, Exodus'
vice president of services marketing. Exodus recently purchased GlobalCenter,
the Web- hosting subsidiary of network backbone provider Global Crossing
Web-hosting service provider Verio Inc., Englewood, Colo., spent the
past year creating a complete product line ranging from co-location to managed
services. "We've added a lot of new services in the past year, including
managed security, database management, load balancing, and backup and recovery,"
said Laura Zung, Verio vice president of product management.
Digex operates exclusively in the managed hosting space, adding services
to meet customer demands. "In the past six months, there's been more desire
for database management and application management at the middleware layer,"
said Steve Keifer, Digex' director of product management. "In the area of
se.curity, we also have a new intrusion-detection service. But there's been
a huge demand for support around middleware such as BEA Systems, ATG Dynamo
or IBM WebSphere."
Gerber is a freelance writer based in Kingston, N.Y.