Acquisitions of companies such as Sun, BEA, Peoplesoft, Cognos, Siebel, Business Objects, and countless others the past few years have created a competition vacuum in the enterprise software space. For example, in the last five years or so, Oracle has spent over thirty billion USD purchasing nearly sixty companies. Microsoft has gobbled up eighty or so, IBM sixty, EMC forty and Hewlett-Packard approximately thirty-five. And these are just the giants.
The next tier of enterprise software companies also have pretty long lists of recent acquisitions. So one can imagine quite easily that this collective buying spree has created a deep void in the landscape of enterprise software, and as a result creates a tremendous opportunity.
After all, not much has happened in terms of new products and innovation in the space in the past several years, save for a handful of companies such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite and some of the various SAAS and open sources models that have emerged. But even much of this is nearing the ten year mark.
Interestingly, some of the Fortune 500 have annual I.T. budgets north of a billion dollars per year. And those that don't have budgets that are indeed quite large. This, combined with the fact that many of their primary systems were built and deployed in the 1990's (yes that's ten to twenty years ago) and are getting a bit "long in the tooth" as they say of aging horses, creates an interesting set of dynamics.
In addition, Cloud infrastructure is maturing and getting more firmly in place with more efficient computing resource and data storage models. It is quickly becoming the seedbed for future enterprise software innovation, not only in new software categories, but also in the traditional categories of business intelligence, analytics, data management, and employee and customer-facing applications.
All of these trends point to a "perfect storm" of opportunity. Their alignment ought to be attractive to a new wave of entrepreneurs that can take advantage of the emerging Cloud Computing trend in new and exciting ways. This will enable a great deal of new innovation in the enterprise/corporate information technology space.
So while much of the technology press is caught up in all of the Android-iPhone rage, Facebook privacy issues, and the Groupons and Four Squares of the world, quietly many technology veterans are taking notice of this enterprise software void and recognizing the opportunity for what it is.
As one example, Marc Andreessen of Netscape fame has recently indicated that his venture capital firm is investing in a "new wave" of enterprise software companies. Others are sure to follow this trend of focus including both entrepreneurs and investors.
In other words, I don't subscribe to the opinion held by some that enterprise software is dead. So over the next couple of years, I do expect a wave of new enterprise software companies to emerge, setting off another arms race in the corporate I.T. space as organizations battle it out to stay a step ahead of their competition.
Fortunately, companies like StrikeIron with our data-as-a-service external data and data verification components can benefit extensively from this trend, providing important pieces to these emerging applications with ease.
It should be exciting times ahead.
Cloud computing is growing at a fast pace and will continue to do so for quite some time. The Gartner Group for example has projected a tripling of the market in the next five years, and almost everyone else is projecting some level of super-charged growth in the space. Now of course, this all depends on what you include or don't include in your definition of cloud computing (Google Apps for example). As long as you are consistent in your personal definition, the growth ought to be of a similar magnitude.
The reasons for this growth are the advantages that cloud computing provides, including faster deployment, smoother scalability, pay-for-what-you-use business models, and no capital expenditure on the hardware and software that comprises the architecture. Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Google, Opsource, and Rackspace are all companies offering public cloud infrastructure for rent, and a myriad of vendors have lined up to add layers of capabilities on top of these offerings such as RightScale, and the ecosystems that can take advantage of these architectures such as StrikeIron's
are continuing to invest in the space as well. Unfortunately Sun's promising efforts in this space have been discontinued by Oracle for one reason or another.
This public computing resource trend has been great for startups because new companies can launch on cloud infrastructure "virtually" overnight, without the traditional costs tied to software, hardware, and the management of those resources, which traditionally has required them to seek and spend time on obtaining private funding. Reducing startup "start friction" has in turn created a bubbling sea of innovation as of late.
However, there has been more reluctance in the enterprise space to move to the "Cloud" because of worries about security and losing control when utilizing these public resources. There are just some highly-valued sets of data and mission-critical business processes that many organizations just don't want to put in the hands of a third party.
As a result, many of these companies are now building out their own "private cloud" infrastructure that mirrors the public clouds in functionality. This "member-only" infrastructure can then be shared across business units and geographies in an effort to eliminate IT redundancy, reduce costs, and increase efficiency, just as public clouds do for the masses.
Because of this trend, many of the cloud infrastructure providers are now offering virtual private capabilities. For example, Amazon's Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) is in an effort to provide a "hybrid" solution for enterprises building out a private cloud where some public computing resources can be utilized where it makes sense to do so.
What's still not clear though is what actual separation of data on the actual public cloud servers really occurs, rendering the concept by some as an exercise in marketing, at least so far. However, the enterprise market for cloud computing is potentially huge, so I am expecting a lot more to occur in this space.
There definitely are solid cases to be made for both public and private clouds (as well as hybrid solutions), so my guess is these two will co-exist for quite some time, and the line as to what separates the two will be somewhat blurred (as usual). The end result will be that whatever route or combination of routes companies employ in the new age of the Cloud, these efforts will leave more resources available for actual innovation rather than infrastructure management and a repetitive IT exercises, and that can only be good for us all, right?