In recent months, the former Ameritech Library Services has been very busy. First, it transformed itself into epixtech, Inc. (http://www.epixtech.com) when a group of investors purchased the library division of Ameritech from SBC communications. (For more information on this, see my Systems Librarian column in the January 2000 issue of Information Today.) Then, almost in parallel to this development, epixtech, Inc. acquired the Universal Resource Sharing Application (URSA) from the Australia-based CPS Systems. Since the restructuring, the company has also announced the signing of some major contracts, including those with the Barrington Area Library in Illinois and the Hillsborough County Public School System in Florida. Epixtech has hit the ground running as it begins its new corporate existence.
The ASP Model
Most recently, epixtech announced the availability of a new approach in library automation, one in which the company serves as an application service provider (ASP), delivering access to its Horizon automation software via the Internet. This new product combines the Horizon library automation software from epixtech and the Application Server Provider program offered by Citrix Systems, Inc.
I spoke with Scott Wheelhouse, vice president for product management at epixtech, at the ALA Midwinter Meeting about this new product offering. Epixtech's ASP is a configuration of the Horizon library automation system in which all the software components of the system and its server are housed at an epixtech data center. The customer library maintains control of the configuration of the system, and all the modules operate in the usual way. This arrangement places less demand on the library for the technical management of its library automation system and offers a financial model that requires less up-front capital.
A press release from Citrix Systems, Inc. announced the participation of epixtech and 30 other companies as new participants in the Citrix application server program. It states: "Citrix application server software enables ASPs to centralize the installation, deployment, and administration of applications on their servers, and deliver them with high predictability, speed, and security across any network connection to users on virtually any platform and/or client device. A unique advantage of Citrix application server software is its ability to deliver the full richness and interactivity of Windows, UNIX, and Java applications over the Web or Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in a thin, manageable manner."
From a financial point of view, epixtech's ASP offers the library a predictable budget model, as the cost of the software is spread across the first 3 years of the contract. This annual fee may be more attractive to some libraries than the alternative of raising funds for the initial purchase of hardware and software up front. After the first 3 years, the library pays standard software maintenance.
From the library's perspective, the system will appear as if the library has a discrete server. Behind the scenes, multiple library systems may be grouped on consolidated servers, but scaled to deliver optimal performance. Libraries that use the ASP will have full control of the configuration of their systems, retaining the ability to establish their own policies, preferences, and options. …