Summers nearly here and it’s time for a new crop of acronyms, and one of the first out of the traps is a whizzy new initiative from Cisco called SONA. This stands for, Service Orientated Network Architecture and more can be found out about this on Cisco’s own site here. SONA is really aimed at the larger enterprise, and will according to the Cisco site virtualise networks, applications and resources. To those in the know, this sounds suspiciously like an ASP solution to me, and indeed it did to the chap from Cisco with whom I shared an exceptionally delicious lunch yesterday.

For those who’d like a refresher course in what application service provision model actually was, check it out here. ASP is what brought me and the chap from Cisco together in the first place, he had services that he wanted to sell and I had a user group composed of punters who had an interest in finding out more. In those golden days of 6 or so years ago, ASP was big, bigger than Harry Potter or the Apprentice, at least in the Business to Business IT sector. You see those were the days when .COM boom hadn’t bust, and you could get funding for a business model written out on three post it notes and a beer mat if you remembered to turn up to meet the VCs and you’d put something about the internet in it (preferably towards the front.)

Most of the initial money though was being made in the consumer side of things, with companies like eBay, Amazon and Priceline grabbing headlines with ever expanding stock market floats. This was huge, and the older established IT community wanted to get in on the action. What was the best way, well with .COMs you were selling services to consumers that they’d never been able to access at home before. They could now buy books, order groceries whilst checking out flight times from the comfort of their favourite armchair. Businesses response, well you could sell access to over the internet to applications that most people had got anyway, you might begin to see the slight flaw.

The fact that no one was buying anything did little to deter the enthusiasm in the market. IT careerists left big established companies to join small, fast moving dynamic new ventures with huge salaries, bean bag chairs and ultimately no customers. I myself flitted from international conference to international conference, racking up things like frequent flyer points that I’d only ever heard about before in the movies. Everybody was at it, expenses were notched up, hotel mini bars raided and occasionally presentations listened to.

Ah but the fall had to come, and this rather nice business playground was shut down. Slightly before the froth disappeared from .COM cappuccino, banks had already honed in on its smarter suited cousin. Start ups were asked to produce examples of customers, larger organisations priorities started to change and the merry go round broke down. My enduring memory of this period is at a show called something like ‘ASP Future,’ which had in one year boasted a large conference, decent exhibition and as a healthy show of delegates as I’d ever seen at a trade event.

Based on this memory, when I was approached by the organisers of the following year’s event, to find a chairman for the conference, I recommended my friend at Cisco without hesitation thinking I was doing him a favour and helping to raise his profile amongst an important and influential group.

As it turned out that year the loudest thing in the conference room was the noise coming from the plumbing, the amount of delegates barely made it in to double figures and there were only 6 stands (6!) in the exhibition hall, one of which was manned by me and a colleague. During my two days there, I learnt two invaluable lessons. Firstly that boredom can’t kill you (though sometimes you wish it can,) and secondly to sometimes take an exhibition organisers statements with a pinch of salt.

Talking of salt, the only way to placate the other people I’d hoodwinked to come to the event was to buy them all Margaritas the size of gold fish bowls and to apologise a lot. The second day was even harder to get through. Well it’s good to see that idea is back in the market. Look forward to bringing you more developments shortly