Yet the sleeper winner is Microsoft Windows Azure, which has evolved from its introduction four-and-a-half years ago to -- in my view, at least -- the most promising competitor to Amazon Web Services. Last summer, Microsoft quietly retired its PaaS-only dogma and began offering IaaS as well. Fortunately, in the Azure cloud, the Microsoft-only mentality does not seem to apply, with support for Linux, Java, Python, Node.js, MySQL, and NoSQL (although tons of Microsoft app dev offerings are still available, of course). Microsoft makes it remarkably easy to spin up full-featured virtual Windows machines at the drop of a hat.
Winners in the cloud
Microsoft Windows Azure was one of six cloud winners this year. Among cloud services, Azure's nearest competitor was Joyent Cloud, which won for its high-performance IaaS offering underpinned by Solaris and a souped-up virtualization layer. Joyent is perhaps best known for bringing the world Node.js.
While Google's IaaS offering, Google Compute Engine, remains in "limited preview" and was therefore not eligible, Google Drive is fully baked and provides a simple, free, incredibly useful cloud productivity suite and storage solution that easily earned its award. As for developers who yearn to sling Java code in the cloud, we highly recommend giving CloudBees a whirl.
For those more concerned with human side of things, consider Zendesk, a cloud-based turnkey suite for customer support. To gain remote access to PCs for support or other purposes, contributing editor Serdar Yegulalp was highly impressed by LogMeIn in its Free, Pro, and Ignition versions. The free and pro versions are public cloud services accessible via browser, while the Ignition edition is locally installed.
Jaspersoft's BI Suite points to a variation on the usual cloud theme: Along with offering locally installable versions, it's one of only two BI vendors certified for use with Amazon's Relational Database Service and Redshift data warehousing service. It has also joined Google's Cloud Platform Partner Program and released an open source connector for the online analytical processing system Google BigQuery.
More of the best
You'll find lots more great stuff in this year's Technology of the Year Awards, including some terrific hardware from perennial winners Dell and Riverbed. Keep in mind, though, that we don't pretend to cover the entire universe of enterprise products -- and you'll definitely want to check out winners from previous years to get a more complete picture.
This article, "Your guide to the year's best technology," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.