Leading organizations and vendors, particularly disruptive vendors, like Apple, Amazon and Google, are taking advantage of Nexus dynamics to create innovative products and services, thus reaching new customers in new contexts. These companies understand the subtle relationships between behavior, sentiment, history, location and intention and can adjust to the prevailing winds of change without uprooting business models and system architectures. Traditional vendors, however, typically struggle to adapt, both from a business and IT perspective.
This special report takes an in-depth look at how well strategic and disruptive vendors are incorporating the combination of these four forces into their business strategies. IT leaders can use the insight in this collection of research to better understand how they should balance their strategic and disruptive vendor relationships in a dynamic technology market. Before we discuss each vendor, we need to understand Gartner's Nexus of Forces and how it applies to vendors.
Social connections, mobility, cloud delivery and pervasive information are converging in a powerful way. This convergence is creating a new era of computing and new opportunities for business. Gartner has coined the convergence of these four forces the Nexus of Forces (see Figure 1) .
Source: Gartner (August 2012)
In the Nexus of Forces, information is the context for delivering enhanced social and mobile experiences. Mobile devices are a platform for effective social networking and new ways of work. Social links people to their work and each other in new and unexpected ways. Cloud enables delivery of information and functionality to users and systems. The four forces intertwine to create a user-driven ecosystem of modern computing.
New business opportunities emerge from this Nexus of Forces, especially scenarios that extend reach and relationship to customers, citizens, patients, employees or any other participant in an ecosystem of humans and machines. The combination of pervasive mobility, near-ubiquitous connectivity, industrial compute services and information access decreases the gap between idea and action.
The Nexus of Forces affects all organizations that produce or consume IT. Vendors and end users, private companies and governments, and hospitals and universities must all choose how they will respond. The Nexus of Forces creates opportunities for organizations of all types, and those organizations rely on their vendor relationships to help capitalize on those opportunities. As the Nexus continues to transform society, business and human behavior, client organizations as well as strategic and disruptive vendors need to reimagine how they do business to participate effectively in the Nexus ecosystem (see "Re-Imagine IT Using Insights From Symposium's Analyst Keynote" ).
In terms of the Nexus of Forces, Gartner distinguishes between strategic vendors that are primarily infrastructure providers for the Nexus (for example, Cisco) and those that have a broader strategy covering the four forces in combination (for example, Google). There is also a distinction between vendors that have a deep nonconsumer legacy and those that began as consumer-driven providers. The former group of vendors (for example, Oracle) often finds it difficult to stretch into the social or mobile arenas, but they have strong enterprise experience and presence. The latter vendors (for example, Amazon) have usually built sophisticated infrastructure to support innovative social and mobile strategies, but they have yet to penetrate enterprise IT. Others (for example, IBM) have broadened their support of the Nexus forces through a long trail of acquisitions, but still tend to have dominant strengths and face ongoing integration challenges across their product portfolios.
Gartner is using the Nexus of Forces as a lens to examine the strategic and disruptive vendors. Our study shows that leading strategic and disruptive vendors have varied strength in the Nexus forces and varied strategies related to the innovative combination of the forces. This collection of research digs deep, beyond the market and product positioning.
Strategic vendors are not necessarily, and not usually, disruptive. Disruptive vendors come from the edge. They tend to be entrepreneurial, scrappy upstarts that fill the holes left by the handful of megavendors or chart entirely new territory. Over time, some of these "scrappy upstarts" get acquired and subsumed into the large strategic vendors. Sometimes, these acquisitions inject some healthy disruption into the mix. Usually, however, the edginess of the upstart is blunted after a merger.
One of the features of the Nexus of Forces is that it shortens the gap between ideas and reality: New startups can enter the ecosystem quickly — often in response to fast-moving enterprise demand. In comparison, how quickly can the megavendors respond? Have they grown so large that inertia sets in? Most strategic megavendors have product offerings that align with Nexus forces (social, mobile, cloud, information). However, these vendors frequently have not unified these product offerings with a vision that helps their enterprise clients achieve flexible, postmodern business goals.
Here we explore the disruptive vendors in alphabetical order.
"Amazon Will Play a Key Enabling Role in the Nexus of Forces" by Lydia Leong discusses how Amazon embraces the forces in the Nexus and how this will impact enterprises. Amazon is historically a disruptive force in the markets it enters. Via Amazon Web Services, it has been a leader in cloud innovations, but Amazon also plays a key role in the mobile, social, and information aspects of the Nexus of Forces.
"Apple Serves Enterprises by Serving the Consumers Within the Nexus of Forces" by Carolina Milanesi and Van Baker predicts that Apple will continue to be a major driver of the mobile force of the Nexus of Forces. After redefining the smartphone market in 2007 with the iPhone, Apple kick-started the post-PC era with the iPad, which has quickly become the tablet of choice in many organizations. With two-device families now solidly in the enterprise market, Apple is looking to cement its mobile-established presence through cloud-delivered services and applications aimed at facilitating easy sharing across devices and collaboration among users.
