The Big IT Guns Are Coming to Web 2.0

IDC predicts this will be the year of big commitments from IBM, Microsoft and other giants.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The days of early adopters, visionaries and startups having technologies like Web 2.0 and software-as-a-service (SaaS) all to themselves may be ending, now that heavy hitters like IBM, Microsoft and HP are gearing up for major pushes into the space.

That's the claim during one of the sessions here at IDC's Directions '08 conference. Frank Gens, senior vice president of research for the firm, said IT managers want this new technology -- and the big guns are about to deliver it.

"The market-makers will jump into this market and take it out of the sandbox and away from the domain of startups," he told a packed auditorium at the San Jose Convention Center. "Established vendors are going from 'Hey, this is interesting' to 'We better start building our future around these models.'"

IBM (NYSE: IBM), he predicts, will make a big commercial "cloud"-based offering, which he called a "datacenter in the sky." Gens said he had been predicting for some time that IBM would come out with a offering, which he expects Big Blue to finally deliver this year.

He believes also that this year will mark a strong push by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) on behalf of on-demand models for most of its product offerings.

"I believe they will come to market very aggressively with a model that says you can buy it for installation on-premises or in the cloud," Gens said. The company is already making inroads with a hybrid "software-plus-services" model, designed to cash in on the SaaS craze without cannibalizing software sales.

Business-oriented collaboration and social networking -- on par with social networks but minus the goof-off element of a MySpace -- will also explode. IDC found 14 percent of enterprises currently have a social network deployed internally. Another 27 percent plan to add one this year, which will make for 40 percent of enterprises by the end of the year.

IBM, for instance, is angling to take a bite out of enterprise social networking and related Web 2.0 technologies. In January, the company revamped its business "mashup" platform and plans to launch an updated Lotus Sametime with more advanced collaboration tools.

"This is about the software to connect the people and get a conversation going," Gens said. "But that's not what the innovation will be about. The innovation will be about information."

Information will also pose a daunting challenge for enterprises, which will be seeking new solutions to manage an overwhelming glut of data. IDC forecasts a