The year in enterprise tech
Hello and welcome to Protocol | Enterprise. Today: the companies, people and trends that shaped enterprise tech in 2021, what Oracle has in mind for Cerner, and Google Cloud runs into some reselling problems.
2020 was an unprecedented year for enterprise tech, as the disruptions caused by the pandemic led to a surge in demand for cloud services and revamped business processes. Over the course of 2021, attention focused on how to operate safely in this new world.
The biggest theme of 2021 was security. The year started with the fallout of the SolarWinds disclosures and ended with the Log4j disaster, elevating supply-chain attacks and open-source dependencies to new heights. Cybersecurity will always be an unfinished job because people write software and people make mistakes, but the consequences of those mistakes became clearer in 2021.
- The SolarWinds incident was a wake-up call for the incoming Biden administration regarding the degree to which the federal government had invested in cybersecurity research and prevention.
- Ransomware continued to be top of mind — remember how the Colonial Pipeline incident affected gas supplies on the East Coast for a couple of days — and it will remain a problem going into 2022.
- Microsoft Azure suffered security lapse after security lapse in 2021, the worst of which involved one of its most important databases , Cosmos DB.
- And, of course, companies will be busy long into 2022 patching systems and searching for problems with Log4j , another reminder that the world’s software rests on a precarious bed of open-source projects .
But the cloud transition is still in full swing despite those security snafus. And it shows no signs of slowing down one year removed from one of the greatest forcing functions in its 15-year history.
- At AWS, revenue growth accelerated during the pandemic, and the company also went through a huge transition by tapping Adam Selipsky as only the second CEO in company history.
- Microsoft and Google also continued to gain ground as multicloud operating strategies started to become real, which also explained investor interest in HashiCorp’s IPO .
- DigitalOcean also went public , a sign that the small and medium-sized businesses it serves are interested in cloud services but want a vendor that won’t lose them in the shuffle .
The year was more mixed for enterprise software companies , which are still growing quite strongly but reported some tough year-over-year comparisons in 2021 that disappointed Wall Street .
- Zoom was perhaps the biggest name affected by the SaaS-stock bear market after its proposed $14.7 billion acquisition of Five9, which would have given it a broader foothold in the enterprise, was rejected by Five9 shareholders as insufficient given the decline in Zoom’s stock price following the announcement of the deal.
- Database and data analytics companies, however, continued to thrive: Snowflake and Databricks jockeyed for position amid strong revenue growth, and Samsara enjoyed a strong IPO .
- Salesforce continued to stay atop the heap, but showed signs it is starting to think about the future with the promotion of Bret Taylor to co-CEO .
The end to 2021 is already starting to feel a lot like the early days of 2020, even though COVID-19 vaccines are plentiful, treatments are showing promise and businesses are more equipped to handle uncertainty. Enterprise tech has been through a lot of trials and tribulations over the last two years, and the omicron variant has everyone worried that we’re not out of the woods just yet.
A MESSAGE FROM LEXMARK
Lexmark, a leading provider of printers and imaging equipment — one of the first IoT devices — understands the potential as well as the challenges better than most. We sat down with Lexmark CEO Allen Waugerman to discuss this major development, which he calls one of the most significant milestones in the company’s 30-year history.
This week on Protocol
The AI will see you now: Oracle hasn’t made many acquisitions in the last few years, and it’s never made one as big as its $28 billion deal to acquire health care records company Cerner. Protocol’s Kate Kaye unpacked Oracle’s thinking behind the deal , which would give it some interesting AI tools and deny AWS a chunk of cloud business.
This year in Protocol | Enterprise
Here are the five most popular stories we published on Protocol | Enterprise in 2021.
How IBM lost the cloud : From the outside, it was hard to understand how IBM was unable to pull off the same trick that Microsoft did in the middle of the last decade, reinventing its business around the cloud. From the inside, it was easy.
Target CIO Mike McNamara makes a cloud declaration of independence : Target’s retiring CIO built a unique hybrid tech strategy around Microsoft, Google and a smattering of self-managed data centers. He took us behind the curtain for a peek at how Target thinks about enterprise tech infrastructure.
The GE Mafia: How an old-school company birthed a generation of tech leaders : GE has pulled way back on its tech ambitions over the last few years, but left an incredible legacy of enterprise tech leadership that has filtered across the industry. Its secret? GE elevated tech leaders from back-office operations to boardrooms long before that was fashionable.
‘It’s not OK’: Elastic takes aim at AWS, at the risk of major collateral damage : Elastic’s long-running battle with AWS over the Elasticsearch open-source project came to a head in 2021, with Elastic CEO Shay Banon deciding it was time to restrict the way cloud companies could use the project. AWS retaliated with its own fork of the project, and yet another existential debate about how open-source projects should operate in the cloud era followed.
Why Spotify loves being locked into Google Cloud : You’ll find Spotify on the other side of the multicloud debate, happy to build and maintain all of its software on the Google Cloud Platform. Spotify’s Tyson Singer explained why Google’s data services won it over, and why building apps around managed services improves developer velocity.
Around the enterprise
Another week, another Azure flaw. Microsoft closed out the year with yet another security disclosure, this time informing customers that it had plugged a responsibly disclosed Azure vulnerability that could have exposed their source code under certain conditions.
What does 2022 look like for Microsoft? Longtime Redmond watcher Mary Jo Foley offered some predictions on what the company might have in store for its cloud division next year.
Good news for low-code development platform Retool: It raised a $20 million series C round that valued the company at $1.85 billion but tapped original investors for the cash, reducing dilution.
Partner reselling relationships are tricky, especially on the cloud. Google Cloud has run into some growing pains over reselling agreements that has left several contracts in disarray, according to The Information .
Thank you for reading, today and all year. Protocol | Enterprise is taking a break for the holidays — we’ll see you again on Jan. 3, 2022!