IT players in motion

If it seems that every vendor is doing something different--entering some new business, competing with erstwhile allies, cooperating with erstwhile competitors--it's because they are.

Jonathan Eunice Co-founder, Illuminata
Jonathan Eunice, co-founder and principal IT adviser at Illuminata, focuses on system architectures, operating environments, infrastructure software, development tools, and management strategies in networked IT. He has written hundreds of research publications and several books.
Jonathan Eunice
2 min read

One of the most amazing things about the IT industry over the past two years is how aggressively the vendors have expanded their spheres of operations. Everyone's in motion as the industry rapidly consolidates. Who aims to sell what, to whom, is in enormous flux. Traditional boundaries on what companies will or won't do have gone completely by the wayside.

For example, Cisco doesn't just sell networking; it also sells servers and collaboration tools. Oracle will be a server and storage company, in addition to applications and middleware. EMC has been transforming into a management and security company, in addition to the storage and information management it previously provided. IBM and HP are nearly-everything companies; their ongoing stream of acquisitions makes them even-more-of-everything companies. Dell is adding major in-house services. Microsoft's adding a cloud. Oh, yeah, Amazon and Google are becoming IT providers. VMware has become a tier-one platform and management company. On and on. If the vendors themselves are not new, their position in the market and their ambitions certainly are.

IT vendors' shifting business roles.
IT vendors' shifting business roles. (Click to enlarge.) Illuminata, Inc.

I discussed this previously as one of the things that's making IT especially dynamic in 2010. But words don't do complete justice to the raw, vibrant tumult. So I put together this chart that examines the changing positioning of Apple, Cisco, Dell, EMC, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Verizon, and VMware.

It marks traditional participation by a vendor in some area in black or gray. Black means they're a mainstay; light gray means they have more modest participation. Red marks companies with new or newly expanded participation: Light red/pink for a modest or incidental effect, or full red for serious, committed participation. Red is therefore the color of change. "Participation" as used here is a little fuzzy, but is intended to reflect whether a company is in a given business, or provides a substitute for it.

You can click through for full, readable size; but even in its small size, where you can hardly see exactly what player you're looking at, you can see that the industry is awash in changing vendor aspirations. Historical borders, frontiers, and alliances are being wholesale ignored.

It's the nature of the beast that everyone will have some quibble with how I've marked the vendors, how I've defined business areas, or how I've graded a given vendor's level of participation in a given business. That's fine. We don't need to 100 percent agree on individual ratings to see the stunning degree to which vendor purviews and ambitions have changed on a macro scale. If you even half-agree with my ratings, you'll come to the same Wow! conclusion I have regarding the intensity of change in IT as a whole.

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