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Global CIO: Top 10 Most Influential IT Vendors, Part 2 (Microsoft And HP?)

Here are #6 through #10 on our list of the most vital and strategic vendors—and as with Part 1, it includes some surprises re who's in and who's out.

#6) SAP. A year ago, I think I would have put SAP somewhere around #37 on this list of the 10 most-influential IT vendors. But co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe have led an astonishing turnaround at SAP since taking the reins 8-1/2 months ago and have put SAP back squarely among the most important and strategic IT vendors by making their products easier to evaluate, purchase, use, and deploy.

The co-CEOs have led the company's efforts in developing software that's focused on helping individuals drive more business value, not just on managing corporate transactions; they're leading the industrywide transition to mobile enterprise-strength applications; they're promising to deliver real real-time capabilities to customers; they're unlocking the enormous potential in the collective intelligence gleaned from the experiences of more than 100,000 SAP customers; they're driving more aggressively into analytics to help customers anticipate and lead instead of merely listening and reacting; and they're putting their customers' concerns instead of their code's complexities at the center of everything they do.

My toughest choice in making up this entire Top 10 list was whether SAP should be #5 instead of Google, and I ultimately decided to place SAP at #6 because, while the accomplishments of the new CEOs have been eye-popping, they need to demonstrate their ability to sustain and extend that momentum beyond the 8-1/2-month period since they took control of the company. If they can sustain their impressive arc, SAP will no doubt be a Top 5 company next year.

(See Global CIO: How SAP Is Leading The Mobile-Enterprise Revolution and Global CIO: SAP's Sweeping Turnaround: Exclusive Co-CEO Interview.)

#7) VMware. The virtualization powerhouse wracked up impressive financial results and continued burrowing more deeply into enterprise infrastructure and data centers even as CEO Paul Maritz began the complex repositioning of the company away from its long-time and near-total focus on virtualization (exemplified by its very name) to the longer-term role of helping companies manage their data centers and overall IT infrastructure in ways that reduce complexity, increase agility, and lower IT costs.

Describing VMware's new promise to its customers as "a journey," Maritz says the staggering complexity of today's enterprise IT factories has reached the point where the only solution is a radically different approach. And as I wrote a couple of months ago after a 50-minute conversation with Maritz at VMware headquarters, "In fact, Maritz says that VMware's betting the company on its belief that its new three-tiered approach to virtualization—at the infrastructure level, applications level, and device level—will not only trim some CapEx dollars but also begin hacking away at the much more significant OpEx costs whose sheer volume has prevented CIOs from being able to buy or build the new customer-focused enterprise applications that are the key to competitiveness and success." (See Global CIO: VMware CEO On Future Of Virtualization and Global CIO: Bank Of VMware: Its Bold Plan To Fund Your Applications.)

It's a bit ironic that VMware's corporate parent, EMC, did not make this Top 10 list but is on the Next 10 roster. But, like VMware, EMC is making some moves that could get it out of its traditional categories and into the new markets that matter so next year we'll see if this corporate parent/child competition plays out any differently.

#8) CEO Marc Benioff has been among the most vocal champions of cloud computing and while his company's only about 1/25th the size of Oracle, Benioff used last month's Oracle Open World to fire a few daggers at Oracle CEO Larry Ellison over big new Exadata boxes versus the cloud, over heavyweight traditional apps versus mobile-optimized and highly graphical SaaS apps, and over just what cloud computing really means. On that last point, Benioff went so far as to skewer Ellison over the latter's desire to define the cloud in ways beneficial to Oracle and its new Exalogic Elastic Cloud machine, as Benioff assumed the role of the revival-tent evangelist with admonitions to his faithful to "Beware the false cloud!"

But far more than being just a glib showman willing to pick fights with vastly larger competitors, Benioff and have down a masterful job of proving that cloud computing (and its child, software as a service) is real and secure and robust and capable of scaling across the globe and throughout massive global organizations. And as Benioff likes to point out, he and his company claim they can do all that at much lower costs than traditional applications vendors can. And with Salesforce's recent addition of Chatter social apps, Benioff has yet again pushed his company into vibrant new areas that provide customers with new and valuable capabilities and provide Benioff with new material with which to make fun of Oracle and SAP and Microsoft.

That pioneering and fearless spirit is wonderful, but the real achievement that secures Salesforce's spot on this list is its ongoing growth rate, its $1.5 billion in annual revenue, and its roster of significant global customers. To hold or improve on its spot for next year, Salesforce will need to show it's more than a SaaS CRM company, because this list is for leaders and not for place-holders. So it'll be fun to see what the next trick is for the revival-tent evangelist who helped bring the cloud vision to life for the enterprise. (See Global CIO: CEO Benioff On Beating Microsoft And SAP In The Cloud and Global CIO: CEO Benioff On IT Scams And Cloud Power.)

Only two spots left, but we haven't mentioned Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, or Microsoft—which two made it? Let's take a look:

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