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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction and Research Methodology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2002. e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation, Volume 2, Application Service Provider Implementation Guidelines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24724.
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3CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY The 1990s witnessed the development of the Internet from an obscure network to a ubiquitous enabling technology for information delivery and commerce. Advances in network technology gave rise to network-centric computing in which instead of being directly attached to a local computer host- ing software applications, end users connected to a network and accessed those applications over the network. With this advance, the computers hosting the applications could be located in the same facility with their end users or they could be located in a remote facility. In the late 1990s, a new type of outsourcing emerged that allowed enterprises to access individual applications as a ser- vice over a network on a subscription basis. A vendor offer- ing this subscription service was called an “application ser- vice provider” (ASP). The network could be the Internet, or it could be a private Internet Protocol (IP) wide area network (WAN). ASPs deliver access to software applications across a network and provide associated maintenance, operations, and support services. ASPs generally employ thin client tech- nologies in provisioning their service offerings. The applica- tions offered can be commercial software applications, or they could be applications custom-developed by the ASP. The applications offered either have been designed specifically for access over an IP network, or have been modified to allow network access. The most common means client-side access to the ASP application’s user interface is through an Internet browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. Applications that employ thin client technology can also be implemented internally by an enterprise. The enterprise hosts those applications on servers housed within its own data cen- ter and provides end user access to those applications across its private network or intranet. For thin client applications, the enterprise provides all of the computing services, soft- ware support, operations, maintenance, and end-user support required to operate the application. An enterprise could con- sider obtaining access to the same application that it might host internally using thin client technology from an ASP. In this case, the ASP would host the application on servers resid- ing in its own or in a partner’s data center and would provide all of the computing and support services necessary to oper- ate the application. Both internal thin client computing and subscription access to outsourced applications hosted by an ASP are options available to transit agencies for provisioning their applica- tion software needs. The purpose of this report is to document guidelines to be used by transit agencies when considering subscribing to outsourced access to software applications hosted by an ASP or when considering operating thin client– software applications internally. The research methodology used for this investigation con- sisted of two surveys. The first was a survey of the industry trade press for reports concerning the use of ASP services and internal thin client applications. This investigation was intended to assess industry usage of ASPs and thin client applications and to identify the general characteristics of those operating models and the risks and benefits associated with their use. The second survey was a survey of transit agencies to assess the level to which the transit industry has adopted the ASP and thin client operating models for provisioning computing services. The results of these separate lines of investigation were combined into guidelines for the imple- mentation of the ASP and thin client computing service pro- visioning model in the transit industry.

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TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 84: e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation, Volume 2: Application Service Provider Implementation Guidelines, presents the results of an investigation into the use of application service providers and thin client computing technologies by transit agencies.


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