Ten-year top tens

The 10 most influential innovations

  • Netscape
    The browser that started it all. Launched in 1994, Netscape became a household name as it kicked off the dot com boom with its initial public offering in August 1995.

  • Essbase
    The multi-dimensional database technology that put online analytical processing (OLAP) on the business intelligence map. Developed by Arbor Software (now part of Hyperion Solutions), it spurred the creation of scores of rival OLAP products – and billions of OLAP cubes.

  • BlackBerry
    Launched in 1998, the email handheld device executives love to hate became the iPod of the connected generation when it started delivering over GPRS in 2002.

  • Google
    Formed in 1995, Google was an also-ran in Internet search even as late as 2000 when it trailed Yahoo and Altavista. But rivals did not quite have the same vision for the pivotal role of search in accessing the ever-expanding Internet as founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

  • Virtualisation
    While possible on the mainframe since the 1980s, breaking the link between physical and logical resources at the storage, server and even chip level has brought clear benefits in terms of efficiency, resilience and manageability – and made silo a dirty word.

  • VoIP
    By breaking up voice calls into packets and sending them over an Internet protocol rather than the plain old circuit-switched phone system, VoIP is as disruptive for the telcos as it is for enterprise communication.

  • Linux
    When Linus Torvalds first posted on a Usenet newsgroup in 1991 about his hobby to make a free operating system, he said it would not be “big and professional”. That is just what his open source program has become.

  • XML and web services
    The Extensible Mark-up Language enabled the creation of open, easily shared file formats, paving the way for truly interoperable, interconnected software and the service-oriented architecture.

  • Pentium processor
    In the late ’80s and early ’90s, application hunger for processing power ran ahead of the capabilities of Intel x86 PC chips. With its arrival in 1993, and upgrades throughout the decade, Pentium reversed that equation, enabling it to storm the engineering and multimedia workstation markets and create a consumer brand that ranks alongside Nike.

  • ADSL
    Remember 30-second web page downloads and the ‘world wide wait’? The ability to send data down phone lines ten times faster than a standard 56k dial-up modem was the key enabler of consumer ecommerce.

    The 10 most important vendors

  • Dell
    The much-admired business model that re-drew the PC and server map.

  • EMC
    Took on IBM in high-end storage in the 1990s and made it weep.

  • SAP
    German engineering applied to the automation of core business processes.

  • Nokia
    The company that single-handedly defined the world of mobile phones.

  • Sun Microsystems
    Until the dot com bubble burst, Sun was the Internet infrastructure company.

  • Salesforce.com
    Applying the Amazon model to the delivery of software as an online service.

  • Oracle
    The victor in the data-base wars is devouring rivals to ensure a place in the applications pantheon.

  • Microsoft
    A $6 billion company in 1995; a $40 billion company in 2005. That says it all.

  • IBM
    The towering giant of IT, with the broadest portfolio and $100 billion in revenues.

  • Vodafone
    From zero to 165 million mobile comms customers in two tempestuous decades.

    The 10 most vital personalities

  • Lou Gerstner
    Stepping up to the top job on April Fools’ Day 1993 and proud of his non-technical background, Gerstner saved – and rebuilt – IBM, setting the course for the first $100 billion IT company.

  • Marc Andreessen
    The founder of Netscape, the springboard for the dot com boom, made it all happen on a diet of Mountain Dew soda and handfuls of Skittles.

  • Bill Gates
    With the Windows and Office cash cows sustaining an operating margin of 75%, the Microsoft chief software architect can go in any direction his relentless ambition points to.

  • Hasso Plattner
    The ERP party just would not have got out of the kitchen without the SAP founder’s unique Socratic leadership style coupled with vision and ambition.

  • Larry Ellison
    Having abandoned the helm once before, Ellison seems unable to rest until he has proved Oracle is not a one hit wonder.

