SBC Deal for AT&T Raises Hosting Decision for Comcast

SBC Communications' $16 billion purchase of AT&T will create America's largest telecom company. But it will also boost SBC's profile in the web hosting business, where AT&T has an impressive portfolio of blue-chip customers - including SBC's biggest competitor in the U.S. broadband market.

Comcast Communications, the largest U.S. provider of broadband, currently hosts its high-speed Internet service at AT&T WorldNet, while its corporate site resides at Digex, a unit of MCI. SBC is America's largest provider of high-speed ISDN Internet access over phone lines, and is in a pitched battle for subscribers with Comcast, reflecting a larger war for broadband supremacy between cable providers and phone companies.

Although Comcast would seem unlikely to host with its rival, the purchase of AT&T provides SBC with plenty of other high-profile clients. AT&T provides hosting for Kodak, Marriott Corp., 1-900-Flowers, the Pixar animation studio, and the U.S. Olympic Committee, as well as several agencies of the U.S. government. AT&T also hosts Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft, one of the largest gaming virtual worlds with more than 600K subscribers, which has recently experienced availability problems.

AT&T currently houses about 84K hostnames, including 43K on Windows, 14.9K on Linux and 13.6K hostnames on Solaris. It now hosts only a smattering of hostnames on Unix, which was developed at AT&T's Bell Labs unit by researchers Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson. Bell Labs is now part of Lucent Technologies.

SBC Communications, one of the "Baby Bells" spun off from AT&T in 1984, hosts 136K hostnames and 75K active sites. Like AT&T, the bulk of its hosted sites run on Windows servers (75K), followed by Linux (24K), HP-UX (23.8K) and Solaris (3.4K).