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Rob Preston
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Down To Business: The Most Strategic Vendors, 11-20

One reader said my 1-10 list favored sales machines over true innovators. Point taken. This focuses less on size and more in impact.

15. AGA. No, it's not a new Swedish pop band. It's our acronym for the three vendors that stand to make the biggest impact on enterprise IT--if they ever really put their minds to it. Apple, Google, and derive only a tiny fraction of their revenues from sales to enterprises, and Apple is almost dismissive of enterprise IT, but products like the iPhone and iPad, Google Apps and Chrome, and Elastic Compute Cloud and Simple Storage Service could become game-changers.

One online commenter who identified himself as Sensor Guy CTO thinks my top 10 list was skewed toward what large customers think. "In smaller, emerging firms and those with younger, more energetic CIOs and especially CTOs, IBM and Microsoft aren't viewed as strategic vendors," he said. Apple, Google, and Amazon generally are. Big customer companies are starting to take notice as well.

16. Research In Motion. RIM's BlackBerry, leveraging the security and management features of its Enterprise Server, is still the leading corporate smartphone, running sales force, business intelligence, and other horizontal mobile applications as well as healthcare, financial services, pharma, real estate, and other vertical ones. The iPhone is gaining ground, however, owing to Apple's simpler SDK and broad consumer appeal.

17. Red Hat. Like Salesforce, Red Hat is strategic more for the movement it leads and represents--in its case, open source software--than for the excellent products it sells to enterprise IT organizations. And as with SaaS, customers value open source not just for its cost savings, but also as the means to keep established software vendors on their toes.

18. Tibco. It's the leading independent vendor of software that integrates business data, processes, and applications, what in another day was known by the mundane term "middleware." Today, service-oriented architecture is what Tibco is championing, and its business process management and predictive analytics software is grabbing attention as well.

19. Citrix. Citrix has emerged as a strategic vendor on the shoulders of its server and desktop virtualization platforms, based on the Xen open source hypervisor. While those products aren't VMware killers (the pundit money is on Microsoft), they're part of the CIO conversation in what has become the hottest software category. Meantime, Citrix has expanded into networking and collaboration through its Netscaler, GoTo, and internally developed lines, contributing to company revenue of $1.6 billion last year.

20. The Anti-Cisco. Cisco's networking dominance is unquestioned, prompting rivals to lay claim to being the clear alternative--everyone from Brocade to Juniper to Extreme to HP ProCurve to Enterasys to Avaya, as well as niche rivals such as Riverbed and Arista. All are strategic in the sense that customers need Cisco challengers if they're to have any leverage.

Rob Preston,
VP and Editor in Chief, InformationWeek

To find out more about Rob Preston, please visit his page.

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