Here's the complete list of Global CIO's Top 10 Tech Stories Of The Year. At the end of each column you will find a "Recommended Reading" list that offers more than a dozen links to related insight and analysis on that column's topic. Thanks for your interest, and please let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, or disagreements.
#10: The Cloud Gets Real. In the past year, EMC, VMware, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, and now even Oracle have openly and aggressively stepped forward to embrace cloud computing as a real, legitimate, and vital new approach to today's daunting IT-infrastructure challenges.
Larry Ellison wants to clarify the fractured definitions of just what cloud means, and since Oracle's new Exalogic "cloud in a box" happens to tack toward the well-established Amazon model, it's not surprising that Ellison says that's the real way to define cloud computing. Software-only models, he says, are more accurately SaaS versions—but without the inclusion of expansive infrastructure and management tools, they don't qualify as true cloud computing.
#9: The CIO Transformation. First, the transformation is not new—in today's top-performing companies, the CIO long ago moved out of the corporate IT ghetto and became a mainstream business leader focused on driving corporate strategy and execution through innovative deployments of and perspectives on technology.
But 2010 has certainly been a year in which that evolution was dramatically accelerated due to global economic conditions, the need for businesses to move faster than ever before, and a growing impatience among CEOs with CIOs who acted as if their first loyalty was to ITIL dogma rather than to customers and other company initiatives. Second, the very fact that CIOs have joined the mainstream of business leaders is more of a return to normalcy—or at least what should have been normal—rather than some mystical experience that just exploded on the scene.
#8: The Mobile Revolution. "One of the questions you really want to ask about this is," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said earlier this year, "at the end of the day, what is new? If you go back to what have we been building over the years, and what is really new? There is one thing that's really new, and it's that everything is 'now'. What you're really referring to is not the fact that you have so many parallel streams but the fact that they're all current, right?"
If that part of Schmidt's premise is true—that everything is now, everything is current—then how does that reality stack up against the level of priority and sense of commitment and urgency you're applying to mobile initiatives in your organization? Or with your customers?
Next is IBM's superstatus in analytics:
#7: IBM Rules In Analytics. In his prime, Muhammad Ali purred that he could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, able to mesmerize opponents with grace and elegance or stun them with unprecedented speed and power.
And here in 2010, IBM has shown a similarly lethal blend as its Smarter Planet megatheme has paved the way for its flashy services and analytics prowess even as it has been simultaneously developing what might well be the industry's most-sophisticated hardware lineup, stretching from custom chips to servers and on up to some of the world's most powerful mainframes.
#6: SAP's Striking Turnaround. In one of the most striking turnarounds ever undertaken by a big, global IT company, SAP this year has totally recast how it creates products, why it creates products, how it engages with customers, how it co-defines and co-develops value with its customers, and what type of strategy it needs to extend its lead as the world's most successful provider of business applications.
Pushing the company far beyond its roots in rigid ERP applications created in massive, Newtonian development processes, SAP co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe have blown out the company's stuffy and inflexible culture and myopic management perspective that earlier this year led to founder and chairman Hasso Plattner firing former CEO Leo Apotheker and installing the new leaders.
#5: The Fall Of The Tactical CIO. As business analytics and predictive analytics become indispensable to business strategy and execution, profound changes are rippling through entire organizations from supply chains to merchandising to demand-planning to pricing and marketing and product development and sales and more.
That's because companies and other large organizations are now gaining the ability to anticipate with great clarity what customers will want and when they'll want it and how they'll want it. In turn, that's giving companies the ability to shift from blunt-force "prepare for everything" approaches to the more productive and profitable model of focusing their efforts on the precise opportunities and outcomes that analytics can provide.
But while those changes are broad and deep across organizations, perhaps the departments that will be jarred most severely by the rise of analytics are IT groups, particularly those that have remained caught up in the tactical world of focusing on technology instead of business outcomes, and on metrics that have more to do with server uptime than with customer loyalty.
