Innovators Tame Technology Overgrowth

Opinion: eWEEK Excellence Awards help enterprise buyers avoid the brush fires of technology incoherence.

My wife and I accompanied two of our sons this month on a Boy Scout backpacking trip to the Santa Monica Mountains, where Southern Californias near-record rainy season has produced an incredible landscape of green meadows and hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I figured wed better enjoy that scenery now because by August the only question will be whether itll be baked to a crispy brown or burned to a charcoal black. Its in the nature of the regions climate that springs lush foliage is summers brush-fire fuel.

In some organizations, the plummeting costs of computing, bandwidth and storage are setting up enterprise IT for the same kind of crisis. The generous rainfall, so to speak, of all that capacity can easily lead to a growth of too many spreadsheets and forecasting models, too many Web services that lack any means of finding and using one another, and too many databases of customer relationship or supply chain information that dont have any higher-level tools for assembling them into an enterprise resource.

At some point, all that greenery of what looks like thriving innovation can turn into the fuel of costly integration and analysis problems. Its therefore been one of the continuing missions of the eWEEK Excellence Awards program to help enterprise buyers avoid the brush fires of technology incoherence. As we meet this week in Boston to hand out the trophies to our fifth annual roster of winners, I see that our judging teams have once again found products that improve manageability as much as they expand capability.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here for a list of the fifth annual Excellence Awards winners and finalists.

Obvious examples are the winner and finalists in our category of Analytics & Reporting. The winner, Composite Information Server 3.0, from Composite Software, as well as finalists Cognos Enterprise Planning 7.2, from Cognos, and PowerExchange 5.2.1, from Informatica, all offer leverage in collecting and using information in the form in which its created and from the location where its most conveniently kept.

Another interesting contender in this category was Mathcad 12, from Mathsoft Engineering & Education. You may think you know this company as one of the pioneers of interactive calculation that defined the PC revolution, but the company is only 4 years old—the result of a management buyout and relaunch that has redirected the companys resources toward calculation management.

One of the new Mathsofts most original products is Designate. It is an XML-based tool (although unfortunately specific to Microsofts .Net platform) that brings a repository discipline to questions like "Where did that calculation come from?" and "Whos using this formula in our design or manufacturing processes?"

Inspired by the same demand for manageability—although chosen by a different team of judges—were this years Enterprise Storage Software finalists: EMCs ControlCenter 5.2 and Storage Technologys Global Storage Manager 4. Their strengths were described in our April 11 announcement of this years winners, so let me use this space to note another interesting entry: Atempos fancifully named Time Navigator Reporter, a utility that offers enterprisewide tracking and analysis of data backup and restore operations across multiple storage platforms. With ever-more scrutiny being applied to data protection policies and disciplines, this is what I call IT brush-fire prevention.

Thinking again about our backpacking trip, I couldnt overlook the incredible diversity of species—plant and animal both—that thrive when the winters rains bring forth an explosion of habitat. Thats fine if you like wildflowers, less so if you dislike mosquitoes and the occasional tarantula.

We see the same relentless drive to populate every new niche in the IT ecosystem. No sooner do we have new habitats such as instant messaging than we have new pests like the first quarters surge of IM worms.

On the plus side, though, in the five-year history of the Excellence Awards, nearly two-thirds of the plaudits have been won by (so far) one-time honorees, often quite small companies that nonetheless solved an important problem in a creative way. Kudos to those who nurture the flame of innovation—and save us from the wildfires of technology out of control.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at

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