With more than 320 Cool Vendors, in over 75 reports, we illustrate innovations in data analysis and management, cloud services brokerage, people-centered computing, software infrastructure, security, applications, outsourcing, green IT, and telecom operations management, as well as other markets.
Cool Vendors in 2012 exist on a backdrop of what Gartner terms the nexus of four IT forces — cloud, social, mobile, and information. Those forces, along with the continued impact of consumerization, have essentially set the stage for the next generation of capabilities. Combining the ideas of service delivery, consumer technologies, collaboration and massive information is advancing the idea of business success being built on customer outcomes. Cloud computing provides the delivery of new capabilities, while social collaboration is expanding the way in which people interact with one another and businesses. Beyond that, the use of mobile devices has extended the reach of users and their involvement with information from many sources.
Gartner has profiled more than 1,400 Cool Vendors since we began the Cool Vendors program in 2004. In an upcoming report, we will take a statistical look back, comparing the track record of Cool Vendors to the general longevity of IT companies, which we expected to be centered on acquisitions and innovators.
In 2011, we highlighted the consumer-driven nature of IT, but this year, the need is to understand the effect of the combination of the four IT forces on the Cool Vendors. Cool Vendors that either explicitly or implicitly benefit from the combination of these forces generate new value opportunities for customers. For example, in "Cool Vendors in Content Analytics, 2012," there are vendors such as Mattersight, which builds unique behavioral models based on communication styles and patterns that detect personality and sentiment during a customer and employee interaction through both cloud and mobile channels. Sparkling Logic, featured in "Cool Vendors in Business Process Management, 2012," approaches social from another angle. Sparkling Logic focuses on socialized logic and puts an emphasis on the human aspects of decision and policy management. As with these two examples, "Cool Vendors in Content Analytics, 2012" highlights that human behavioral changes can benefit customer and employee interactions by leveraging the four forces together.
In cloud computing, our reports range from manufacturing operations (see "Cool Vendors in Manufacturing Operations, 2012" ) to healthcare providers (see "Cool Vendors in Healthcare Providers, 2012" ) to IT operations management (see "Cool Vendors in IT Operations Management, 2012" ). They all share the sense of urgency that companies have to institute a strategy for cloud computing that is viable and near term. However, beyond corporate strategies, technology strategies are being affected by cloud computing as well, and our cloud-focused reports can help with technology choices such as platform middleware (see "Cool Vendors in Platforms as a Service, 2012" ), cloud services brokerage (see "Cool Vendors in Cloud Services Brokerages, 2012" ), or management and governance (see "Cool Vendors in Cloud Management, 2012" ). So, technology professionals will benefit from an exploration of the Cool Vendors to uncover emerging cloud specialists.
Mobility has surged to the front of any strategy seeking to support modern ideals. In the area of mobility, reports typify the rising opportunity to enable stronger branding, reach and impact of applications. In the hands of the average user is contained the computing power of a room full of last-generation computers, and businesses are taking advantage of that capability. Retail organizations have embraced and advanced the mobility opportunity. "Cool Vendors in Retail, 2012" discusses vendors like Euclid, which supports retailers and mall operators in the placement of sensors that communicate mobile device location data to produce location-specific information to be used by retailers and customers to enhance the buying experience. "Cool Vendors in Sales, Channel and Marketing Services, 2012" discusses Mobext, which delivers a mobile marketing platform and service agency, enabling the combination of different customer communications channels (such as texting, instant messaging and location-based services) into one solution that enables more effective mobile marketing campaigns. Mobility is the innovation sweet spot for customer involvement.
Finally, information has become big data. The velocity and variety of information surrounding us is on the rise, and the ability to capture, sort, analyze and/or capitalize on that information must grow as well. Several reports, including "Cool Vendors in Application Development, 2012," "Cool Vendors in Information Infrastructure and Big Data, 2012," and "Cool Vendors in Content Management, 2012" all highlight capabilities that must be developed to survive in a business world where information quantity and sources are doubling every few years. Vendors such as Hadapt are focusing on exploiting big-data-oriented technologies. Hadapt is a "cloud ready" relational database management system (RDBMS) designed to run directly on Apache Hadoop clusters, providing improved performance over alternatives like Hive and Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) for use cases where structured and unstructured data are used together.
Without technologies like these, traditional data management techniques may be unable to keep up with the flood of data hitting businesses. In addition, even in life sciences (see "Cool Vendors in Life Sciences, 2012" ) companies are leveraging vendors such as Remedy Informatics, which offers a software platform called Mosaic that enables researchers and clinicians to integrate data from disparate sources into a single registry and to use pattern recognition tools to visualize the data. It is becoming clear that data today is not the same as data in the past — it is less static, more real-time, more varied, unstructured and massive. The opportunity is to dive in, and find a way to discover patterns that will help a business grow.
The four converging IT forces will be critical to the success of businesses as the 21st century advances. Cool Vendors point the way to the innovations that will allow this nexus of forces to be tamed before it drops many companies into chaos.
By definition, Cool Vendors are small vendors that offer innovative products or services. The innovation may be in how the product works or in what can be accomplished by those using the product or service.
This year, Gartner published 76 Cool Vendors reports profiling nearly 325 vendors that highlight innovative products and services relating to data, cloud services brokerage, people-centered computing, software infrastructure, security, risk management, applications, consulting, outsourcing, green IT and telecom operations management, as well as other markets. Additionally, Cool Vendors reports profile pioneering vendors that have the potential to alter competitive dynamics in these industries: automotive, consumer goods, energy and utilities, healthcare, life sciences, media, and retail.
Being a Cool Vendor can be a risky proposition. This year, instead of delivering a single retrospective report, we added a retrospective section to many of our reports. Each report leader had the option of adding a "Where Are They Now?" section to see how previously named Cool Vendors have fared. Overall, we've included a look back at more than 50 previous Cool Vendors in this year's reports.
Gartner believes that service delivery will be one of the most critical factors in determining how effectively consumers gain value from the use of technologies. The smart investor or technology user will seek out companies that drive the support of that change. No longer can we spend time only looking at enterprise needs, nor can we limit our efforts to product purchases as opposed to services. The future of the Cool Vendor is the same as the future of business and consumer use of technology in the world.
This collection of research will help:
Users/clients stay ahead of the IT technology curve and make better strategic decisions about technology and services
Vendors examine alternative technologies and service delivery models that can enhance their current products and create road maps for future offerings
Investors discover the next great business and investment opportunities
Gartner's definition of a Cool Vendor is a small company offering a technology or product that is:
Innovative — It enables users to do things they couldn't do before.
Impactful — It has or will have a business impact; it's not just a matter of "technology for the sake of technology."
Intriguing — It has caught our interest or curiosity during the past six months or so.
Our research is structured so that you can quickly determine what is cool about the vendor, what its challenges are and who in the buyer organization will benefit from the vendor's offering.
The lists of Cool Vendors are by no means exhaustive; there's no way we can introduce every company that is making waves. Therefore, we've selected some to highlight based on our sense of how impactful they can be today and in the near future. We focus on independent companies and do not discuss small vendors that recently have been bought by larger companies. Finally, we do not repeat vendors from previous Cool Vendors reports, so that we can continue each year to illuminate underexposed vendors.
For many, our Cool Vendors research will be their introduction to these small vendors; however, as the "Where Are They Now?" section included in many of these reports indicates, it probably won't be the last they hear about them.