Top 10 emerging enterprise technologies

2009's up-and-coming technologies for business that will have the greatest impact in years to come

We all know what buzz is: It's noise. At InfoWorld, one of its self-appointed tasks is to extract the signal from that noise, to separate the stuff valuable to IT professionals from that which is popularly considered a big deal.

This mandate is the inspiration behind InfoWorld's list of top 10 emerging enterprise technologies of 2009. We believe this is an amazing time in IT, with a swarm of new technologies that have the potential to reduce costs, change the way we work, and open up new frontiers. So we decided to brush aside the high-level trends trumpeted by analysts and ask ourselves: Which enterprise technologies shipping now, but not yet widely adopted, will have the greatest impact?

The result is the collection of actual, vapor-free technologies you find here. In case you're wondering, Infoworld used no scientific method in the selection process (other than drawing on the endeavors of the InfoWorld Test Center for inspiration).

We have purposely avoided specific product mentions or recommendations, because we have set our sites on long-term potential rather than current implementation. If it's your job to concoct your organization's technology strategy and decide where to place your bets, then our top 10 emerging enterprise technologies is for you.

10. Whitelisting

Keeping up with malware signatures is becoming unsustainable. In 2008, for example, Symantec put out more antivirus signatures than it did in the company's previous 17 years of existence. Not only are there more viruses, worms, and Trojans, but an increasing number have the ability to morph into variations that avoid signature detection or cloak themselves using encryption.

Ultimately, the only answer to the increasing proliferation and sophistication of malware may be whitelisting, where the only executables that can run on a system are known, good executables.

[ In the InfoWorld Test Center review "Whitelisting security offers salvation," Roger Grimes tries out five whitelisting products and turns up a clear winner. ]

Whitelisting starts with a clean, malware-free image of a desktop or server. Then whitelisting software is run to uniquely identify files using one or more cryptographic hashes. Thereafter, monitoring agents on managed systems flag the presence of any executables not on the hash list or prevent them from running. Most companies distribute standard system images across the enterprise, so whitelisting can be an extremely efficient way to lock down security.

Some whitelisting software can fingerprint and block a wider range of files than executables, including scripts and macro modules, and even write-protect any text or configuration file. The latter is useful for noting unauthorized modifications, such as the changes that many malware programs make to the DNS Hosts file.

Obviously, whitelisting requires a cultural shift. In many enterprises today, users still have some measure of control over what they run on their own desktop or laptop computers. But due to the relentless ramp-up in new and smarter malware -- and the increased involvement of organized crime in malware-based attacks -- whitelisting may be our only hope in the losing battle over enterprise security.

-- Eric Knorr

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