You didn’t think we would let you go into the New Year without at least one top 7 list from our side, now would you? After all, it may be a time of economic pressure in some parts of the world, only very rarely we are on the threshold of exciting, promising developments in Enterprise IT like we are now. So without further ado – before they already start celebrating in New Zealand – here are 7 areas that you really should watch in 2012.

1. Success Factors. It’s not about the specific HRM cloud-based solution, really. And also not about SAP making strategic acquisitions. We could have mentioned Oracle and RightNow. Or ‘just’ Or NetSuite. The thing is, with SaaS now very rapidly entering mainstream – including ERP and other core applications – we are seeing new benchmarks for how quickly, simple and cost-effective new solutions can be deployed. It will change organizations and their IT departments just as much as it will change the business models of the major, incumbent software vendors.

2. OpenStack. It may be an oxymoron, this ‘private cloud’, but rest assured that many enterprises and governmental organizations will be building their own cloud platforms next year. It will be in an attempt to start enjoying some of the obvious benefits of the cloud without full exposure to the (alleged) uncertainties of the public scenario. With this, it’s time for the evolution of open standards – always an indication of a maturing industry – for cloud-based infrastructure and we’d say that OpenStack has a pretty good position.

3. Windows 8. The upcoming year might very well be the year of Microsoft, as many of its new, promising developments will take centre stage (illustrated by this list). Windows 8 particularly is interesting, because it might be the very last version of a major desktop operating system or one of the first of a next generation of operating systems that target the new reality of tablets and other smart devices. In practice, it is likely to be both. Hang on for the METRO user interface: it’s truly different and people will love it or hate it. Always a good sign.

4. Oracle NoSQL. It’s not about Oracle, really. Or about NoSQL, for that matter, as  Hadoop and Exalytics fit just as much into the picture. Among other things. We could have mentioned SAP with HANA – and many others did, rest assured – or HP with its risky, expensive bet on Autonomy. But yes: we should take notice when the world’s most influential database company starts to move in the world of Big D and we are actually seeing new, unexplored ways of doing something useful with All That Data.

5. Cloud Foundry. Ready to develop your first real cloud applications in 2012? You may want to have a good look into the world of Platforms as a Service in order to leverage all the potential of scalability, flexibility and productivity. For sure, created the archetypical cloud development platform against which others are measured. But obviously, you need to be into the Gospel according to Benioff. If open source is more of your comfort zone, you may be very interested in the ‘upstream’ move of VMWare (ostensibly endorsed by HP) or Red Hat’s entry with OpenShift. Windows Azure is a safe, surprisingly mature bet. The dark horse of 2012 in this space might be Amazon. Oh, and if you are considering new development for the cloud anyway, you may as well want to consider applying more simple, more elegant programming languages that will save you time and frustration. Ruby, for example.

6. Sybase Unwired Platform. It’s not about Sybase, really. Or about SAP putting its strategic acquisition to very good use. We could have mentioned Antenna, Appcelerator, Kony or Adobe’s PhoneGap. Or simply point to Microsoft, still a potential leader in this space. But in any case, next year will see a strongly increased demand for enterprise-level mobile applications. And with that, new challenges need to be met around security, manageability, lifecycle management and integration. But having said that, your enterprise mobile apps better look just as good as their frivolous cousins from the Apple and Android app stores. After all, we are all so consumerized by now.

7. Kinect for Business. For real. Just have a look.