Each year, the editors and reviewers of the InfoWorld Test Center gather to look over the list of products that earned the highest marks in stand-alone reviews or came in first in multiproduct shoot-outs. We then determine which ones were particularly praiseworthy and present the very best with Technology of the Year awards. These awards inherently reflect the changes in technology that have occurred during the past year and serve to highlight emerging trends.
Stories by Andrew Binstock
The Dell Precision M6500 notebook has a true, full-size keyboard and superior LED technology in its 17in screen. However, it is heavy, somewhat cumbersome, and pricey.
With virtualization's popularity soaring, it was predictable that hardware vendors would eventually bring to market specialized servers that cater to the needs of virtual machines. The market leader in this category is Dell, which currently offers three models of virtualization-optimized systems: the entry-level R805 server, and the larger R900 and R905 servers. Although these systems make perfectly good generic servers for all standard IT uses, they have specific features that endear them to virtualization users.
The agile revolution that began in software development in the 1990s has been inexorably making its way into mainstream IT organizations. Today, one of the most adopted agile practices is unit testing, where developers write hundreds of small tests for exercising their own code. Although the benefits of unit testing are widely recognized, there's growing evidence that unit testing might have reached its high-water mark and be entering a period of stagnation or even decline.
There was a time when workstations occupied a highly competitive niche in the hardware market. In those days, some 10 years ago, companies such as Sun Microsystems, SGI, IBM, HP, and Dell competed fiercely to deliver the top desktop systems characterized by powerful graphics and processing engines. An added element to this competition was the vendors' reliance on vastly different processor architectures to deliver the knockout performance. A decade later, the market segment is significantly different.
The world of laptops is riven by pulls in two opposite directions. At one pole is the group of users that greatly favors portability. They see in the Apple MacBook Air a thing of beauty, because it's so light and thin; the limitations of an 80GB hard drive, a single USB port, and unchangeable batteries do not disturb them. At the opposite pole are users who favor functionality and don't mind lugging additional weight if it gives them the equivalent of a true desktop environment. Users in the latter group will find much to like in the Dell Precision M6300, which bills itself as a workstation in the form factor of a laptop.
The world of Java depends on two established GUI toolkits: Swing and SWT (standard widget toolkit). Both software packages provide the widgets, controls, menus, and user interface components in most Java applications today. Swing, which Sun bundles with Java, first shipped with Java 1.2 in 1998. SWT, developed by IBM, must be downloaded separately. Its most famous application is the Eclipse development environment.
IT's rise to prominence as a core competence that delivers competitive advantage has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of software development projects it must complete. Well aware of the hidden costs of unfulfilled tasks, enterprise IT managers are fast shedding their prejudices against dynamic languages in search of a quick way to cut down the backlog.
As open source software pushes its way further into the enterprise, a new set of risks has arisen regarding IP (intellectual property). The problem is that developers happily borrow code from various projects to save themselves from having to reinvent it. This help is all well and good as long as the resulting software complies with the licenses of the donor projects. The problem managers have is that they cannot know what parts of their code base comes from open source projects. A code snippet reused from a newsgroup posting could actually have come from a copyrighted open source project. And its use could legally require the company to open source its entire product. If the company is an ISV, it might even be faced with being required to offer its product at no cost.
It's an undeniable problem. Many IT sites lack uniform access to unstructured data locked away in ECMSes (enterprise content management systems), workflow software, and other repositories. Data in these systems is frequently accessible only through the vendors' proprietary interfaces, and so federating it is difficult.
The market-share leader among Java IDEs is unquestionably Eclipse, the platform freely available from the Eclipse Foundation. Its success stems from several factors: the foundation's vendor independence, its considerable ability to forge partnerships, and a key product design decision.
There can be no doubt that open source has been a tremendous boon to Java. The JCP (Java Community Process), by which the Java language and platform moves ahead, seems to inch forward at a glacial pace. Committee review and approval are slow, thoughtful processes, but they're conducted at a pace that cannot be wholly condemned. Java, after all, is the leading platform for enterprise applications and as such, it should evolve slowly, even when needs are pressing. Resolving one set of problems by creating another is never a good solution.
Scripting languages, sometimes called "dynamic" languages, have become all the rage, in part because they let developers get a lot of work done with comparatively little code. This "bang for the buck" derives from new approaches that push more of the work onto the compiler and runtime environment -- such as deriving a variable's type by its value -- in addition to special shortcuts for frequently performed actions.
In the evolving world of business intelligence, swift and targeted access to reports and analysis is the name of the game. But the frequent inability of employees to locate the results they need from high-end BI applications is prompting several enterprise search vendors to step in and address the challenge.
Increasing cross-over between enterprise search and Business Intelligence is getting real-time business analytics into the hands of more employees.