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Software’s Frontrunners: Game-Changers and Rainmakers in 2016

By December 7, 2015Article

Editor’s note: In our series of articles on software predictions for 2016, we asked several executives to share their opinion of the frontrunners – those that will establish the pace in their field. Here are their perspectives and predictions for three frontrunner aspects:

  • In 2016, which software company will be the biggest game-changer for the long term?
  • Which software company executive will be in the news headlines the most during 2016?
  • Which software company will be the biggest rainmaker in attracting new customers in 2016? 

Biggest game-changer for the long term 

Shirish NetkeShirish Netke, president and CEO, Amberoon:Alphabet (Google). It is important to look at Alphabet/Google as a software company that does not sell software. They are well positioned to parlay their software technology to industries such as transportation and healthcare. They are marshaling their enormous resources to affect a business model change in these areas. However, executing on this game-changing mission is going to be a challenge particularly because they are a public company. Public markets may not have the risk profile to support business innovation in diverse industries.” 

Andrew AtkinsonAndrew Atkinson, senior director of product marketing, Cloud Cruiser: “It’s cliché, but the software company that will be the biggest game-changer for the long term is probably still in a garage, or maybe an incubator, somewhere. How will it change the game? It will change the game by substantially reconfiguring either the playing field or the rules. Think of how new terrain (such as the Internet, open to everyone) calls forth new kinds of companies to build on the new infrastructure. Or think of how new ways of doing things (software as a service, with key business functionality available to anyone with a credit card) can change the landscape. 

The most interesting game-changers synthesize several emerging trends. So, to go way out on a limb, I believe we’ll see, for example, perhaps some synthesis of big data, collaboration, telepresence, analytics and artificial intelligence. The software industry can learn some lessons from the likes of Uber and Airbnb, which have caused tremendous industry disruption in a very short time frame.” 

Darren CunninghamDarren Cunningham, vice president of marketing, SnapLogic: From a cloud applications perspective, we continue to see Workday, ServiceNow and, of course, Salesforce expand their footprint and disrupt their markets. From a data management and analytics perspective, more and more Hadoop projects are moving into production with Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR while also looking to Spark and Databricks, which are gaining significant mindshare for real-time, in-memory computing as well as cloud-based deployments. Meanwhile, Microsoft, AWS and Google continue to push the boundaries of the cloud, each now offering data management / cloud analytics solutions. With that as the background, it’s difficult to pick one software company as the biggest game-changer for the long term. On the other hand, I have to give credit to Amazon for continuing to change the game in each market it enters.” 

Chris Lochhead Al Ramadan Dave PetersonAl Ramadan, Chris Lochhead and Dave Peterson, co-founders and partners, Play Bigger Advisors: “Amazon is on track to being the biggest retailer in the US, Category King eReader and a top-five enterprise cloud player at the same time.”  

Avinash LakshmanAvinash Lakshman, CEO and founder, Hedvig: It’s difficult to guess who’s going to change the game in some markets, especially since they’re so diverse. But what I can say is the biggest game-changer will come from the vendor that successfully combines flexibility with ease of use. Modern software is often flexible but comes with a complexity that makes it hard for mainstream enterprises to adopt it. We’ve seen this with OpenStack, Hadoop, NoSQL and even containers. In the market I know well, storage, the current big question is whether hyperconverged software or non-hyperconverged software is best. Unlike other companies, we at Hedvig believe that companies should choose how they deploy their software, and both should be easy to use. That choice should not be baked into the architecture.” 

Software executive who will be in the news the most often in 2016

Michael RozlogMike Rozlog, CEO, dbase: Unfortunately, I think it will be Jack Dorsey at Twitter. I believe that Twitter is ripe for a takeover, and I think it will be Microsoft that does it. As news at Twitter does not seem to be getting better, the executive management issues and prior investment in Twitter from Microsoft makes it a straight takeover for Microsoft. This could have some very interesting ties into Skype, Xbox and Search properties, and it could become a huge business messaging layer.” 

Joan WrabetzJoan Wrabetz, CTO, QualiSystems: I assume that you mean besides Larry Ellison ….” 

Darren Cunningham, vice president of marketing, SnapLogic: Does Elon Musk count? The Hyperloop concept is amazing.” 

Andrew Atkinson, senior director of product marketing, Cloud Cruiser: “Odds on that it will be someone in California! It will either be for doing something game-changing or for a hack or breach that created some headline news.” 

Biggest rainmaker attracting new customers in 2016 

Shirish Netke, president and CEO, Amberoon: Slack. They address a very important pain point of clutter and busy work associated with communication tools such as email and messaging for businesses. A big win for Slack would be solutions such as customer service built on Slack to replace legacy applications.” 

Darren Cunningham, vice president of marketing, SnapLogic: Is Netflix considered a software company these days? What about Uber? Amazon Prime is taking over, but I’m not sure if that counts either. Software is truly eating the world, which is why it’s now easy to confuse a car manufacturer, a media company, a retailer and a ride-sharing service as software companies in 2016. It’s software plus business model disruption and the right mix of timing that will lead to massive customer attraction in 2016.” 

Al Ramadan, Chris Lochhead and Dave Peterson, co-founders and partners, Play Bigger Advisors: “Zenefits (disclosure: we’ve done some work together). They are creating and dominating a new category in enterprise software that will likely be massive.” 

Andrew Atkinson, senior director of product marketing, Cloud Cruiser: “The answer here depends on how you measure. If absolute numbers, it will be one of the behemoths (Microsoft or Amazon, maybe). If measuring by growth rate, it will be a small or midsized company that probably no one has heard of yet.” 

Andrew Atkinson is senior director of product marketing at Cloud Cruiser where he has responsibility for working with engineering, product management and sales teams to bring products successfully to market. He has proven ability to achieve and act upon a deep understanding of customers, markets and competitors. Previously at E2open, he has more than two decades of startup, international and IPO experience with various software companies.  

Darren Cunningham is vice president of marketing at SnapLogic 

Avinash Lakshman is CEO and founder of Hedvig. He founded Hedvig in 2012 after co-inventing Dynamo while at Amazon (2004-2007) and Cassandra at Facebook (2007-2011).  

Shirish Netke is president and CEO of Amberoon Inc., a provider of data-driven business perspective solutions. He has led companies in the area of software, services and electronic entertainment. He was one of the first evangelists for Java when it was launched by Sun Microsystems. Follow him on Twitter. 

Al Ramadan, Christopher Lochhead and Dave Peterson are co-founding partners at Play Bigger Advisors, a San Francisco-based category design firm that coaches technology executives to build market-leading companies. Follow them on Twitter. 

Mike Rozlog’s 20-year software and technology industry experience brought him to dBase as the CEO to build the next-generation business intelligence products and data management tools. He is known for driving innovation, product development, market analysis and product evangelism efforts. He has hands-on technical experience across architecture, enterprise and commercial software development. Contact him at 

Joan Wrabetz is CTO for QualiSystems. Earlier she was VP/CTO for EMC’s emerging product division. Joan has over 20 years’ technology executive experience. She was founder/CEO of Aumni Data, CEO of Tricord Systems (now Adaptec), VP/GM at StorageTek, founder/CEO of Aggregate Computing (now Platinum Technologies) and held management positions at Control Data Corporation and SRI International. She was a BlueStream Ventures partner, served on the board of many startups and holds multiple tech patents. 

Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of









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