So many ICT companies, so little time... Here at CIO, a great many companies pass through our doors or ghost across our desktops. There’s not always the time or place to give them the mentions they deserve but they stay lodged in our minds in a virtual file marked ‘hmm, they’re quite interesting.’ Sometimes they’re startups, sometimes huge multi-billion concerns, although in the latter case we’ve probably written about them numerous times in the past. At other times they’re just folks that have come up with a new slant and made us think. Here is the first batch of 20 vendors of whom you might not have heard, but you might want to investigate.
There are plenty of datacentres around and plenty of demand to fill them. It’s just a pity so many of them have been squeezed into the south-east of England because London-obsessed companies want to feel that their bytes are only an hour’s drive away. Cobalt’s datacentre on the other hand is in the former mining village of West Allotment in North Tyneside, midway between one of the world’s most charming cities, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and the coast. It’s located next to a highly successful modern business park and has state-of-the-art connectivity and resilience and uses free cooling, doubtless helped by the chill winds blowing in from Scandinavia. The boldness of the developer, Highbridge, merits success. www.cobaltdatacentre.com
Swiss Post Solutions
I’ve been pitched a lot of times but I’ve never ever been told that the mail room could become the nerve centre of the enterprise... at least until Swiss Post came knocking. Of course that’s overselling, but Swiss Post’s attempts to modernise the mailroom is admirable. Letters and parcels are digitised and workflow disciplines instilled: a letter might be scanned and disposed of if recognised as junk mail, for example. The old post incumbents are in the process of reinventing themselves in many ways and this is an interesting example of the species.
Business intelligence and analytics generally is a hot topic for CIOs today. Most large organisations will have ‘done’ BI at least once but early tools were relatively clunky and very expensive, and several of the larger players got subsumed into enterprise software stacks via M&A. A new generation aims to provide a sleeker presentation layer at an affordable price and drill down to address specific issues. Rosslyn Analytics is a fast-growing, aggressively marketed company that has narrowed in on analysing companies’ spending patterns via a SaaS model and is winning very strong word-of-mouth approval.
Symantec has become the 800-pound gorilla of a security software industry that has risen on the tide of panic caused by the internet and ridden another wave of executive fear, courtesy of corporate governance rules and regulations. But every attempt to build a one-stop-shop leaves gaps and Trend has done an outstanding job in building its reputation in antivirus but also in a host of related malware concerns. Perhaps customers like the slightly different approach borne of the Asian roots of this company or maybe it’s the fearless marketing and outspoken commentary but Trend is trending upwards.
Brightcove has emerged as the 800-pound gorilla in online video platforms that let you publish video, analyse what happened afterwards (who watched it, for how long, where did they come from, what did they do next etc) and figure out how to make money from the whole project. Three-year-old Ooyala is a well financed challenger that many good pundits believe is the one to watch in the category. And it does have a wonderful name.
In IT services it can be hard to differentiate yourself. It’s a people and numbers game and you just count the certification badges, right? That might be OK for bog-standard ‘your mess for less’ outsourcing but in specialist areas it’s still possible to be outstanding and Thoughtworks has built a tremendous reputation – especially in the creative/digital sector -- for taking a fresh look at problems and opportunities and for employing a highly agile development framework that can act as a catalyst for internal change also.
Today there’s a lot of concern over cloud computing. Is it a security risk? What if you lose your internal clout? Will it make you redundant in the end? Couldn’t we just do something similar internally? The same concerns were aired over outsourcing 10 years ago and they must have been answered reasonably well because most large concerns today outsource IT to some extent. But the companies that are most attractive are those that have recognised the barriers -- cultural difficulties in offshoring, measuring ROI, maintaining a true partnership and so on -- and anticipated issues. Of the great many small companies I have met in the sector in the last couple of years I was most impressed by Liemur’s answers to these challenges.
Of all the newer companies delivering a pure software-as-a-service approach to applications, Workday is the one most worth watching. First, because its roots are interesting: many key staff including CEO Dave Duffield came from PeopleSoft so they know where the bodies are buried in ERP. Second, the company is well funded so needn’t sell out to the first predator that swims alongside. Third, large-scale ERP is often seen as protected from SaaS because you somehow ‘need’ it on premise. Workday will be the acid test.
There’s no shortage of choice in datacentre co-location providers but they are not all created equal. InterXion differs from many in being carrier-neutral (so you can use your own telco), large, highly dispersed in key geographies and being able to serve a wide variety of sectors from algorithmic traders to firms who just need a place to back up and archive.
Vanco’s financial troubles of a couple of years back saw it rescued by Indian giant Reliance, thus saving the former’s innovative model of offering bundled communications providers to save cost, get access to best-of-breed providers in different geographies and have one company offer front-end service and billing. As globalisation and the web let companies grow from zero to large company in record time that’s a timely model.