The Big IT Guns Are Coming to Web 2.0

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The days of early adopters, visionaries and startups having technologies like Web 2.0 and software-as-a-service (SaaS) all to themselves may be ending, now that heavy hitters like IBM, Microsoft and HP are gearing up for major pushes into the space.

That’s the claim during one of the sessions here at IDC’s Directions ’08 conference. Frank Gens, senior vice president of research for the firm, said IT managers want this new technology — and the big guns are about to deliver it.

“The market-makers will jump into this market and take it out of the sandbox and away from the domain of startups,” he told a packed auditorium at the San Jose Convention Center. “Established vendors are going from ‘Hey, this is interesting’ to ‘We better start building our future around these models.'”

IBM (NYSE: IBM), he predicts, will make a big commercial “cloud”-based offering, which he called a “datacenter in the sky.” Gens said he had been predicting for some time that IBM would come out with a offering, which he expects Big Blue to finally deliver this year.

He believes also that this year will mark a strong push by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) on behalf of on-demand models for most of its product offerings.

“I believe they will come to market very aggressively with a model that says you can buy it for installation on-premises or in the cloud,” Gens said. The company is already making inroads with a hybrid “software-plus-services” model, designed to cash in on the SaaS craze without cannibalizing software sales.

Business-oriented collaboration and social networking — on par with social networks but minus the goof-off element of a MySpace — will also explode. IDC found 14 percent of enterprises currently have a social network deployed internally. Another 27 percent plan to add one this year, which will make for 40 percent of enterprises by the end of the year.

IBM, for instance, is angling to take a bite out of enterprise social networking and related Web 2.0 technologies. In January, the company revamped its business “mashup” platform and plans to launch an updated Lotus Sametime with more advanced collaboration tools.

“This is about the software to connect the people and get a conversation going,” Gens said. “But that’s not what the innovation will be about. The innovation will be about information.”

Information will also pose a daunting challenge for enterprises, which will be seeking new solutions to manage an overwhelming glut of data. IDC forecasts a massive growth in stored information expected during the coming years.

During his presentation today, Gens said stored data would increase 10-fold during the next five years, and added that the sources of such data would change.

Right now, 80 percent of the information in an enterprise is generated internally, while 20 percent comes from the outside. But Gens said he expects that most enterprises’ stored information ultimately will originate outside of the business.

Part of that may have to do with the influx of new communications channels facilitated by Web 2.0 technologies — blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, AJAX, the whole nine yards, — corporate interest in which IDC said will grow rapidly.

In a survey of IT managers, IDC asked participants to rate their current and desired level of Web 2.0 usage on a scale of 1 to 10. Managers said their average usage rated only a 3.8, although Gens said they sought to raise that figure to 6.3 — meaning IT wants this technology.

But they want it cheaply. In a survey of CIOs asking what they seek from suppliers, competitive pricing led the way at 79 percent. But in at No. 2 was support for industry standards, with 73 percent of surveyed CIOs voting in the affirmative.

Gens said he had never seen support for standards so high, reflecting a change in priorities that could have a dramatic impact on which vendors succeed as competition heats up in Web 2.0 technologies.

“Business executives are a little uneasy about handcuffs being put on their business,” he said. “When you start to build your infrastructure, you want the handcuffs off.”

CIOs included in the IDC survey also said they want their tech suppliers to provide products that are affordable, simple to use and deployed quickly.

Those demands should be obvious, but Gens said he finds them troubling.

“I don’t know about you, but I get nervous about this list,” he said. “These features are still on the ‘want list’ because people still aren’t getting them.”

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