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One of the benefits of working in a medium that covers technology every day is that you get an early look at a lot of up-and-coming technology that offers a lot of promise. Of course, most of that promise will never be realized if the companies building the technology never develop an effective route to market, but as we come to the close of 2007, here’s a list of 10 technologies worth keeping an eye on in 2008.

1. Virtual Machines Management software. Virtual machines may be the hottest thing in IT since sliced bread, but it is most certainly possible to have too much of a good thing. The ability to provision a virtual server almost at the touch of a button means more server environments to manage than ever but with fewer people. That’s why tools for managing virtual server machines that are being pioneered by companies such as Embotics will get a lot more attention in the coming year. Of course, if you’re planning on creating virtual servers you might want to use tools from companies such as Cirba to get a real picture of the overall virtual environment, and when you come to that puzzling case of the slow virtual server, you just might want to check out some I/O performance enhancement software from companies such as Xsigo Systems to solve the problem.

2. Data Center Management software. There is no doubt that the general shortage of IT personnel has everybody looking for a better way to manage the data center, with both Symantec and Cisco planning on making this a major theme for 2008. But in the meantime, companies such as BladeLogic are doing a lot to automate the provisioning of servers while companies such as Integrien are pushing the state of the art in predicting IT system failures.

3. Thin Provisioning. This will be a hot topic in the storage sector with both Dell and EMC backing the core concept, but early pioneers in this space such as DataCore Software and 3Par still have an edge given their overall experience.

4. Business Intelligence Appliances. While all eyes are on IBM’s move to acquire Cognos and the pending merger of Business Objects and SAP, the fact of the matter is that business intelligence is still a fairly arcane science understood by few and used poorly by most. Companies such as Netezza and Blink Logic that are delivering business intelligence as an appliance that can be managed as a service have great promise for the channel.

5. Master Data Management. By far and away this is one of the least fun IT activities, but without it all the money being spent by IBM, Microsoft and BEA on promoting business process integration will go for naught. The basic problem is that with so many conflicting records in various applications, tools from companies such as Initiate Systems and Purisma have become critical components in the march to take IT to a higher level of value.

6. Compliance Tools. The conversation surrounding compliance is about to move from auditing to automation. At the top of the IT compliance agenda for 2008 are data loss prevention tools that from companies such as Verdasys, followed by tools from companies such as Modulo that make it easier to collect the information needed to bring IT systems into compliance and tools from companies such as Jatheon that make it easier to discover specific records in those systems.

7. Application Security Frameworks. What’s killing us is not the quality of our security tools but rather how many seams we create between them that malware makers can exploit. So companies such as Tumbleweed Communications that are moving to create security frameworks for detecting malware at the application rather than network level are going to be a major step in the right direction.

8. Unified Communications. This is at the top of everybody’s hot list of technologies these days thanks to all the money being spent promoting it by Microsoft and Cisco, but if you’re going to mess with the life blood of a customer’s communications systems, you might want to check out companies such as Objectworld Communications that have been doing this a lot longer than some better-known vendors.

9. Smart Phones. We all know that everybody wants one, but besides sending and receiving e-mail it would be better still to do something useful such as linking them back to a corporate application using software from companies such as AirClic.

10. Rich Internet Applications. RIA is expected to be one of the hottest categories in application development circles this coming year thanks to the efforts of Microsoft and Adobe, but if you want to create a rich Web interface for an existing client/server application you might want to take a look at what companies such as Curl, Asperon and Nexaweb are up to these days.