  • Michael Dell
    A decade ago computers were built by computer companies and sold by their distribution channel; then came Dell. Its direct sales and customer enablement model draws praise from many heads of IT.

  • Linus Torvalds
    Linux changed the cost structure of the software stack forever and brought the open source community into the corporate heartland. That continues to rile Microsoft.

  • John Chambers
    Without Cisco kit, the Internet would grind to a halt. And as CEO, Chambers intends to keep it that way by acting as the Pacman of the networking industry, gobbling promising start-ups every couple of weeks.

  • Scott McNealy
    He saw the potential of Java when it was still in the labs in the early 1990s, giving life to the notion that the “network is the computer” and making Sun the de facto server platform for the early days of the web.

  • Sam Palmisano
    In the mid-1990s, he created the basis for IBM Global Services out of a ragbag of IBM consulting and services units. Now, he is CEO of IBM Corp.

    The 10 most over-hyped technologies

  • WAP (2000)
    The initial ‘Internet on your mobile’ experience simply died at birth, with even device providers such as Carphone Warehouse describing its Internet service as slow and buggy.

  • CRM (1997-2002)
    Sales force automation married with helpdesk software became customer relationship management (with Tom Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems, officiating) and billions were squandered chasing the 360 degree relationship with the customer.

  • Location-based customer targeting (2001)
    The downfall here was that people marketing location-based targeting could only think of one illustration for their technology: a customer walking by a Starbucks is automatically dropped a text inviting them in for a cut-price coffee.

  • Application service provision (1999-2003)
    In August 2000, Gartner identified 480 aspiring ASPs in operation worldwide; more than 400 had gone to the wall by 2003.

  • Corporate P2P (2002)
    Napster and SETI showed it worked; Lotus Notes follow-on Groove even showed it was handy in an office setting. But the very concept of sharing uncontrolled computing resources was anathema to IT management.

  • Video-on-demand/interactive TV (1995)
    There was a time when industry leaders such as Oracle, Microsoft and Silicon Graphics saw TV as the future of the whole computer/communicat-ions/content convergence movement – and the Internet as little more than a sideshow.

  • E-marketplaces (2000-2002)
    The lesson was quickly learnt: there is more to the age-old practice of working with a network of business partners than a B2B transaction hub.

  • Professional services automation (2000-2003)
    In the service economy of the Western world this was going to be bigger than ERP, said its proponents. They have now all narrowed their focus to IT project management.

  • Client/server (1992-1998)
    It may have been born in the late 1980s, but the idea of executing all application logic on the Windows client and extracting all the data from the server created an applications performance nightmare in the mid-1990s.

  • Intrusion detection (2002-2003)
    It sounded like a great idea: find out when hackers are trying to crack into your network. But the technology was unable to distinguish between real attacks and ‘noise’, and companies quickly tired of paying security staff to chase all the false positives.

    The 10 toughest IT challenges

  • Y2K
    The bug that was meant to stop the world – but only made IT departments look stupid.

  • The dot com bust
    The pit of senior management disillusion that ate the IT budget for two years.

  • Security
    Spam, phishing, spyware, keyloggers: just some of the terms unknown back in 1995.

  • Compliance
    Suddenly, in 2003, the onus was on IT to help the management board stay within the law.

  • 24 x 7
    Only things like ATMs were expected to be always on back in 1995. Now everything is.

  • Data storage
    Demand is doubling ever year. So is storage’s slice of the budget. Something must give.

  • Skills shortages
    One year it is Java, the next it is XML. Currently the six figure salaries go to people with all of those refined geek skills but who also know what a business process is.

  • Massive M&As
    Take two completely different IT infrastructures and ram them together. Or just throw one way. Not much of a choice.

  • Process enhancement
    By its function, IT has visibility into business processes, right across the enterprise – leveraging that to enhance processes can have major impact for IT and the business.

  • ERP implementations
    Global ERP roll-outs were the biggest projects ever undertaken by most IT departments. Three years was not atypical.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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