The 50 Best Products of the Year
May 17, 1999
Naturally, this means it was a busy year for you, too. While everyone was easily convinced of the business necessity of having an Internet presence, many corporations actually figured out the pieces they needed to get there. VPNs, load-balancers, caching servers, e-commerce-enabled Web servers and firewalls all came into widespread use.
Once again, Network Computing's editors and contributors have taken time out from their usual routine and held a virtual conclave to determine the 50 best IT and networking products of the year. To be considered, products had to have been used in our labs, either as the subject of a review or as part of the hands-on process of creating articles. This is an important distinction for the Well-Connected Awards. No other annual awards program in the industry uses hands-on evaluations to choose its winners. The advantage for you is obvious. These products don't just have good PR; they actually work.
And just as our reviews evolve and grow to match your needs, our list of 50 product categories also has changed to reflect new technology challenges. In the past, we've pored over the list of the 50 winners and named a Software and Hardware Product of the Year. Now, in recognition of the growing importance of services, we've added a new category, Most Innovative Service Provider of the Year.
Our top honor for hardware this year goes to Extreme Networks for the Summit48. This switch looks unassuming enough in its Barney-purple box, but inside it represents a turning point for infrastructure design and deployment. With the Summit48, Extreme has brought to market the first high-functionality 10/100 switch for the edge of the network. While incumbent infrastructure vendors were charging hundreds of dollars per port for less functionality, Extreme broke the mold, bringing the per-port price down to the point at which private 100-Mbps networking is a cost-effective alternative.
Not only does the Summit48 provide high-speed networking at a reasonable cost, it also gives administrators the ability to craft their networks any way they see fit. The Summit48 can be used as a Layer 2 or Layer 3 switch, and can enforce traffic-shaping policies based on criteria through Layer 4. Extreme has delivered new functions in the Summit48, including support for routing and policy management through software. No hardware modifications are necessary, making the Summit48 excellent investment protection for administrators who need more control over their networks.
This year's Software Product of the Year is Apple Computer's WebObjects 4.0. WebObjects makes development of Internet and e-commerce applications fast, efficient and scalable. Its strength is its strict adherence to object-oriented methodologies. Objects created in WebObjects are easily maintained and fully reusable. Along with substantial power and flexibility, WebObjects brings an ease of development rarely seen in industrial-strength development environments.
Owing to its NeXT origins, WebObjects provides functional hooks to most enterprise data stores, including databases and applications. It also runs on Solaris, NT, HP-UX and Mac OS X. While other environments offer a few of the pieces and parts of Apple's WebObjects, this is the best and most elegant total system we've seen for creating Web-enabled applications. WebObjects takes the witchcraft out of Internet application design.
And if any service area screams out for innovation, it's carrier services. While the large players gobble each other up and maintain the status quo, a handful of providers is rolling out next-generation services--breaking the bandwidth logjam and offering affordable pricing and unique values. In the age of the Internet, these few carriers actually "get it," helping companies use the best attributes of the global network while avoiding the worst pitfalls.
Concentric Network Corp. is delivering on the promise of the public IP network in all the right ways, from superior Web-hosting services and e-commerce solutions to a variety of VPN options. Its ConcentricHost service provides extensive content and security controls rarely found in a Web outsourcing service. High-bandwidth access links include DSL and broadband wireless, at prices well below traditional T1 and ISDN alternatives. Concentric is also one of the brave few to offer real-time services over IP, supporting both voice and video traffic over its high-speed backbone.
To get the scoop on the rest of our winners, please visit our Web site at www.networkcomputing.com/1010/1010f1win.html. And for the skinny on the important trends throughout the IT and networking landscape, read the roundups from our editors on the pages that follow. You'll see that even with all of this year's exciting innovations, there's plenty more to come.
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