The outsourcing of information technology is proving to be popular with carriers these days, reversing the industry's historical apprehension of working with third parties. But experts caution that time will tell how widespread the concept becomes.In January, PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. became the latest insurer to chart this course by completing a 10-year, $1.2 billion venture with Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp. and Boston-based Keane Inc.

The Santa Ana, Calif.-based insurer actually approved two separate but related ventures. Under the terms of a $761 million outsourcing plan, IBM Global Services will manage PacifiCare's data center operations-including its voice and data network and approximately 380 computer servers-and provide IT help-desk and support services for all of PacifiCare's workstations.

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