Putting together serious top 10 lists is never easy, but we really sweated bullets over this year’s “InfoWorld’s top 10 emerging technologies.” Not because we wanted to please anyone — or even a majority of people — but because stuff like this is just too contentious. We wanted to get it right because we know it’s a unique list at the core of what InfoWorld is about.

It’s a lot easier to talk about trends than technologies. (And probably more profitable, because analysts seem to dress better than I do.) We all know the leading enterprise trends: the consumerization of IT, the private cloud, and big data. And if you’re hip enough to know about it, devops is pretty cool. But the technologies underlying those trends differ depending on who you talk to.

Take the consumerization of IT, which is all about user empowerment. Rather than wait in line for IT’s limited bandwidth, business folks just go out and buy their own mobile devices and apps, purchase cloud services with a credit card, or use social networking services for business communications. You can certainly argue that tablets, say, are key to that trend — after all, consumerization is partly about intuitive technology. But we chose advanced synchronization in the form of iCloud and the forthcoming Windows 8 as the key technology because we believe the profound shift is that the user experience is becoming cloud-centric, with individual devices becoming mere access points of the moment.

As for the private cloud — once you get past the silly nomenclature — the big picture is that we are watching an operating system for the data center evolve before our eyes. We see private cloud orchestration software at the center of that evolution, as represented by OpenStack, Eucalyptus, Puppet, and others. Another side of that unprecedented data center agility and efficiency is the software-defined network, the leading example today being OpenFlow.

Astute observers will note that our last top 10 emerging technologies was in 2009 (in 2010, we felt that not enough had changed to warrant a top 10 refresh) — which brings us to the big data trend. In 2009, we picked MapReduce as the No. 1 emerging enterprise technology, mainly because it promised something entirely new: analysis of huge quantities of unstructured (or semi-structured) data such as log files and Web clickstreams using commodity hardware and/or public cloud services. The big data choice this year was a no-brainer: Apache Hadoop, as the leading open source implementation of MapReduce has found its way into BI products from every major software vendor.

In hindsight, we should probably have included NoSQL databases too, even though they appeared on the 2009 list. The explosion of new technologies in this area of big data continues unabated, joined recently by Oracle NoSQL. For an InfoWorld Test Center comparison of Cassandra, CouchDB, MongoDB, Redis, Riak, Neo4J, and FlockDB, see “NoSQL standouts: New databases for new applications.”

But don’t worry, you’ll find a lot more to catch your interest in this year’s top 10 emerging technologies. Some people may accuse us of pandering to developers too much in our selection — which includes HTML5, continuous build tools, and JavaScript replacements — but hey, we can take it. Things are jumping in app dev and, for that matter, in most of the rest of enterprise tech. We’ve done our best to sift our way down to 10. If by some strange circumstance your list doesn’t match ours, don’t hesitate to let us know.

This article, “Picking the top 10: Trends vs. technologies,” originally appeared at InfoWorld.com.

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