Top 100 Power Picks

A look at top influencers, forces, technologies and products in large enterprise computing.

Time once again for our annual Enterprise Systems 100 issue, in which we look at top influencers, forces, technologies and products in large enterprise computing. This year, we expanded the process beyond the editors and threw it open to you, the readers. We also expanded our categories beyond top people. Over 500 of you completed a lengthy online questionnaire on your favorite products, most credible IT leaders, top vendors, most over-hyped technologies—and most challenging IT problems. We editors then weighed in on a few additional topics, including our picks for 23 top enterprise power leaders. Our goal for this issue: Summarize the best (and in some cases, the worst) in large-systems computing. Have we missed someone or something? Let us know at

4 Top IT Skills for 2003
What will be the most in-demand skills for IT managers of large enterprises in the coming year? We asked our friends at, a job and resources site that regularly surveys many thousands of IT professionals, to help us with the answer. At least one skill on the list may surprise you. Survey

What shouldn't be a surprise is the No. 1 skill that IT managers at large enterprises say they'll be looking for: Mainframe management, especially involving Linux on the mainframe (see our news item in the June issue on this at Rumors of the mainframe's demise have turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Massive infrastructure consolidations resulting from budget cuts, along with more efficient operation have, frankly, made the mainframe look better than ever.

The pending retirement of droves of over-50 mainframe professionals has some senior IT managers worried—and thus looking to gradually build up a younger staff of high-end system workers. Plus, IBM's new push to bring Linux to the mainframe has legitimized it in the large-systems space, which should drive demand for some years to come.

Demand for Web services skills will grow over the coming 18 months, says Nick Doty, editorial director of Enterprise Systems readers named Web services as a top choice for large-systems deployment in the next two years.

XML finally appears to be starting to live up to its promise, although Doty says demand for XML-savvy developers and data managers is still in the ramping-up stage.

Now for the eye opener: Doty says (and we agree) that his numbers show salesmanship also belongs on this list. You won't find it listed under IT in the help-wanted section, and it won't attract much attention on your resume. Given the slow economic recovery and continuing reductions of IT operations, the ability to sell management on your top tech ideas and projects—and retention of your best staff—will be a key skill.

Top Skills for Enterprise IT Managers in 2003

  1. Mainframe management (especially in Linux)
  2. Web services development/deployment
  3. XML
  4. Communications/selling

6 Biggest Challenges Facing IT
What's the biggest obstacle facing senior IT professionals today? Our survey panel came in loud and clear on this one: It's the economy, stupid.

A whopping 23 percent saw it as the single biggest problem they'll face as IT managers in the coming months. "Line of business units are finding it difficult to justify spending dollars on infrastructure projects when the ROI may be delayed for several months," wrote one data manager.

Readers' Choice

As many pointed out, economic problems don't just result in budget and staff cuts. One CIO worried about "the increasing potential of critical telecommunications providers to declare bankruptcy," which could have deadly consequences for any company's infrastructure.

Security issues weren't too far behind budget problems, garnering 18 percent of readers' votes (20 percent if you count the 2 percent that voted "terrorist attacks" as the biggest obstacle). "Balancing the need for ease of management against the need for security" is always difficult, said a west coast data manager.

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New remote and wireless technologies are adding to the security headache, readers said, warning about "PDA proliferation" and the need for secure telecommuting.

New technologies, in fact, accounted for a healthy chunk of our panelists' concern. Microsoft frequently came under fire, with Active Directory and .NET garnering mentions. But Microsoft wasn't alone; Sun and IBM products also collected the occasional detractor.

In some cases, however, the technology wasn't necessarily the villain. Instead, it was "people jumping on the Web services and XML bandwagons because they're the latest craze instead of thinking through the business requirement and employing the correct technologies," complained one systems analyst.

Staffing, ultimately, may prove one of the stickiest problems for IT managers, readers said. Although staffing challenges ranked only fifth on our obstacles list, inadequate or untrained staff give rise to many more pressing problems. "Too much is expected for too little," one IS manager wrote. "This results in overburdened staff, related staff losses as well as projects that will fail or miss expectations. In spite of the millions of ‘experts' that this computer-saturated age has generated, top IT staff are not a commodity. They are hard to find and it takes years to bring them to full value in a given environment."

The aging mainframe professional population had some of our panelists concerned. "All of the mainframe programmer/analysts are over 50 years old and each has more than 25 years experience," worried one east coast programmer. "They will all be retiring in a short span of time."

Readers' Choice

4 Tech Winners
Given that readers rated Web services among the top three topics they're sick of reading about, it's a bit surprising that it's also the technology they're most likely to implement on large systems in the next 18 months. Maybe IT managers have heard enough and are ready to proceed. Second most likely technology, reflecting ever-greater volumes of data, and ever-greater data access demands from management, employees, partners and customers: data warehousing. A full one-third of readers said they're likely to implement or upgrade to a data warehouse in the next year-and-a-half (though close cousin CRM received just 4 percent of the vote). Linux weighed in a distant third at 8 percent (respondents could choose multiple answers).