#4: Oracle Becomes Systems Company. While Larry Ellison's dogged persistence in closing the acquisition of Sun will be remembered for many peripheral things—including the shameful 8-month kabuki exercise staged by the European Commission that cost many hundreds of Sun employees their jobs, the mockery by Ellison of former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz for blogging instead of selling, and the silly predictions that the two companies' wildly different cultures would make the deal into a disaster—the Oracle takeover of Sun will ultimately be remembered for one big thing: it gave Ellison the platform from which to mount simultaneous assaults on both IBM and SAP, two of the most successful business-technology companies in the world. But win or lose, we are seeing that the effort alone is accelerating huge transformational forces in the IT industry: the promise that an all-Oracle, single-vendor stack can be more effective than the traditional heterogeneous approach; the surging demand for deeply integrated and optimized systems precipitated by Ellison and reinforced with Sun; and the notion that for most IT suppliers, the formerly impenetrable silos segregating hardware vendors from software vendors had come crashing down.
Next, who could forget the Mark Hurd-HP saga? Beyond the melodrama itself, Hurd's ouster has had enormous repercussions in the IT industry, particularly for HP and Oracle:
#3: HP Ousts Mark Hurd. Immediately after former HP CEO Mark Hurd left the company under an embarrassing cloud in early August, the world's largest IT company entered a period of intense external scrutiny and second-guessing centered on its strategic positioning for the future, its ability to move as fast as smaller competitors, and its relatively small software business. Then, in late September, HP surprised the IT world by picking former SAP executive Leo Apotheker to be its new CEO, clearly betting that his long-time tenure in sales at SAP would compensate for his glaring lack of success as a CEO. Just 10 months ago, when SAP ousted Apotheker, founder and chairman Hasso Plattner said the change was necessary because SAP had clearly lost its way in the market, seemed unable to get vital new products out the door, and was frighteningly out of touch with its customers, and was saddled with a disenchanted workforce. And on top of that self-diagnosis from Plattner, SAP was also getting sand kicked in its face in the market by Oracle.
#2: Apple And The iPad Rock The Enterprise. In Apple's most-recent earnings call, the company disclosed three pieces of news of extraordinary significance to the technology world: first, that Apple's quarterly revenue had for the first time topped $20 billion; second, that the iPad and iPhone are achieving unprecedented penetration within the Fortune 500; and third, Steve Jobs openly and quite bluntly attacked Google's mobile strategy and its Android technology as un-open (if not fully closed), overly complicated for developers, and self-serving and disingenuous. The comments from Jobs are vital not just because of his status as CEO of one of the world's most-successful and iconic brands, but also because Apple's products and philosophies have jumped species—from the consumer world to the enterprise—and are having profound repercussions on how CIOs shape their own strategies for the next few years.
#1: The Surge To Optimized Systems. IBM invented them, Larry Ellison supersized them, SAP has revolutionized them, HP is promising them, and just about every single major IT vendor is rushing into the market for appliance-like systems that have shown great potential in redefining the types of business value that truly innovative IT can offer.
The new wave of highly optimized and deeply integrated hardware-software combinations known as optimized systems rushed to the forefront of IT innovation in 2010, promising the seductive combination of dramatically improved performance and sharply reduced customer-side integration, tuning, and tinkering.
These new hardware-software combos are being aimed at everything from OLTP to data warehousing to analytics to Exchange servers to middleware, BI, security and beyond, pushing well past the valuable but narrow niches—primarily data warehousing—that until recently were about the only areas in which appliances and purpose-built systems operated.
Because these optimized systems can offer such significant improvements in speed, performance, throughput, power, and range of capabilities, and because they can also significantly reduce the amount of time and effort IT organizations have to devote to tinkering, tuning, tweaking, wiring, and integrating, the rise of these new purpose-built systems is my choice as the #1 development in our list of the Top 10 Tech Stories Of The Year.
That's it for this year's list, and I'm sure that next year's will be even more compelling, challenging, and fun—this business is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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