20 To Watch In 20102:52 PM EST Thu. Jan. 21, 2010
Many in the IT solution provider channel were happy to close the door on 2009, a year hallmarked by tightened budgets, long sales cycles and economic recession. We're right there with you. So now let's wipe the slate clean and focus on the New Year with a look at the 20 companies, people, technologies and trends worth watching in 2010. Some on the list are already poised to provide big growth opportunities for the channel. Others are in the spotlight because they have something to prove. Either way, these are the 20 notables that will help keep things interesting in the coming year.
Lenovo started 2010 off with a bang, using the Consumer Electronics Show as the platform from which to launch a slew of new desktops and laptops, led by its innovative IdeaPad U1, a hybrid notebook-tablet PC. But in addition to the fresh lineup, which the company is positioning for crossover into the SMB, the company has pledged a big increase in channel investment this year as it works to gain market share against rival Acer.
Partners struggled to keep faith with security vendor McAfee throughout 2009 as key channel positions sat empty and channel reps turned over at an alarming clip. But by year's end, the company had plugged its management holes with the appointments of Cisco veteran Alex Thurber as senior vice president of worldwide channel operations and Fernando Quintero as head of North American channels. Now solution providers are looking for the company to prove that it can provide a solid, stable channel strategy.
Motorola channel chief Janet Schijns is putting her money where her mouth is with an aggressive lead generation campaign for solution providers. She has promised to double the number of high-quality leads Motorola feeds to its Premier enterprise mobility partners or pay them $100 for each lead they don't get. Motorola is also working to connect VARs with the ISV partners they need to build successful solutions. If Schijns can execute on all of her plans, 2010 could be a banner year for the Motorola channel.
Will they or won't they? As of press time, Oracle and Sun still hadn't sealed their planned $7.4 billion deal, awaiting approval of the acquisition by the European Commission. But most signs point to "go," meaning CEO Larry Ellison will spend much of 2010 integrating Sun and its technology into the Oracle fold. Solution providers will be paying particular attention to Oracle's handling of Sun's hardware lines, which Ellison has sworn to continue.
Sage North America took a channel black eye in 2009 as MIS Group, one of its largest solution providers, unceremoniously shuttered its doors, leaving hundreds of customers in the lurch. The resulting fallout caused many to question the overall health of Sage's channel and left the vendor's channel team wondering whether revenue production and customer adds are really the best measures of a solution provider's value. Now Sage is coming up big with a channel renaissance spearheaded by channel chief Tom Miller, adding up to major midmarket opportunities for partners in 2010.
Adkins is IBM's man in the hot seat, replacing Bob Moffat as head of IBM's hardware group after Moffat was accused in an insider trading scandal late last year. Adkins comes in as IBM hardware revenues are in decline and some partners report that channel conflict is on the rise. If Adkins can't figure out a way to support the old-line IBM hardware solution providers, the company might lose out in the data center.
Once Dell's $3.9 billion acquisition of Perot Systems is complete, Altabef will take over as head of Dell Services. Dell is still nurturing its nascent indirect sales strategy, so many solution providers are watching closely to see how Altabef proceeds. Will Dell's services arm, under his command, be a channel booster or a channel basher?
Much has been made of late of the increasingly hostile war between HP and Cisco, which are fighting across a variety of technology sectors, including networking, blade servers and the data center. For HP's part, one man credited with ratcheting up the aggression in HP's sales strategy against its rival is Donatelli, who joined the company last spring from EMC.
Monserrat has carved out a reputation as a staunch channel supporter who works hand-in-hand with solution providers to develop account strategy and engage customers. Given the stiff competition Citrix faces in the virtualization space from rival VMware, much of his success will depend on his ability to continue to rally the channel troops around the Citrix flag.
Ruckus is a hot little start-up that's building up quite a channel following in the wireless networking space. It closed out 2009 by taking the next step, adding Sampson as its first worldwide channel chief. It's an example of a company with top-notch technology that's now putting more channel muscle behind it.
Displays will continue to get smarter in 2010 as devices from smartphones to tablets to all-in-one PCs continue to drive multi-touch technology into consumer and business users' hands. Far more intuitive than the standard mouse or track pad interfaces, the ability to gesture, pinch and grab images to manipulate them on screen carries both a cool factor and the potential for productivity gains. First made popular on Apple's iPhone, multi-touch is now poised to enter mainstream computer usage with its integration into Microsoft Windows 7, which is spurring vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Toshiba to build the technology into their portfolios of laptops and netbooks.
With promises of increased speed, life span and reliability compared to their hard-disk counterparts, solid-state drives are poised for big growth in 2010, particularly as the anticipated widespread PC refresh cycle starts to materialize. SSDs feature no moving parts and run completely silent, drawing less power and offering top-level performance. It's no wonder vendors across the PC, server and storage markets are incorporating SSDs into their portfolios.
Can Android take on iPhone? Google's open-source mobile operating system is gaining traction against its popular Apple rival, driven in large part by interest in Motorola's Android-based Droid handset. In a recent ComScore survey, 17 percent of consumers in the market for a smartphone said they plan to buy an Android-based device, compared to 20 percent for the iPhone. Support for a growing developer community means solution providers have a huge opportunity to bring Android devices into the enterprise.
Geolocation -- the ability to tie data about physical geography in with Internet-connected devices or systems -- is gaining in popularity, particularly on smartphones such as the iPhone, where users can look up which friends are nearby or where their children are at any given moment. Next up will be a bevy of business-class applications such as ERP or CRM that incorporate the wireless collection of geolocation data for asset tracking.
The next big thing pushing enterprise hardware refresh cycles will be Intel's Westmere platform, its series of 32-nanometer Nehalem laptop, desktop and server processors. The die shrink promises to provide the same performance out of a smaller package, enabling the chips to consume less power. Westmere-class laptops and desktops debuted in January at CES, while the first servers to feature the platform are expected to hit in March.
The war for supremacy in the smartphone market is being fought in large part with software as each platform touts the strength of its developer community and the popularity of its online application store. While the first wave of apps has been decidedly consumer-focused, the next will bring more and more business-class apps to smartphone users, opening the door for creative solution providers to build full mobile solutions.
No doubt cloud computing is generating big buzz, but is it real? 2010 will tell, as the technology is poised for a breakout year. A recent survey sponsored by Symantec showed that more than 50 percent of enterprises consider cloud computing a priority for this year, and many solution providers are looking for ways to build it into their practices and build up sources of recurring revenue.
The impact of 2009's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will carry into 2010, and one of the technology areas set to get a big funding shot in the arm is healthcare, and, in particular, electronic medical records. Savvy solution providers will look for ways to target healthcare clients with full solutions that incorporate document management, storage and security.
The Green IT movement shows no signs of losing steam in 2010, as not only environmental concerns but also the need for cost cutting are driving the call for energy-efficient solutions. As big players such as Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and IBM duke it out in the data center, solution providers will find the timing is right to work green technology such as virtualization and power management into the conversation.
Along with the growing proliferation of mobile applications comes widespread deployment of smartphones. For enterprises, the key to successful smartphone rollouts is management: making sure that they have a handle on the devices their employees are using and have some means of securing and controlling the data housed on them.