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Which Large Company Is The Most Innovative?

The recent frenzy caused by the HP-Dell-3Par bidding war was really all
about innovation. The company being sought after, 3Par, was being bought
at a premium because of their innovative storage products. One of the
challenges that faces large IT manufacturers is can they keep innovating
as they become larger or are they destined to buy smaller companies
that are innovative? A question that was posed to me last month was,
which large company is the most innovative?

Since I don't want to be accused of playing favorites, I thought we could
let them answer the question themselves by using the comments section
below or contacting me and we can do a write up on what they think is
the most innovative thing they have done in the last year or so. Smaller
companies feel free to comment on why or why not large companies can
still be innovators.

I think it is helpful, though, to define what a large company is and more
importantly what innovation is. What makes a large company large is
really up for debate, but for the purposes of this exercise let's define
large as greater than a billion dollars in revenue. The other criteria
is that it be a company that is providing solutions to the data center (mostly, in this case, because that matches the readership of Network Computing). So if
you think Procter and Gamble is the most innovative company in the
world, that's fine but it doesn't fit the criteria. Beyond that I'm open
to other suggestions for criteria, but this seems to get right to the

The other key definition is what is innovative? It is not as obvious as
it sounds, and I'm very open to suggestions. For starters, in our case, being innovative has to be within the confines of the large company.
For example, buying a smaller company and then continuing to upgrade its
offering is not innovation, that is evolution. Integrating
your snapshot technology with VMware, adding SSD to a current array or
adding deduplication are all logical evolutions of storage systems.
Certainly evolution of products is a good and important for a large
company to do, but it does not meet my criteria for innovation.
Innovation for the large company has to be something invented internally
that significantly changed the current product offering or was an
entirely new product offering. It does not have to be a product that was
the first ever on to the market, but it should be one that has achieved
market success.

For an example, moving away from data center products just once, let's use two
cases from Apple as a comparison. First there was Apple's move to OS/X
or even Microsoft's move from MS-DOS to Windows. I think these qualify
as something that significantly changed the current product offering but
was not in and of itself a net new product for the company. The iPhone
on the other hand was a good example of a net new product. Yes, it built
on OS/X and iPod type of technology, but it was clearly a new market for
Apple. In all cases, the products have captured market traction. Turning back to data center technologies, who in the large company space
and what specific products do you consider the most innovative? I
encourage representatives of those companies to respond with the best
examples or to contact me directly and we can write it up in a future