The best enterprise products, projects, and services -- all in one place

For the 15th year in a row, our expert contributors call out the top enterprise tech in InfoWorld's Technology of the Year Awards

Credit: Jane Van Ginkel

Whenever anyone asks me how InfoWorld is different than other tech publications, my short answer is just five words long: We do enterprise product reviews. It takes experts with hands-on experience to deliver truly valuable enterprise reviews along with evaluations that examine how new offerings fit into the existing fabric of solutions -- as opposed to fawning descriptions of shiny new objects.

Those same InfoWorld reviewers write the bulk of our most important article of the year, The Technology of the Year Awards, which highlights the best products we reviewed in the previous year. With InfoWorld Executive Editor Doug Dineley presiding, our contributing reviewers nominate products they see as groundbreaking, important, or outstanding in their category.

[ Check out 31 of the best enterprise products, projects, and services in InfoWorld's 2016 Technology of the Year Awards. ]

This year Doug winnowed them down to 31 products -- or projects, in many cases, since 14 of the 31 are open source. Or in some instances, services, because nine were actually cloud services offered by Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce, and others. The result is the most compelling assortment of winners we’ve ever assembled.

Take, for example, Andrew Oliver’s big data picks for Technology of the Year: Apache Spark, Cloudera Impala, and Apache Ambari. I’m not sure, but I think it’s possible that Andy has been personally responsible for more Hadoop and Spark deployments than anyone else on earth. His exploration of the Hadoop and Spark ecosystems, conducted in concert with his colleague Ian Pointer, amounts to a motherlode of real-world advice for anyone developing big data solutions.

Big data technology, and Spark in particular, leads to another key point: The pace of change in enterprise tech just keeps accelerating, largely because open source projects enable whole communities to download solutions, experiment with implementations, and contribute new code. Spark, which started as a demo project for Mesos at UC Berkeley in 2009, has taken the reins from Hadoop and become the defining big data technology in just the past year. In November, Ian Pointer outlined Spark’s sticking points, and less than two weeks ago examined Spark Version 1.6, which addressed a number of those same deficiencies.

InfoWorld reviewer Jonathan Freeman nominated Mesos, as well as CoreOS, the stripped-down Linux distro specifically designed to accommodate Docker containers (not surprisingly, Docker itself won for the second year in a row). Already, there’s movement afoot to strip down operating systems even further, as indicated by Docker’s recent acquisition of Unikernel Systems. Yet another new infrastructure battleground has opened this year, and it’s only January.

Another winner, Cisco’s new ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) solution, is shaking up large-scale networking. In November, Contributing Editor Paul Venezia dug deep into Cisco’s ingenious variation on SDN to yield an evaluation any network professional will find fascinating. It’s the kind of insight only someone like Paul, who has been designing, building, and maintaining networks for 25 years, can deliver.

Our most prolific reviewer, Martin Heller, delivered no less than 10 entries for Technology of the Year -- most of them programming tools or services. No one really dives into this area like Martin, a developer with an irrepressible curiosity and a strong interest in cloud services. His reviews on AWS Lambda, Microsoft Azure App Services, and Salesforce1/Lightning need to be read in full to be appreciated -- not to mention his evaluation of Aurora, Amazon’s cloud-native, MySQL 5.6-compatible relational database service.

It takes experts like Martin, Paul, Jonathan, Andrew, Ian, and many others to create InfoWorld’s unique mix of analysis and deep evaluation. We rely on them not only for reviews, but also to call out the technologies and trends they believe will have the most impact over the coming years. How are we doing? When you're done flipping through the 2016 Technology of the Year Awards, check out 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 and see for yourself. 

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