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The best hardware and software of the year

Andrew Binstock | Jan. 12, 2011
InfoWorld's 2011 Technology of the Year Awards recognize the best products at the forefront of today's top data center, desktop, mobile, and programming trends

Developers play a prominent role in the success or failure of any new technology. For this reason, we continue to examine many developer tools at InfoWorld, with a special interest in IDEs, the programmer's principal tool. Due to the heavily graphics and multimedia orientation of client endpoints and Web interfaces, development is now concentrated in IDEs rather than editors. The need for the integrated design and test tools is simply too great for editors to be the key tool they once were.

We give several awards to IDEs this year, including one to Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. Microsoft (MSFT), having been founded by programmers, has always understood that wooing developers is an important way to foster technology adoption. Its MSDN program and extensive developer tool suites demonstrate this commitment. See the accompanying slideshow for our top picks among Java, Python, and PHP tools.

Big data and cloud computing The explosion of data has given rise to tools of truly massive scale that were essentially unthinkable a few years ago. Hadoop and its constituent parts, for example, happily handle hundreds of gigabytes of data as if this were a mundane computing operation. The implementation of these tools on a huge scale is now cheaply accessible via Amazon EC2 and its related services and through Google App Engine.

At the same time, the need for databases to handle large volumes of nontabular and nontransactional data has spurred the so-called NoSQL movement. It's not clear to what extent this movement has legs, despite being driven by multiple, popular open source projects. The "no SQL" aspect is being undermined by efforts to create SQL front ends for these products. As they move more closely to existing models for IT, they edge toward adoption by mainstream RDBMS vendors, who have shown themselves adept at folding new technologies into core products. We recognized some of these large data projects in our Bossie 2010 awards, which are given out yearly to the best open source projects.

Big data would not be possible without big infrastructure to support it -- and big infrastructure increasingly means the cloud. Virtualized storage and virtualized computing are proving themselves to be effective and highly flexible alternatives to the bricks and mortar of on-premises data centers. This view is a step forward from even a year ago, when clouds were seen primarily as a match for developer tasks, such as testing and debugging -- still the lead use case for clouds among many enterprises.


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