In an earlier life, I was issued a number of cards and keys to various buildings, systems, and devices. I spent a few years as a Technical Project Manager, largely working in the business intelligence space for a major telecommunications company (a former Baby Bell) in California, often visiting one or more of our data centers each week. It is interesting to reflect on the technology from 15 or 16 years back, and how different things are today. I remember co-workers talking about using the old punch card systems, and thinking "man, you are old." And now here I am, remembering how I used to have to log into multiple physical systems -- or at the very least, having to carry multiple passkeys -- to be able to access different line of business applications or systems, where now I log into a bank of Hyper-V environments from a single console while sitting at home. We've come a long way, baby.
SharePoint has also gone through some major revisions. When people talk about SharePoint and it's competitors, they often talk about feature-by-feature comparisons rather than stepping back and looking at it from the platform view. They do this because, for the most part, the competition simply cannot win on the platform story -- they can only go after SharePoint one feature at a time. While SharePoint may not lead in many categories, they are a serious player in all categories, and from that position are therefore the leader in the space.
One of the most compelling stories for SharePoint, in my mind, is the potential for integrating multiple line of business (LOB) applications through a single platform. And not just to achieve the vision of a single sign-on platform, which we successfully (and painfully) built years ago -- but to truly integrate those disparate systems through a single, user-friendly system. SharePoint has a tremendous number of features out-of-the-box, but it is also flexible and extensible. It has become a middleware for the power users, offering a central hub into which all tools and reports and dashboards are connected. It is truly the Swiss army knife of the enterprise.
And then Box.net goes and raises funding from Salesforce and others, making for some interesting speculation about the expansion of their cloud-based content management solution to include more and more LOB application capability -- beyond the sharing of content and me-too additions of social computing features. Other vendors are moving in the same direction. It seems that the bigger question is: if the LOB apps themselves are evolving, and quickly running toward the cloud, how much of a competitive advantage will SharePoint retain?
"Cloud is the architectural shift that we’ve been awaiting for IT and enterprise software," asserted venture capitalist Marc Andreessen while speaking at BoxWorks 2011.
“Nothing that has came before compares to what is happening now,” Andreessen said, arguing that
the new companies being built like Box are different kinds of companies — many of which might have not have had a chance before around the time of the last Dot Com bubble.
“Everything we were talking about in the 1990s is actually working now,” Andreessen said to laughter from the audience. (read more on ZDNet)
How will SharePoint pivot? I suspect the platform will continue in its current path of being able to integrate and support the changing LOB apps, sharing data and augmenting functionality the same as its competitors, but will its strength in portals and dexterity in managing disparate applications be enough of a base to fend off the growing hordes of cloud players? What is your next move, Microsoft? #SharePoint #lineofbusinessapplication #Box.net #integration