Your guide to the year's best technology

This year's InfoWorld Technology of the Year Awards provides a more valuable buying guide than ever, with 35 winners that collectively point to important shifts in enterprise tech

To have an eye for the best new technology, particularly enterprise technology, you need to look beyond sheer coolness and consider how those products or services fit in with the fabric of what's already been deployed.

That's why most of InfoWorld's contributors actually work in IT -- they bring a perspective informed by assembling real-world solutions. The reviews of products and services those contributors write year-round provide the basis for the InfoWorld Technology of the Year Awards every January.

[ Read about the winning hardware, software, development tools, and cloud services in our slideshow, "InfoWorld's 2013 Technology of the Year Award winners." | Cut straight to the key news for technology development and IT management with our once-a-day summary of the top tech news. Subscribe to the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. ]

This year, clear themes emerged from the 35 winning products picked by our contributors and staff. Here's a quick perspective on what rose to the top.

Open source wins big

Each succeeding year, the Technology of the year Awards looks a little more like the InfoWorld Best of Open Source Software Awards.

I doubt you're surprised that Apache Hadoop and Ubuntu won awards. But so did two other Apache Foundation projects: Lucene for the best search technology and the Cassandra as the winning columnar-family database.

Cassandra was one of three winning NoSQL databases (four if you count Hadoop) that offer open source licensing. Couchbase has both enterprise and community editions, the latter offered under an Apache 2 license. And the graphical database Neo4j offers developers the good graces of the GPL if they write code for open source projects. (For a great overview of NoSQL, I highly recommend "Which freaking database should I use?" by InfoWorld's Andrew Olliver.)

Jaspersoft BI Suite, a fine reporting and analytics platform, comes in both an open source Community edition (under the GPL or LGPL) and commercially licensed Express, Professional, and Enterprise editions.

Three of our four winning application development solutions are also open source or have an open source version: Node.js for JavaScript developers, the Bootstrap Web development framework, and Sencha Touch for cross-platform mobile app dev.

Microsoft rakes 'em in
The fourth winning developer tool is in a class by itself: Microsoft Visual Studio 2012. This indispensable suite for Windows development keeps getting better with each iteration. Its award was one of four earned by Microsoft this year.

But first, what didn't win: Regular readers of InfoWorld will hardly be shocked to learn that Windows 8 failed to achieve award status. In our view, pushing the Modern UI in the faces of desktop and laptop users is a blunder of astounding proportions. And while Windows Phone 8 has finally delivered compatibility with enterprise-class Exchange security settings, it still lags behind the competition.

Even as Microsoft stumbles in delivering end-user products, it continues to excel with software for IT pros. Microsoft Windows Server 2012 is a stunning achievement, with significant improvements to virtualization, server control, clustering, ease of use, and more. Together with System Center 2012, Microsoft has provided the foundational technology for its own version of a private cloud. We were also very impressed by the latest version of Windows PowerShell, which offers event-driven job scheduling, an enhanced scripting environment, and improved remoting.

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