For our 2011 40 Vendors to Watch list, we rang up our most-trusted columnists and a few selected other sources for input, added our own ideas, did some background work and came up with a list we shaped and pared down to our standard. It's an editor's choice, to be sure, and like last year, we're happy to find many more positive stories than we can account for in our latest two score. Eleven companies are repeats from last year (marked with asterisks).

Based on our decision to tilt toward vendors with customer traction that also seem agile or green field, we ruled out nominations for bigger outfits like TIBCO or Information Builders. It was clear though that the rebound of 2010 leading into this year has lifted larger businesses like those as much as it has an Aster Data or Kognitio.

In the mix of high performance database, columnar, in-memory and appliance vendors, last year we chose to rule out many since the category had so many worthy contenders. But with acquisitions of Greenplum, Vertica and Netezza and others pending, we reopened the door to ParAccel, while wondering whether they and the others might still be around when next year's list arrives.

Compared to last year, even more providers on the list have ties to bigger service platforms like Salesforce.com. We almost broke out a SaaS-only list, though the database sellers and some others offer multiple ways to deploy. Software or service, where we might have fallen short is in areas of IT management and monitoring software and services, which, despite their obvious importance, we placed behind tools aimed at the front office and the top line.

So there you go. A lot of boats were lifted in 2010 and for what it's worth and for all the uncertainty that remains, we're pretty happy to have 2009 so far in our wake.

More details about the companies on our list can be found in our slide show.

The List

1010data:
What: Data warehousing, analytics, reporting as a service
Why: Those who don't like the cost and risk of DIY might also find better time to data through uploading raw data to hosted analytical database management system; analysis and reporting comes via Web browser. Platform services and specialties for financial services now extend to high-volume retail and CPG transactions

Actuate:
What: Open source SaaS BI and reporting
Why: Among the first enterprise software vendors strategically committed to open source; offers value add premium BI, performance management and server products; co-leads the BIRT (business intelligence and reporting tools) project, a development environment for visualization across formats and devices, and opens a huge Eclipse community of resources to BIRT users

Adaptive Planning:
What: SaaS-based planning, budgeting, forecasting and reporting
Why: Excel may never be stamped out, but midsized and larger companies now have a cloudy option for the grunt work we all face. Broad functionality, hundreds of customers, documented customer satisfaction and no back rooms of hardware and bored IT staff makes this a compelling offer

Alfresco*:
What: Open source enterprise content management
Why: Solid traction and surprising penetration of open source in large institutions; a new and timely pitch for management and compliance for "social" shared content in documents or collaborative platforms like Salesforce Chatter or Drupal

Alteryx:
What: BI with geospatial analysis, data quality, ETL
Why: Demand for fast data processing for searching, sorting, and retrieval of record-level data along with spatial data analytics and reporting; one-platform ETL, data quality, profiling, analytics and visuals, notable for importing geocoding and grid mapping

aMind Solutions:
What: Technology, consulting services for Oracle's Siebel CRM
Why: Managing the customer experience has to be comprehensive over all channels, with intuitive user interfaces and process-oriented order management; it's a Web framework and hosted SaaS front end across portals, e-commerce and order management for an obvious installed base

Aster Data*:
What: Massively parallel hybrid row and column database, analytics and services
Why: Just say "big data" and "analytics" and you've attracted attention; the performance, flexible formats and economics of scalability carry buzz for software, appliance or cloud deployments

Attivio:
What: Enterprise search
Why: Information access evolves with a universal index to provide access to unified, integrated content and information regardless of native format; Active Dashboard for real-time role-based updates and analytics for text, email, SharePoint, etc. as well as databases; can also be embedded in products or applications

Birst*:
What: Cloud-based end-to-end BI, apps for performance management
Why: Analysts are picking up on ease of use and customer satisfaction; analytics, dashboards and reports that can be embedded in Salesforce or other service-based platforms look like must haves

Connotate:
What: Automated Web data monitoring, collection
Why: Challenges of unstructured data abound, but collection, analysis and distributions of this content is more in demand than ever; prices, news, data and any amount of competitive info on the Web is all fair game

