The best hardware and software products of the year

InfoWorld's 2010 Technology of the Year Awards recognize the top solutions for business and IT professionals

If you caught "InfoWorld's top 10 emerging enterprise technologies" in November, you had a running start on our 2010 Technology of the Year Awards. MapReduce, desktop virtualization, I/O virtualization, NoSQL databases, cross-platform mobile application development, and application whitelisting topped our list of high-impact technologies, and not surprisingly, all are represented in our list of top products as well.

Other product categories yielding 2010 Technology of the Year Award winners include CPUs, blade servers, server virtualization, SANs, development tools, cloud services, social networking software, and smartphones. Some of the picks were no-brainers, such as Intel's amazing Nehalem processor and Cisco's revolutionary Unified Computing System; others required careful consideration and even debate.

[ Take a quick slideshow tour of InfoWorld's 2010 Technology of the Year Award winners. Read about InfoWorld's top 10 emerging enterprise technologies. ]

Our most difficult dilemma was between Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Windows 7. Mac OS X was not only our reigning champ, but Snow Leopard edged Windows 7 in our PC vs. Mac deathmatch. We also recognize that Snow Leopard, a wholly 64-bit Intel-based OS that finally sheds the baggage of Apple's PowerPC days, is the culmination of an extremely well-executed transformation of Mac OS X. But for its dramatic and sorely needed improvement over Windows Vista, Windows 7 wins our award.

Read on to discover the rest of the year's winners (including a special nod to venerable Windows XP) and our reasoning behind the choices.

Intel Nehalem Processor (Xeon 5500 Series)
The usual progression of processor performance dictates that we enjoy a new generation of chips every couple of years. Attaching the term "generation" to this biannual ritual of incremental feature additions has robbed the term of its importance as the marker of a new epoch. Instead, users have had to settle for hard-to-perceive performance benefits as processors excitedly moved from single to dual to quad core.

Then, suddenly this year, Intel upended the apple cart by releasing Nehalem, a chip so vastly different from its predecessors that it might honestly mark not just a new generation but the beginning of a whole new era in the storied history of the x86 processor.

Not only did Nehalem deliver the key technology advantages that AMD had been touting for years in its Opteron processors -- namely, its memory management -- but it broke new ground in power consumption and performance balancing, and it did so in dramatic fashion.

Nehalem is the first x86 processor to have multiple cores and multiple threads within those cores. If you like parallel, Nehalem gives you eight pipelines per chip. And unlike some RISC architectures that have multithreaded cores, these pipelines are capable of heavy work.

If parallel isn't of interest, Intel gives you Turbo Boost mode that enables the clock of operating cores to be increased within the thermal constraints of the chip. If other cores are quiescent, the remaining cores can be boosted by as much as 11 bin speeds, meaning 11-step increments, which gooses a sub-3GHz processor well past that threshold.

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