"Google Pursues Consumer Passions and Enterprise Attention in the Nexus of Forces" by Whit Andrews, Tom Austin, Carolina Milanesi and Brian Blau explores how Google will also be a driver in the Nexus of Forces. Google has established a position with consumers as trusted guide for exploring new ways to interact with other people, as well as with organizations. It is also a leader in exploiting synergies among Nexus forces — notably cloud, mobile and information. Examples of such synergy include the appearance of Google Drive on Android phones, and the role that Google+ plays in making Google Apps more useful. Deft comprehension and revelation of the Internet information trove gives Google advantages it has barely begun to exploit.
Strategic vendors have played an important role in the evolution of enterprise IT. They've helped organizations deliver complex core systems and build out global scale infrastructure. Software languages, platforms, servers, operating systems, middleware and more make up the foundation of enterprise-grade IT. Over time, these vendors have grown large and powerful and play gravitational roles in enterprise technology strategy.
Strategic vendors have deep and long-lasting relationships with clients that support the clients' major initiatives and road maps. These vendors have significant technology footprints worldwide, extensive consulting services around their products and large portfolios of products and services. These vendors typically have a long history as enterprise IT providers and have had to adjust their own strategies to deal with market- and consumer-driven innovations.
Here we explore the strategic vendors in alphabetical order.
"Cisco Focuses on Delivering the Required Connectivity at the Heart of the Nexus" by Andrew Butler, David Willis and Mark Fabbi looks at how Cisco aims to use its strong core networking presence to position itself as the natural leader in nexus force convergence. While its strong partnering ethos gives it an edge in many markets, this approach could contribute to a lower market perception of Cisco's contribution to the Nexus. The company has recognized that it lacks the consumer market awareness and supply chain agility to become a true force in mobile devices. To address this, Cisco has initiated a marketing campaign to help promote employee efficiencies for bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives. This illustrates Cisco's efforts to position its strong data center presence as a foundation of the Nexus. However, users are unlikely to perceive that the company is doing anything unique because the brand awareness that device ownership creates masks the added value Cisco delivers to support the mobility force.
"IBM Seeks to Address The Elements of the Nexus of Forces" by Christopher Ambrose and Daryl Plummer describes how consumerization of IT forms the backdrop for the Nexus, and IBM has a strategy for all the Nexus forces. But outside Smarter Planet, while IBM can show many examples across the forces where it has integrated and linked forces, like cloud to analytics or social to mobile, it still has some work to do to show a complete story for how each Nexus force combines with the others to create patterns that transform projects, organizations, markets and industries. That said, IBM is working toward this aim. It creates and delivers its strategy through the interconnections of its hardware, software and services groups; it just needs to work from a unified vision that ties these efforts together.
"Microsoft Is Striving to Overcome the Hurdles in the Nexus of Forces" by Daryl Plummer, David Mitchell Smith and David Cearley explores Gartner's view that during the last platform battles of the 20th century, Microsoft ultimately prevailed over Apple; however, in the first decades of the 21st century, the battle has become quite different, with disruptions occurring in multiple, interrelated areas that change the competitive dynamics. The Nexus of Forces is where new use patterns, ecosystems and platform strategies are emerging. Despite the innovation and success of Windows, in the Nexus of Forces, Microsoft reactively competes with Google Apps, Amazon AWS and the Apple iPhone. It is ahead of most enterprise companies in cloud, mobile, social and information, but has not executed well to bring them together into a broader, global-class Nexus strategy.
"Oracle Is Providing Technology Infrastructure for the Nexus of Forces" by Bill Hostmann discusses how Oracle is offering many stand-alone products on which on-premises solutions to address combinations of the Nexus forces can be developed, but it is relying on its partners and customers to provide the integration. Oracle also has some offerings, such as Oracle Fusion Applications and Oracle Cloud, that begin to address the combination of the Nexus of Forces for enterprise applications. Oracle's foundation and strength lies in addressing the information area of the Nexus. It has, however, made notable acquisitions and is making additional investments in the social and cloud areas.
"SAP Is Driving Analytics, Cloud and Mobility in the Nexus of Forces" by Donald Feinberg analyzes how SAP's business strategy fits into Gartner's Nexus as it embraces the cloud, mobile and information forces. SAP is unique, having aligned its go-to-market strategy and execution model with the Nexus by building its business strategy around applications, database and technology, mobility, cloud, and analytics. Although its focus on mobility, cloud and information is positive, SAP could go further by incorporating social into its strategy.
Strategic and disruptive vendors are coming to terms with the Nexus of Forces as it relates to their product and service offerings, especially as their clients demand capabilities that harness the potential of consumerization.
Disruptive vendors, such as Amazon and Google, have the advantage of starting from a position where they have emphasized the consumer, and while they lack in enterprise IT penetration, they are quickly closing that gap.
Gartner believes that vendors such as Oracle and SAP are trying to overcome their inertia as infrastructure providers, but they may ultimately only function behind the scenes of the Nexus story. Other strategic vendors, such as IBM and Microsoft, have broad offerings covering the Nexus forces, but are challenged to stay innovative in the face of 21 st century consumer-driven needs. In the end, a contextualized mix of strategic and disruptive vendors will help organizations attain Nexus opportunities.
At Symposium 2012, Gartner will be using the Nexus of Forces as a lens to examine the strategic and disruptive vendors. Join us as we ask tough questions about these vendors' strategies and dig beyond the "marketechture" and product positioning.
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This is part of a set of related research. See the following for an overview:
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