Earlier this month, Computerworld published a story about a new user group called the Open Data Center Alliance. The story describes how the group's 70 members comprise enterprise organizations from a wide range of industries, including BMW, Marriott International, UBS and Shell.
The group is focused on using their influence to try to thwart vendor lock-in in the cloud and to improve interoperability.
Although these are certainly worthwhile initiatives, it's not what I was expecting. When I read how the group's members represent more than $50 billion in combined IT spending, I assumed that they had bonded together to leverage their collective buying clout to negotiate more cost-effective deals with uber IT vendors. Apparently, that's not part of their agenda. But it could be.
Continuing industry consolidation has left enterprises with fewer technology choices. Some observers complain that the rise among a handful of mega-vendors has stifled innovation. These are legitimate concerns, particularly since some of the most compelling examples of technology innovation often percolate up from small companies. In fact, those concerns are on the agenda for the Open Data Center Alliance.
However, the IT heavyweights that have come to dominate nearly every aspect of tech purchasing - desktops, servers, all types of software, consulting, integration, etc. - have also left buyers with considerably fewer purchasing options. The rise of the IT superpowers has heightened concerns among CIOs and other decision-makers that their organizations are being left little choice but to place all of their eggs into one basket - or a select few.
One way for organizations of all sizes to leverage their collective buying power with vendors is by forming IT purchasing cooperatives. And while a few such organizations have delivered solid financial benefits to members in government and academia, there's a downright dearth of such alliances in other industries.
Some decision-makers don't see the sense of teaming with industry rivals on technology purchasing, particularly when it involves systems that have the potential to provide organizations with competitive advantage. But with infrastructure systems and other types of hardware and software becoming increasingly commoditized, perhaps it makes sense to explore such partnerships. After all, as vendor behemoths continue to get bigger, the buying power and negotiating leverage among companies outside the Fortune 100 lessens.