CORDA Technologies:
What: Data visualization
Why: Dashboards, charting, mapping and mobile in smart presentations; customers list includes thousands of big companies; a new patent for a technology to automatically optimize images and graphics in Web browsers and mobile devices increases the base and potential attraction of interactive visualizations

Daptiv*:
What: SaaS-based project management and collaboration for portfolios in IT, PMO, professional service and R&D
Why: Configurable apps that are easier to adopt for portfolio/project/resource/T&E and document management; BI tools for portfolio reporting and support services; well-regarded as a prime platform for herding cats

Denodo*:
What: Data federalization/virtualization, hubs for data types
Why: The "new" integration crosses Web and cloud as well as captive IT; sweet spots for this vendor include call center single views of customers and customer profiling with external data

Deposco:
What: Warehouse/supply chain/data/process management and BI
Why: With the rise of next-gen logistic providers, warehouse and supply-chain management systems are seeing their own embedded business intelligence makeover; it's also where mobility takes a leap in big productivity gains in smartly designed visibility solutions for distributors, retailers and manufacturers

Dundas:
What: Data visualization, dashboards
Why: Among the visualization companies, this one boasts sophisticated dashboards, genuinely easy development and flexible integration/customization; specialized cross vertical in financial services, manufacturing, pharma, health care, high tech and government; reputation for strong service organization

Endeca:
What: Analytic products for BI, enterprise and Web search
Why: Snappy exploration and analysis to get the user to the right information and level of detail; use cases across BI, e-commerce, customer support and analysis, human capital management, contracts, warranty, etc.

Enkata:
What: Call center performance management and analytics (SaaS Performance Management for customer operations)
Why: Everybody likes agent productivity, claims quality, service to sales, first contact resolution and high-value customer interactions; on-demand service suite with analytic-based dashboards for improved efficiency and customer experience

Esker:
What: Document process automation
Why: A paperless society may be well in our future, but reducing costs, improving business processes and automating document management has arrived in cloud computing models; think A/R, A/P, sales order, document and mail services; half of customers are SAP users with preintegrated ERP modules

Global IDs*:
What: Data governance/data management software
Why: Multidimensional data integration/profiling vendor using Java and XML pushes focus on data governance and master data management; soup to nuts product suites for data transparency, quality, integration and optimization

GoodData*:
What: Cloud-based platform for on-demand analytics
Why: Companies and SaaS providers use a browser interface for reports and dashboards based on their own or other data; automated models with no hardware, software or developers to worry about; sales, marketing, support analytics and ties to Salesforce and Zendesk

in2clouds:
What: On-demand predictive analytics
Why: Hosted sales forecasting and risk management provider has added predictive text analytics and notifications in Salesforce Chatter; discovering data patterns in structured and unstructured data is more practical and moving to smaller companies in affordable products that can impact business performance

InetSoft:
What: Integration-oriented enterprise reporting and BI software/enterprise data mashups/dashboard and visualization
Why: Yet another dashboard reporting tool brought to our attention for BI and productivity through visualization. Patent pending technology for reuse of queries that bridges the gap between ETL and mashups with self-service BI

Ingres:
What: Open source database/engine
Why: Fast interactive reporting, BI and conversational analytics leveraging vector-based processing and on-chip memory. That's a mouthful, but Ingres has working deals with Jaspersoft, Pentaho and others in OSS; just set some new benchmark performance standards and ranks high on the relevance meter of our advisors

Jitterbit:
What: Open source integration
Why: In moving data to the cloud, connecting applications, integrating business processes, we like fast and simple configuration and management of on-premise and cloud integration projects; we're not yet sure how far hybrid and commercial open source will go, but it still looks green field to us

Kalido:
What: Data warehousing, data governance and MDM
Why: Originally a data warehouse, this company has upped its focus on the business process of data management and MDM and issued bold directives aimed at bringing order and control to data governance; you can't just automate this sort of thing but you can make things better with support and measurement for the key stakeholders and role players

