What if Gartner is right?

Summary:Could it really be time to blow up your IT systems and eMbrace the Cloud? Maybe not next year, but in 2013?

I've had Larry Dignan's 'deer in the headlights' post open all week. It troubles me. Not because I think Larry is wrong but what if Gartner is right?

I have been and remain critical of Gartner's position on cloud and cloud vendors. Put bluntly, a good proportion of what they're saying is derivative material you could have picked up pretty much anywhere the last couple of years. But, some of it is thought provoking and, as always, accompanied by grand predictions I guarantee will be wrong. The one thing you cannot fault them on is timing.

Everywhere I go, CXOs are wanting information about cloud technologies. Whether it's baby steps, a Salesforce.com implementation, a NetSuite RFP or a refactoring of data centers, there's barely a one that isn't interested. Which in part explains why I am addressing this right now.

In Dignan's analysis he underpins what he says with this from Gartner:

The strategies of IBM, HP, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Cisco—old standbys for enterprise tech buyers—should be viewed as “long-term risky,” said Sondergaard. Going forward, these vendors should be judged on how they embrace mobile, social and cloud. Apple and Google will be disruptive enterprise vendors. You’ll buy from all of them.

He opens the analysis with:

While Gartner is urging creative destruction, I can’t help but be skeptical. If everyone could re-imagine IT and blow up old systems to delight customers, there would be no losers in the corporate world. As we know, there are plenty of losers and there will be thousands of companies that flop at people-centric system design.

I can imagine similar thoughts coming from many colleagues. How many times have I crapped on the idea of Enterprise 2.0 aka social enterprise?

But in the real world, IBM can't find enough bodies. Accenture can't keep up, Deloitte and Capgemini are both very busy. And that's just in their SAP practices. SAP is about to confound the market with a great Q3. I'm betting Q4 will be a blowout. Oracle got Fusion out the door this month. Who says the incumbents are in trouble?

While in that piece Dignan is skeptical about what Gartner is saying, the sub text message from Gartner to CIOs is clear: we know you guys don't move so quickly but when you're ready to move to the cloud, we've got your backs. In the meantime, they still have plenty of fat to chew from their IBM, Oracle, SAP et al customer base.

In his wrap up piece on Gartner Symposium, Dignan returns to the underpinning theme only this time he's almost switching sides:

If Oracle and SAP become cloud juggernauts, perhaps these long-running maintenance driven enterprise relationships will survive. If not, there are dozens of cloud players ready to step in.

Today, cloud players are just speed dating with large enterprise buyers. Tomorrow, there may be more meaningful relationships.

Speed dating is not quite how I would put it given Salesforce.com is over the $2 billion revenue line.

What caught my attention though was the fact that Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce.com and Zach Nelson, CEO NetSuite along with Narinder Singh, co-founder Appirio were all pitching. At a Gartner conference. That in a week when Bruce Richardson joined Salesforce.com and when NetSuite took the covers off its latest software.

The NetSuite announcements were relatively low key but worth noting. Andrew Nusca talked about the beefed up security. Elsewhere, I gave a rundown on the accounting additions. They may be dull to many but they signal clear intent - we're coming after larger enterprises. Why else would you big up automatic intercompany eliminations? I see Nelson is looking to talk up its position in financial services businesses. There goes another vertical market. There's a pattern here.

Back at Salesforce.com, I see the company announcing that it can now unlock SAP data

The program combines consulting and integration services that enable SAP customers to build apps that integrate seamlessly with their SAP data and processes using Force.com, our cloud platform for building social, mobile and real-time apps.

This is really going to annoy some people at SAP. It has HANA for real time analytics but not much else. It has Sybase Unwired Platform for mobile but there's grumblings over that and Streamwork for social which I personally dislike. SAP is already annoyed that Salesforce.com has done an end run on it with CRM. You can bet that Salesforce.com will come with modest cost alternatives to the gazillion dollar price tags that SAP prefers for its technologies. At Dreamforce, Benioff was unequivocal: the company is moving upstream as fast as it can.

You can argue that Salesforce.com doesn't have the expertise to carry off this integration and unlocking service and you might well be right. krcraft thinks Salesforce.com is blowing smoke. We'll see. It could merely be a trojan for the Force.com platform where guess what? You get to do all the work. You can argue that SAP can bolster its partners who have a good amount of account control and you'd be right there as well. What do those same partners say if they're a SAP only shop and the customer wants to assess alternatives? Hello Gartner? I shudder at the prospect but heh.

What you cannot argue against is that Salesforce.com is making a play that is directly attractive to those businesses that have IT departments wanting to build out apps but who are cash strapped.

From Dignan's second piece: Does anyone think:

Benioff finished his keynote and roamed the halls talking to CIOs for 8 hours. Gartner obviously noted since many of its themes could have doubled as a Benioff keynote.

...is a coincidence?

Next week we get another data point around how these things are moving: Workday Rising. I am attending and very much looking forward to getting a gut check from its customers. The conversations to date have been promising. This will be one of the first occasions when Workday will be in a position to talk about its financials customers. This is such an important area in the mix that if there are real signs of life then the big boys have one more thing to think about.  Dave Duffield is slated to bring customers on stage to talk of their experiences. Appirio will be there as will Tidemark, Accenture and Deloitte.

More coincidences?

When you add it all up could Gartner be right after all? Maybe not next year but in 2013?

Disclosure: Workday is a recent client.

Topics: CXO, IT Priorities

About

Dennis Howlett has been providing comment and analysis on enterprise software since 1991 in a variety of European trade and professional journals including CFO Magazine, The Economist and Information Week. Today, apart from being a full time blogger on innovation for professional services organisations, he is a founding member of Enterpri... Full Bio

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