2014 review: IT business

We single out five companies that have seen their share of drama this year

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By  Stephen McBride Published  December 10, 2014

As we approach 2015, technology continues to lurch forward and some companies are still struggling to keep pace. The old guard is reeling from a number of tectonic shifts. Last year the consumer mobility revolution caused Dell to go private and BlackBerry to consider selling itself.

This year, Microsoft replaced its old CEO, who didn't quite get mobility with one who, hopefully, did. HP split in two as it still experiment with formulae that might put it back on track. And Symantec, which discovered just how little cash there now is in old-school anti-virus, also split in two.

Some companies had far more "interesting" years than they might have wished. Retirements, job cuts, strategy changes and product launches. This is where we single out five companies that saw particular drama in 2014.


Struggling Oracle began the year desperately trying to convince the market that its databases were snoop-proof, following the continuing fallout over 2013's Edward Snowden affair.

"To the best of our knowledge, an Oracle database hasn't been broken into for a couple of decades by anybody," Oracle's co-founder and then-CEO Larry Ellison told a San Francisco industry conference in January, in response to a question about US National Security Agency prying.

"It's so secure, there are people that complain," he added, shrewdly omitting the fact that Oracle began as a CIA project.

Within days he was forcefully contradicted on hacker forums by cyber-miscreants who claimed they routinely breached Oracle DBs.

The company has struggled to innovate, as its old database stomping grounds shrink and big data markets become crowded with new players. In June the company launched an in-memory processing add-on for Oracle 12c, in a bid to address the big data era of analytics processing and provide an alternative to SAP's four-year-old Hana platform.

"It's the ability to run most of your data, all the data you frequently access, in memory and access that data basically instantaneously," said Ellison, at the US launch.

Oracle has long ruled the database industry, but in May 2010 SAP launched its in-memory Hana product, aimed at real-time analytics, and made available onsite or in the cloud. Hana was based on a collection of developed and acquired technologies and the project was originally referred to as New Database. The offering was aimed at addressing the emerging field of big data, which involves the high-volume processing of often-unstructured data and requires huge processing power to operate effectively. By allowing critical processes to run in electronic memory rather than require magnetic disk reads, database operations are speeded up.

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