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2 Storage Leaders, 3 Hold On
IBM tops the charts here, garnering 45 percent of reader votes in storage. Although EMC is sometimes accused of heavy-handed sales tactics and failing to participate whole-heartedly in developing true industry-wide storage standards, its products are solid—as attested to by the 33 percent of readers who voted it tops in storage quality. Hitachi and Sun followed with far smaller portions of the vote.

Readers' Choice


2 Backup and Recovery Leaders, 1 Eats Dust
With backup and recovery products getting more attention now than ever, large-systems managers say the best products come from … yep, IBM. Specifically, readers gave high ratings to the product line IBM bought a few years ago when it acquired Tivoli (54 percent of readers rated it best). That was followed by Veritas, at 29 percent, a player in large-systems management and a partner with IBM. Veritas has worked closely with IBM recently and has targeted large systems—for example, it recently announced that its storage management software now runs on AIX, IBM's version of Unix.

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Readers' Choice

5 Best Software Application Suppliers
Not only did readers rank IBM first in storage, post-sales support, backup and recovery, and operating system security, they also think highly of the company's software. Nearly 47 percent of respondents chose Big Blue as their vendor of choice for large systems software applications. Oracle Corp. followed as a distant second with 18 percent of the votes, and huge ERP and CRM vendor SAP came in third at 13 percent.

Pie Chart 3
Pie Chart 1









Breaking out respondents by job title showed a bit of a switch for the silver and bronze slots: 15 percent of the development community rated Computer Associates International Inc. as their favorite choice after IBM for large systems software applications, while 10 percent selected Oracle. But among data managers, 19 percent voted Oracle as their top choice, while CA and Sun tied for third at 12 percent each.


Pie Chart 2


Editors' Choice

3 Leading Platforms
The platform is key, since everything follows from there. Vendors realize that; huge amounts of money go into developing, maintaining and marketing platforms. Here are our choices for the three platforms that are most influencing large-systems computing.

IBM Mainframe
Notice the recent popularity in ad campaigns of the phrase "mainframe-like"? What that really means is, like IBM's zSeries. If you manage today's largest enterprise systems, IBM wants you—and is being smart about getting your business (or far more likely, keeping it). The company continues to adapt its venerable and respected platform to meet the needs of a changing business climate. From Linux partitioning to dedicated encryption processors, the mainframe's broad feature set, stability, and vaunted "five 9s" of uptime makes it the platform to emulate in high-end machines.

Sun Sparc/Solaris
Sun once boasted of being the "Dot in Dotcom," but outgoing president Ed Zander joked that Sun's motto last year should have been, "Anyone want to buy a server?" Despite an unwanted association with dotcom excess and a huge drop in stock price, Sun continues to improve the top end of its Unix line to meet the needs of glass-house applications. With hot-swappable components and software partitions, the SunFire line will continue to encroach on mainframe territory.

In the span of a decade, Linux has evolved from a hobbyist's project to a viable TCO play in the enterprise—and now complements perhaps the most established enterprise technology of all, IBM mainframes. Rather than threatening Windows, as was once thought, Linux is instead competing directly with Unix in the marketplace. With the upstart OS now running in conjunction with mainframe systems, and with the solid heft of IBM behind it, real business needs can be addressed by software built by volunteers.

Readers' Choice

4 Best Post-Sales Service Winners
Emphasizing again the affinity of large enterprise managers for Big Blue, 41 percent of readers said IBM offers the best post-sales service. Sun followed at a distant 13 percent, then storage vendor EMC with 11 percent. Computer Associates' widely publicized struggles with image and customer support were reflected in this poll; just 6 percent of readers ranked the huge, multi-faceted software vendor first in post-sales service.

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Readers' Choice

10 Most- and Least-Hyped Technologies
These 5 Kept Their Promises …
When it came to passing judgment on new technology, readers retired to a neutral corner—no big winners, no big losers. Java and Linux tied for top honors in the promises-fulfilled category, but even then scored a relatively unenthusiastic 6.6 on a scale of 10 (with 10 meaning "fulfilled every promise").

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IT management was the most cautious. In their responses, few technologies made it out of the neutral zone in either direction, although managers tended to think more of mainframe Linux than of Web services. Developers, on the other hand, were far more enthusiastic about Java and Linux, especially on the mainframe.

Of course, the most-hyped technologies are generally also the newest, and seasoned professionals tend to reserve judgment until the newcomer is, well, no longer a newcomer. Case in point: Linux on the mainframe. While it made our top five list (and we ranked it one of the three most important platforms today in enterprise computing), it's a mere infant in enterprise terms. Expect it to move way up (or way down) the list, along with our fifth-ranked winner, Web services, in the coming year.

… While These 5 Failed to
Match Their Hype

On the other hand, the technology industry must be doing something right, since even the least-regarded technologies got near- passing grades from readers. Windows 2000 Datacenter had the dubious honor of top spot on our over-hyped list, but still scored a relatively neutral 4.7 out of 10.

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Also on the under-delivery list: Application Service Providers (ASPs), which have struggled to find their niche and to produce an obvious return on investment. The next generation of Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP II, appears to be going the way of its older sibling in the buzzword graveyard, while Bluetooth wireless technology has proved relatively, well, toothless. CRM shares a spot on both our over-hyped and "topics readers are the most tired of hearing about" list. However, since it also scored second place in planned implementations over the next two years, expect some fireworks as expectations meet reality

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