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USi strikes hosting deal with Liberty Financial

Application service provider USinternetworking strikes a three-year Web hosting deal with Liberty Financial.

Application service provider USinternetworking today struck a three-year Web hosting deal with Liberty Financial.

Annapolis, Maryland-based USi said in a statement that Liberty Financial of Boston has chosen the ASP vendor to rehost and manage the financial services e-commerce sites for four of its companies--Keyport Life Insurance, Stein, Roe, & Farnham, Independent Financial Marketing Group, and Liberty Funds Distributor.

USi, which went public in April, said that its e-commerce application powered by BroadVision technology will give Liberty Financial extensive security capabilities to protect confidential customer data and offer a client support team available around the clock.

Under the deal, the offering also includes BroadVision's capabilities in secure login, personalized online experience, transaction processing and management, customer support, fulfillment, content management, marketing, advertising, community building, and integration with front and back office systems, USi said.

There are several sites in the works that USi will be developing and implementing as part of this deal, said Paul LaPorte, e-commerce product manager for USi. There will be a site available for investors, which will be equipped with knowledge management tools, so that investors have the ability to gather customized financial or investment information, LaPorte said. USi will also offer an Intranet site for the company as well as an e-commerce site geared to young investors, to give teenage investors more exposure to what capital markets are like and to help them better understand different investment vehicles.

"If we need assistance, we make one phone call and USi takes total responsibility in providing a solution," Jeremy Jaffe, vice president of e-commerce at Liberty Financial, said in a statement. "An extensive service level agreement was another key differentiator between USi and the other ASPs we talked to. Since USi will oversee the upgrades and provide total application management, we can focus on improvements to the sites for our customers and partners at a more strategic level."

While the three-year deal with Liberty Financial is a positive win for the ASP vendor amid this new, emerging market, some analysts have said they're unclear on whether ASP companies could sustain profits.

As previously reported, so far, few ASP companies can actually point to paying clients while some analysts even question how much cost-cutting benefits users will realize by using leasing services.

Still, a Forrester Research report had noted that the growing shortage of skilled workers is likely to encourage companies to seek outside help in maintaining their packaged applications, helping this market hit $10.1 billion by 2001, and research firm International Data Corporation expects spending in the high-end ASP market to reach $2 billion by 2003.

"We have a large number of prospects that are in the pipeline who are very high caliber companies," said LaPorte. LaPorte added that USi has been able to meet its numbers for the BroadVision specific e-commerce space and believes that the interest in USi outsourcing has been very well received, especially as more and more companies see how expensive it is to develop and maintain their own e-commerce sites.

Although specific pricing for the deal was not disclosed, LaPorte did say that for general service with a typical BroadVision offering would be priced around $25,000 per month for a three-year lease. This includes, he said, all the software and hardware licenses from BroadVision, all the development, management, and hosting, along with the around-the-clock customer and maintenance support.

Currently, USi said that the site is under development, and will begin further development in the next couple of weeks. The company is shooting for a completion date some time in October.