It was a year of consolidation for the enterprise. A year where maturing technologies trumped startups. The year that social networking began to creep into just about every nook and cranny of corporate applications, even something banal like email that you wouldn't have expected these to change with the times. It was a year where tablets once again took the limelight, and not just for personal reasons or for use only in extreme vertical markets. It was a year where APIs ruled, and vendors with solid interfaces and programming tools leapt ahead of the competition. It was a year where online video became more than just a way to pass the time watching skateboarding pets and foolish pranks. Let's look at our top ten products, services and trends for the enterprise.

 

1. Oracle buying almost everyone

It certainly seemed like they were. Not a quarter went by where Oracle didn't make some major merger. Perhaps the Sun acquisition was big in terms of sheer size and sex appeal. But in 2011, Oracle bought several key players in middleware and storage, firming up their positions for the Web-connected enterprise.  This included Pillar Data, a storage networking vendor; Endeca, an analysis tool provider; Fatwire, a large-scale content management system supplier; RightNow Technologies, the leading vendor in customer service portals, and Ksplice, a company that sells a zero downtime update technology for Linux. And these were just the major deals over the past year. Clearly, they are building an empire over in Redwood Shores.

2. The iPad is the new executive dashboard

The second version of Apple's iPad came out this year, along with a much-need v5 of iOS. That seemed to open the floodgates and suddenly, they were in every executive's hands. The major remote-control apps from Citrix, LogMeIn and VNC got updates, and more enterprise software tools such as CRM and BI and ERP got their own iPad-friendly front end apps.  Earlier in the year in our article here, we discuss whether the iPad is friend or foe of the enterprise, but by now it is clear that the iPad is here to stay and could be the tablet of choice for busy execs who don't need to do a lot of typing (or who don't need Flash-based Web pages either).  And in our story last month, even coders can leverage the iPad too. Now if only Apple could actually understand that iOS needs a really solid protocol stack to talk to lots of non-iThings.

3.Yammer becomes the go-to corporate microblogging platform

We gave Yammer props as one of our best of 2010 companies, and they continued to excel this year. Yammer has been around several years, and has gotten some stiff competition in the microblogging/corporate social networking space. But this was the year that they deepened their ecosystem, as we wrote about earlier. They have had some big wins with large customers, such as the Australian branch of Deloitte.

4.  Better tools to handle business video streams

YouTube certainly is the place where all kinds of videos are posted and seen, including many more from corporations that are looking for more mundane presentations for their partners and customers. In 2011, we saw a variety of tools improve that help businesses better manage their video assets, including from as Kaltura, Wistia and Vid.ly. Screencasts have also become quite popular,  as we mentioned in our article about how to better prepare these for how-to purposes. Part of this trend is less expensive Web and video conferencing tools, including on-the-fly ones such as the Hangout feature in Google+.  Now if only there were tools that could help people produce more engaging content.

 

5.  Socialization of email listservs

 

Just about every class of enterprise software has become more socialized, incorporating social media and social networking components into its feature set. We just focus on one here to show you how far the plain and unassuming email listserver has come in the past year. Lyris and Constant Contact both added major socialization features. Even LinkedIn has become more social too.

6.  Box.net BIN takes off

Earlier, Box announced a series of partnerships and an investment fund called BIN. They are trying to move beyond the notion that they are just a shared file repository and promote the hundreds of companies that have built add-on apps using their APIs. Yes, another API play here on my top ten. I think this shows how the enterprise Web space is changing, and how even a more mundane application like cloud file storage can blossom and grow by cannily investing in the right collection of interfaces that others can embrace and extend. We'll see even more of these sorts of situations next year.

7.IBM's Connections solidifies its position.

Last week IBM added several free mobile apps to its Connections social networking service. This grew out of its Sametime IM software business, and is now used by all 400,000 IBMers as well as hundreds of thousands of corporate clients. With iPhone and Android clients, it now makes sense to give this a closer look.

8.  Your corporate training department is now showing Stanford.TV

Stanford, MIT and many other universities and even community colleges have been streaming their courses online for years. I seem to remember when I was a grad student there back in the early days of Silicon Valley we had closed-circuit cameras broadcasting our lectures to a remote location. But this is the year that the ordinary cubicle dweller is actually watching them, some on company time and with the encouragement of the corporate training department (those that still have them). Going right to the .edu sources for this content makes a lot of sense, and also saves a lot of cents too. We wrote about this one Stanford AI class that had an audience of tens of thousands. And there is an upcoming class from them on cryptography too. While the attention is on computer science kinds of classroom instruction, there are many community colleges that are also putting more of their classes online in general business topics too.

9.  BYOD means more mobile device management tools

A number of vendors have jumped into the mobile management arena as more and more endusers are bringing their own phones and other mobile devices into work. Companies such as Accellion, MobileEcho, Rover, Sybase and Mobi Wireless are just the beginning of this trend. Expect more to enter and further consolidation as this sector matures, and as more iPads and smartphones are purchased for business uses. 

10.  Solid-state drives move into the datacenter

We wrote earlier about building your own Google-like datacenter with Nutanix earlier in the year, and one of the reasons why they, along with other companies such as Fusion.io, NimbleStorage and WhipTail Tech are becoming popular is the way that they marry a solid-state hard drive with traditional rotating media to improve large-scale data storage performance. While SSDs are still pretty pricey for your average laptop (just look at the differential in price for a MacBook Air over a regular laptop), the data center is less price-sensitive and especially when you are talking about arrays that start in the middle six figures anyway. Look for more of these companies in the coming year, along with less of a price premium and better database staging and management tools for SSD caching. There are also companies that specialize in reading or writing data to the SSDs and have integration with the larger-scale database technologies too.

As storage management vendor Virsto has so aptly put, "In 2012, the plummeting cost of SSDs, along with the continued adoption of server and storage virtualization, will undoubtedly contribute to a transformation of storage in the enterprise. IT organizations will gain a better understanding of when, where and how best to deploy SSDs as these increasingly become an important part of the storage architecture. Using SSD efficiently is the name of the game."

There were plenty of other activities that didn't make the top ten, including acquisitions from Adobe in the online advertising space,  consolidations and expansions from Zoho to go beyond their core CRM offerings, and how corporations have flocked to Facebook for a variety of business purposes.