When non-IT companies cross over to the vendor side

The lines keep blurring between tech consumers and providers, to the point where they're often virtually indistinguishable.

It's now happening, big time. Standardized technology, cloud, SOA and big data are turning non-IT companies into technology providers. InformationWeek's Rob Preston has tapped into this vein, observing that "many non-IT companies have patented, trademarked, or copyrighted at least one tech innovation," with some interesting implications for IT departments.

The lines keep blurring between tech consumers and providers, to the point where they're often virtually indistinguishable. As Rob points out, Ford operates one of the world's most sophisticated supply chains, while Amazon, an Internet retailer, is also the IT platform for the world. And there are others:

"Scores of companies, including NYSE Euronext, Sears, United Stationers, The Associated Press, Zynga, Google, and Union Pacific, not only are innovative users but also committed builders and sellers of IT systems, software, and services. NYSE Technologies, for instance, is pitching a range of transaction, infrastructure, and data services and software, mostly to other financial companies. The MetaScale unit of Sears, launched in April, aims to sell Hadoop and other big data management services to "traditional brick-and-mortar enterprises" across all industries. Union Pacific, the largest railroad company in the U.S., now generates $35 million to $40 million in annual revenue by selling, leasing, and licensing various technologies it owns and/or develops."

As a result, IT has moved well beyond its confines as a cost center for businesses. In many cases, IT has become the business -- or at least a big chunk of it. Of course, positioning IT as a sellable service requires some planning and preparation, Rob reminds us.

But the bottom line as more companies build out with service oriented architecture, and develop cloud services on top of that architecture, there's nothing stopping them from extending those services beyond the firewall to customers and partners.