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One sure-fire, end-of-year prediction is that there will be numerous columns and articles featuring end-of-year predictions.

What follows is my contribution:

RFID Gets Real

It’s hard to find a top-tier integrator who isn’t running a radio frequency identification practice. In 2005, their preparation may be rewarded. Entities from Wal-Mart to the Pentagon are pursuing large-scale RFID deployment. Industry watchers expect such RFID adopters to seek integrator assistance.

An IDC study reports that two-thirds of the organizations mulling an RFID solution in 2004 stated a preference for “external resources” when it comes to implementation.
ABI Research flat-out declares that 2005 will be the year of the integrator in RFID.

Click here to read more about Wal-Mart’s RFID project.

Erik Michielsen, ABI Research’s director of RFID and ubiquitous technologies, believes that a lack of “reputable integrators” has impeded RFID adoption in the past. “Only now are we seeing Sun Microsystems, HP, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft getting involved at the product and personnel level,” he writes.

ABI Research predicts that the 2004 themes of standards, fundamentals and education will give way to the next phase: a shift to integration services.

“RFID and wireless auto-sensing solutions have evolved into a legitimate consulting, implementation, and managed services opportunity,” adds IDC. “Services firms are increasing levels of investment in personnel, marketing and partnerships for RFID in anticipation of increasing demand for services through 2008.”

At that time, IDC projects that the market for RFID consulting, implementation and managed services will hit the $2 billion mark.

Web Services Boom

The SOA (services-oriented architecture) arena will experience a transition similar to that in integration services. The movement toward loosely coupled, distributed computing via such Web services standards as (SOAP) Simple Object Access Protocol has been brewing for three years.

The standards groundwork has been set, with sticky issues such as security gaining firmer footing. Now it’s time for full-fledged deployment. And with that deployment will come an increased demand for SOA implementation specialists.

That’s the analysis of Zapthink LLC. Jason Boomberg, senior analyst at the market research firm, writes that “while most of the Fortune 500 was dabbling with SOA in 2004, 2005 is the year that many will ramp up their SOA initiatives… Even enterprises with large IT shops realize that they cannot scale a new architectural approach without skilled outside help—and thus, 2005, will be the year of the SOA consultant.”

SMB Resellers will be in demand.

But will the SOA consultant go the way of the e-business Web integrator? Bloomberg cites some differences between SOA and the late 1990s e-business juggernaut. He said the SOA build-out doesn’t involve a stock market bubble, Y2K, and the “new economy.” Perhaps SOA will thrive in a less frantic environment.

SMB Resellers In Demand

If enterprise software vendors make good on their intentions, SMB (small-to-medium-sized businesses) resellers can expect the paths to their doors to wear out.

Computer Associations International Inc., Oracle Corp., and Siebel Systems Inc. are among the vendors seeking a channel to sell their wares to a small-business customer set. Big software’s attempts to court SMB resellers have yielded mixed results in the past. New channel allies have a way of colliding with a software vendor’s direct sales force.

How the software providers will fare this time out is anybody’s guess. But the vendors have their freshly minted SMB programs in place, setting the stage for what should prove an interesting year.

Seibel’s small-business strategy may prove a bellwether, according to Jim Balderston, senior industry analyst at Sageza Group Inc.

Siebel late last year unveiled a strategy for moving CRM (customer relationship management) products in the SMB market—an effort that includes the creation of what Siebel terms a “value-added partner ecosystem.”

“We suspect this will end up a test case as to how well large enterprise IT vendors can transform themselves into viable SMB players,” Balderston writes. He believes Siebel is making the right move in building a partner base, but notes that the company has a “long history of selling enormous, complex, and expensive CRM products in large enterprises.”

Transcending oneself is never easy, as countless failed New Year’s resolutions can attest. But 2005 is yet begun and the channel is full of possibilities.