Everyone is a trend watcher. But at a certain point, to determine which trends will actually weave their way into the fabric of business computing, you need to first take a hard look at the technologies that gave life to the latest buzz phrases.

That’s the idea behind InfoWorld’s top 10 emerging enterprise technologies of 2011. We’re every bit as excited as the most vociferous pundit about big changes in the direction of enterprise IT, from the consumerization of IT to infrastructure convergence. But what actual, vapor-free technologies have emerged that enable these big ideas to take shape? That’s InfoWorld’s stock in trade.

Among the host of enterprise technologies shipping but not yet widely adopted, we think the following 10 will have the greatest impact. Our selection criteria are subjective rather than objective, derived from many years of evaluating products in the InfoWorld Test Center, observing the ebb and flow of the industry, and taking stock of what appeals to enterprise customers. In other words, this list is based on the collective judgment and experience of InfoWorld editors and contributors, not some magic formula.

Except for the purposes of example, we have for the most part avoided specific product descriptions (visit the InfoWorld Test Center for that). We’re focusing on technologies rather than their specific product implementations frozen in time, simply because technology evolves so quickly.

You may not agree with our picks — in fact, given the contentious world of IT, we’d be surprised if you did. So please post your thoughts in our comments section (Add a comment).

10. HTML5
9. Client-side hypervisors
8. Continuous build tools
7. Trust on a chip
6. JavaScript replacements
5. Distributed storage tiering
4. Apache Hadoop
3. Advanced synchronization
2. Software-defined networks
1. Private cloud orchestration

10. HTML5

InfoWorld has written a huge amount about HTML5, but we spent some time debating internally whether to include it in this list. The naysayers pointed out that we’ve been putting tags together to form Web pages since the beginning of the World Wide Web. HTML5 has simply added new tags. Did we stop what we were doing to celebrate when someone invented the <strong> tag?

Others took the practical view that while HTML5 looks similar to old-fashioned HTML, the tasks it accomplishes are dramatically different. The local data storage, the <canvas> tag, and the video tag make it possible to do much more than pour marked-up words and images into a rectangle. Plus, the new HTML5 WebSockets spec defines a new way to conduct full-duplex communication for event-driven Web apps.

In the end, Adobe’s decision to end development of mobile Flash tipped the debate. Suddenly an entire corner of the Web that used to deliver video, casual games, and other animated content is back in play. An entire sector of the Web development industry is going to retool as we move to HTML5 from Flash. And that represents a tectonic shift for Web developers. –Peter Wayner

9. Client-side hypervisors

Conventional desktop virtualization has faltered for two key reasons: It requires a continuous connection between client and server, and the server itself needs to be beefy to run all those desktop VMs.

A client hypervisor solves both problems. It installs on an ordinary desktop or laptop, leveraging the processing power of the client. And laptop users can take a “business VM” with them containing the OS, apps, and personal configuration settings. That VM is secure and separate from whatever else may be running on that desktop — such as a malware some clueless user accidentally downloaded — and you get all the virtualization management advantages, including VM snapshots, portability, easy recovery, and so on.

Type 2 client-side hypervisors such as VMware Player, VirtualBox, and Parallels Desktop have been in existence for years; they run on top of desktop Windows, Linux, or OS X to provide a container for a guest operating system. Type 1 client-side hypervisors — which run on bare metal and treat every desktop OS as a guest — provide better security and performance. They’re also completely transparent to the end user, never a drawback in a technology looking for widespread adoption.

Client hypervisors point to a future where we bring our own computers to work and download or sync our business virtual machines to start the day. Actually, you could use any computer with a compatible client hypervisor, anywhere. The operative word is “future” — Citrix, MokaFive, and Virtual Computer are the only companies so far to release a Type 1 client hypervisor, due in part to the problem Windows has dealt with for years: supplying a sufficient number of drivers to run across a broad array of hardware. However, these companies will be joined next year by Microsoft itself, which plans to include Hyper-V in Windows 8.

Make no mistake, Windows 8 Hyper-V will require 64-bit Intel or AMD hardware. Don’t expect bare-metal virtualization from your ARM-based Windows 8 tablet — or any other tablet — anytime soon. Note too that, unlike Citrix, MokaFive, and Virtual Computer, which built their client hypervisors with the express purpose of easing Windows systems management, Microsoft has stated that Windows 8 Hyper-V will be aimed strictly at developers and IT pros.

But hey, we’re talking about Microsoft. It won’t stop with developers and IT pros. Yes, tablets are making their way into the workplace, but the fact of the matter is that large-scale Windows desktop deployments are not going away, and Microsoft will be under more pressure than ever to make them easier to manage. With more and more employees working outside of the office — or using a stipend to buy their own PCs and bring them to work — the security and manageability of the client-side hypervisor will offer a compelling desktop computing alternative. –Eric Knorr

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