Tool Trends Point Way to Developing Opportunities

Opinion: Fifth annual Excellence Awards redraw map of multidisciplinary mandates.

We take pleasure and pride in releasing today the list of finalists for the fifth annual eWEEK Excellence Awards, honoring a comprehensive portfolio of infrastructure offerings that respond to both the opportunities and the mandates that define the current enterprise IT scene.

Developers will note the presence of (in alphabetic order by company) ER/Studio from Embarcadero Technologies, Java Studio Enterprise from Sun Microsystems and SourceForge Enterprise Edition from VA Software. Those products were chosen individually, not to make any particular point as a group, but the trio does turn out to encompass the full spectrum of development concerns. Embarcaderos product makes data accessible to developers; VA Softwares environment makes code accessible to developers; Java Studio Enterprise makes developers available to each other.

We wont name Excellence winners until April 11, but merely making the list of finalists is enough of a distinction to put any product on buyers radar for further investigation. Hundreds of products, dozens in Application Development alone, have been narrowed down to the list of 57 finalists. (Any resemblance between that number and the mythical number of Heinz varieties is totally accidental.)

The distinctive feature of this years judging effort was the cross-training thats been going on among categories of IT product that used to be quite distinct. It seemed this year as if many different products have evolved their own responses to the pressures of security, governance, manageability and other concerns of overloaded and overexposed enterprise IT architects and operators.

One of the key features of the Excellence judging process is that we allow each years field of entries to redefine, as seems appropriate, the list of categories that we honor: That way, each years list of winners is not just a snapshot of what was best, but also a road map of where industry innovation was going during that year. In 2004, that destination was chosen more than ever by complex customer needs rather than relatively simple technology trends. It seemed as if the laws that are steering ITs future now bear names like "Sarbanes-Oxley" rather than "Moore."

Also of note were the number of products trumpeting their expanding arsenals of APIs, making their functions available to custom programming in general and to Web services protocols in particular. I spoke in a column a few months ago about the need for Web browsers to go beyond the low-hanging fruit of adding obvious refinements to end-user navigation: Browsers need to let users do less, not more, by giving users more ways to integrate and summarize content from general-purpose sites into their own personal portals.

With a browser, the Web is channeled through a single rectangular space: With services protocols and high-leverage frameworks and intuitive scripting languages, I hope to see networked resources as pervasively and easily available to the user as a pop-up menu is today. Tools like those we honor in the Excellence Awards will help that happen.

Tell me what you think defines excellence at


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