The year in tech: It's all about the cloud and SDNs

2012 has been a year of re-invention among the tech industry's biggest players, with Microsoft overhauling many of its key product lines, most notably Windows, while also boldly entering the hardware market with Surface tablets. HP slashed its workforce as CEO Meg Whitman reshaped an industry icon that has gone through many shifts in recent years. The transformation to the cloud continued practically unabated (save for those pesky outages!) and suddenly every company seemed to be a software defined something or other, or was snapping up an SDN company.

Enterprise IT pros have been hard-pressed to avoid OpenFlow and SDN in 2012. The OpenFlow-focused Open Networking Summit sold out in April, fueled by interest in technology promising a more flexible and programmable network architecture. Startups such as Big Switch Networks, Plexxi, PLUMgrid, Cisco spin-in Insieme and Nicira all grabbed headlines, as they scored gobs of venture funding, got bought out or rolled out products. Meanwhile, established vendors such as Brocade, Cisco, Juniper, HP and Alcatel-Lucent aired their SDN plans, such as Cisco ONE.

Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services (AWS) may be a market leader in cloud computing, but it has been plagued by outages, giving Rackspace, Terremark, Google, Microsoft and others a chance to make inroads. Other high-profile cloud outages brought down popular sites such as Reddit, Imgur, Airbnb and Salesforce.com's Heroku platform. The disruptions continue to raise questions about how trustworthy the cloud is, and whether companies can really afford to put mission-critical data into it. Meanwhile, it was another busy year for OpenStack, with VMware's addition to the open source project and the launch of an independent foundation. The software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) markets further matured, and increased attention went to the platform as a service (PaaS) market to provide a service for building applications in the cloud.

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