Founded in 1998, USinternetworking gives corporate customers access to well-known enterprise applications from companies like Ariba
The managed-services model is gaining considerable traction in corporate America. Its benefits include relatively lower costs (since a company only uses the services it needs, and can benefit from economies of scale); expert consulting; and no need to invest in servers, storage, or other expensive infrastructure.
That makes managed services a lot like a utility -- a business that AT&T amply understands. The company can leverage many of its current assets to build out managed services, including its massive customer base and its 30 data centers on four continents.
AT&T will have plenty of competitors, though. Key players in managed services include IBM
Even as AT&T enters the market, its competitors are getting stronger. IBM recently purchasedInternetSecurity Systems, considerably fortifying the security component of its managed services.
AT&T is wisely trying to position itself to catch a major trend, and it seems willing to make the necessary investments to succeed. But given the small size of the USinternetworking deal, I believe the acquisition will have little impact on AT&T's overall performance. Its merger with SBC will do far more to create shareholder value for AT&T. However, shareholders shouldn't expect immediate improvements in their holdings. If history is any indication, such massive mergers take several years to make a difference -- if they ever do.
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Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares mentioned in this article.