Kognitio:
What: Data warehousing, analytics and BI solutions/data warehousing as a service
Why: The new Pablo creates virtual cubes and creates in-memory images of a transactional database or data warehouse for sophisticated analysis by nontechnical users. The Excel front-end validates the spreadsheet's ubiquitous role in BI

Lyzasoft*:
What: Collaborative BI, analytic visualization with audits and traceability
Why: All the right buzzwords from all the right analysts; pretty much unanimous praise for adding context and spreading the wealth of socially shared knowledge

MobileAware:
What: Mobile application development
Why: Mobile devices are customer engagement and interaction channels; we need a point answer in apps in commerce and service that scale to performance needs, backed by on-premise or hosted service delivery; active in W3C mobile and other standards; mobile workforce solutions available through subsidiary Broadbeam

ParAccel:
What: Columnar analytics database
Why: One of the last independent columnar vendors after a convulsion of acquisitions, ParAccel performs powerfully in fast analytics and complex analysis. The latest release is a more extensible platform that leverages MapReduce in the database

Pervasive Software*:
What: Integration, analytics and database management
Why: Embedded software that spans processing and analysis for compliance or other risk is a must have for the whole breadth of data stores; connections available to match all the major service and SaaS platforms

Predixion:
What: Self-service predictive analytics
Why: This small newcomer to the SaaS scene has goals of making predictive analytics part of a regular business process, getting predictive analytics into operational hands - by easily writing results directly back into PowerPivot and SharePoint - and raising the collective IQ of an organization. Favorable reviews are in.

QlikTech:
What: In-memory BI
Why: BI for the business user through associative technology that looks at direct and inverse perspectives to enable new, agile questions and analysis; though it's been around 18 years, this originally Swedish company has made waves in the last three with more than 16,000 customers in 100 countries who seem devoted to the product and user community

RainStor:
What: Online data compression software
Why: The idea of "big data retention" makes us a little uneasy by itself, but constructively calls for extreme compression, a specialized repository and online connections to the enterprise and the cloud, with on-demand access and compliance; a low barrier for design and maintenance adds to the appeal

Revelytix:
What: Semantic web data integration platform
Why: We're still waiting for the semantic message to bloom in the mainstream and admit part of that might be digesting the thinking of some left-brained engineers. What they are telling us is that inside W3C abbreviations like RDF and OWL, an enterprise information web merges with other information ripe for what the company calls "emergent analytics"

Rosslyn Analytics:
What: Automated Web-based spend management analytics
Why: A replacement in the always important spend management category this year, it's another Web-based approach to ERP spend extraction form Oracle, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft and SAP and a single online view of organizational spending activity. Includes Web self-service, Excel loading, enriching and export

SugarCRM:
What: Open source CRM
Why: You've got to cheer for an open source provider running on the cloud while the death match between that other CRM service provider and the legends of CRM play out. It's relevant too, with 7,000 customers, support in more than 80 languages, mobile device support, iPhone apps and Twitter integration

Tableau*:
What: BI, analytics, visualization
Why: We have gone visualization-happy in our list this year, but we brought this one back by popular demand. A patented query language that translates actions into a database query and graphically expresses the response through simple drag-and-drop functions; Tableau Public is a free resource being put to use for constructive causes and proving the point of the mother product

Varicent:
What: Sales performance management
Why: As services have arisen in planning and forecasting or spend management, the time is also right for sales performance management for analysis and optimization of territories, compensation, quotas and channels. It's either on premise or on-demand performance management to offload administrative resources for driving sales

VoltDB:
What: Open source DBMS
Why: Our nod to DBMS is this open source OLTP multi-cluster database with in-memory processing, a shared-nothing scale-out architecture and high availability. A challenge to limits of traditional SQL designed by Michael Stonebraker, it's ACID-compliant and widely discussed in the distributed database community; like ours, your resident geek can explain why the project got a $5 million investment last year

WhereScape*:
What: Agile data warehouse development
Why: Each data warehouse project is a process and prototype - stresses fast, iterative, unique. Customers "chunk" projects and are allowed and encouraged to change requirements as business needs evolve. We like the cheeky grassroots message of "world domination one database at a time"