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Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Top 5 Tech Trends For 2011

Big ideas heard at the InformationWeek 500 conference include a renewed focus on innovation, the importance of data visualization, and the ongoing agony of maintenance fees.

Maintenance fees will remain a point of contention. The largest single sunk cost for businesses, after personnel, is software. Tens of thousands of dollars here, tens of thousands of dollars there, and pretty soon you're talking real money -- money enterprises resent paying. (Jeopardy question: Who am I paraphrasing?)

Almost a year ago, Global CIO guru Bob Evans brought to the industry's forefront the subject of sunk costs spent on, as Seinfeld might put it, nothing. (OK, software updates and support which you may or may not use in an amount commensurate with what you're paying.) Check out the columns which got the debate started: Global CIO: Will SAP Move To Tiered Maintenance Fees? and Global CIO: Oracle's Incredible Profit Machine: 22% Maintenance Fees.

At InformationWeek 500, I heard from Rimini Street, which has carved out a business model based on undercutting maintenance-contract fees by as much as 90%. Currently, Oracle and Rimini are in a court battle. Oracle sued Rimini for intellectual-property theft and Rimini countersued; read Bob's Global CIO: Oracle's Dazzling Profit Machine Threatened By Rimini Suit, for more details.

This is a legal drama which bears watching, because if Rimini prevails, it means the market for cut-rate support is just beginning. This is Rimini's conundrum. If it loses, it's probably out of business. And if it wins, it's just opened the market up to dozens of competitors.

For CIOs who might be pulling for Rimini, there's also some angst, because opting for cheap maintenance could come at the cost of ticking off your primary software vendor. Rimini suggests that perhaps you don't want to be pulled along into product upgrades you might not want just because they're needed to get you aligned with a vendor's support cycle. So I'll cut it off here, but the outro is that this issue will be a big one during the next 12 to 24 months.

Enterprise 2.0 is a way of thinking as much as it is a product(s). I'm a big supporter of social tools in the enterprise, but not so big that I can't see there are some issues attendant to the mad adoption rush. (I've recounted some of these in my column, Wolfe's Den: Top 5 Enterprise 2.0 Roadblocks.)

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