Interop and Network Computing are pleased to present the 2013 Best of Interop awards. For the past several weeks our expert judges have been pouring through 149 product submissions in eight categories.
I had the opportunity to read through all of the submission, and I can tell you there were a surprising percentage of nominees who showed the kind of forward-thinking approach and innovation we love to recognize in the Best of Interop program.
Our judges worked long and hard to give our nominees fair consideration; one judge even viewed a finalist conference presentation while 35,000 feet in the air. But only a small number of products take the prize. After many hours of deliberation it's my honor to present to you our Best of Interop winners for 2013. – Steven Hill, Lead Judge, Best of Interop 2013
Best of Interop Grand Award and Networking Winner
Arista: 7500E Data Center Switch
Category Judges: Kurt Marko, Contributing Editor, InformationWeek and Network Computing
Eric Hanselman, Chief Analyst, 451 Research, LLC
Amidst all the buzz over cloud services, SDN and mobile networks, it's easy to forget that without a foundation of beefy switching hardware, none of those things are worth much. This year, Arista proved that big switches are back and that Moore's Law doesn't just apply to servers and smartphones. Providing a nice bit of investment protection, Arista builds upon the same 8-slot chassis that won the BOI Infrastructure category three years ago with completely re-engineered guts to create a switch worthy of huge networks brimming with virtual hosts.
The 7500E was the winner in both the Networking and Grand Award categories, and its specs are part of the reason: 30 Tbps backplane, or 3.84 Tbps per slot, supporting a mix of 10, 40 and 100 GbE, maxing out at 1,152, 288 and 96 ports respectively, with sub 4 μsec latency within a chassis. Addressing a complaint with the first-generation product, Arista expanded address tables and buffer space by more than an order of magnitude. Combined with its full set of L2 and L3 features, including MLAG, ECMP, and hardware accelerated VXLAN, the 7500E supports a number of cloud network designs, scaling out to over 100,000 VXLAN nodes in a two-tier architecture.
Aside from the specs, what really sets the 7500E apart from the competition is the embedded optical modules, which are used in place of standard CFP modules, in the 100 GbE cards. This means there's no need for expensive, separately packaged optics. The result is a dramatic reduction in the total cost per port. Using a 12:1 10:100 Gbps breakout cable, Arista claims to get the total cost per 10 GbE port, including optics, down to $1,220. Because the embedded optics only support multimode fiber, the company takes a risky bet that cost and convenience will trump distance for its data center customers, but we think Arista is right.
Arista faced stiff competition this year, with a deep field of 30 entrants in the networking category and two worthy co-finalists. The NetScout nGenius 3900 modular monitoring switch is an outstanding work of hardware engineering in its own right. It can slice and dice the available 11.5 Tbps of capacity across a mix of 1, 10 and 40 GbE ports, making it an outstanding foundation for a scalable monitoring network with long-term investment protection.
But there's more to networking than just hardware, and Aryaka's Network-as-a-Service is applying cloud economics and SaaS architecture and pricing model to the world of WANs. With its high availability infrastructure and various TCP and WAN optimization features, Aryaka's service allows businesses to deliver MPLS functionality with broadband Internet convenience. – Kurt Marko
Cloud Computing & Virtualization Winner
ExtraHop Networks: ExtraHop for Amazon Web Services
Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, InformationWeek
David Linthicum, Founder, Blue Mountain Labs
ExtraHop for AWS does something that's not been possible before – offers visibility into how all parts of a customer's systems are performing in the cloud. Amazon has its own list of operational statistics that it feeds to customers, but it's not enough to find out what users really need to know. ExtraHop applies a "virtual tap" to the network traffic inside each running virtual machine, producing a copy of the traffic though "distributed forwarders" and performing full stream reassembly and content analysis.
It knows about the first DNS request from an interaction, the authentication clearance, database access, the middleware response and the last byte to be served out of storage. It can analyze the network traffic for transaction content, the events that are taking place as software modules talk to each other. With that analysis, an IT manager can get an answer to the question "What's happening in the environment right now?"
Application Inspection Triggers can isolate and highlight certain events. IT teams can define an event and parameters for an event, and can be notified if a system exceeds those parameters. One customer, Concur Technologies, uses the triggers to watch for systems that go beyond a 1MB cache, which identifies applications that are running up memory use. If it didn't have ExtraHop, Concur would have to configure logging to capture the stats on each memcache server, then analyze the log information; but that's cumbersome. ExtraHop does it automatically with a simple trigger.
ExtraHop works across all of a customer's workloads, both on premises and in AWS, automatically discovering and classifying applications and servers. If a new server appears on the network or an old virtual machine is decommissioned, ExtraHop detects that and adjusts accordingly. It's a real time monitoring tool for a dynamic and changeable cloud environment. - Charles Babcock
Data Center & Storage Winner
OCZ Technology: ZD-XL SQL Accelerator
Howard Marks, Chief Scientist, Deep Storage.Net
Steven Hill, Lead Judge, Best of Interop 2013
OCZ Technology takes an interesting and unique approach to its new, SSD-based, storage/caching product. Rather than use a generalized caching method like most other PCIe SSD options do, the fourth-generation OCZ ZD-XL SQL Accelerator aims to improve the performance of Microsoft SQL server. This PCIe card offers a potent combination: a highly advanced, SQL-optimized "decision engine," lightning-fast flash memory, and wizard-based implementation software that lets database admins tweak caching variables and optimize performance based on a wide variety of workloads.
The secret sauce here is a low-latency, Data Path Cache Director that filters commonly called data requests to flash. It works in lockstep with a Cache Analysis Engine that makes advanced and statistically-optimized decisions on what data to cache. Not only does the system constantly monitor and dynamically tune current caching needs, it also offers a rule-based, pre-warming cache engine that lets administrators pre-load cache contents to accommodate specific workloads that run at scheduled times.
Many database tasks can be extremely storage-intensive, so for SQL Server customers it's easy to see how the ZD-XL SQL Accelerator solution goes beyond generalized caching algorithms used by many other SSDs. OCZ claims the ZD-XL SQL Accelerator improves database performance between 3 and 20 times, but as always, your actual mileage may vary. – Steven Hill
Management & Monitoring Winner
ScienceLogic: ScienceLogic EM7 v7.3
Steven Hill, Lead Judge, Best of Interop 2013
Andrew Conry Murray, Editor, Network Computing
EM7 v7.3 begins with agentless auto-discovery that's capable of rapidly assimilating a huge array of vendor APIs, which allows it to build a detailed and extremely customizable map of your network environment. From there, an administrator can get anything from a 100,000 ft view to the granularity necessary to drill down to specific devices within the infrastructure.
What's even more interesting is EM7's ability to build reports and visualizations based on a wide variety of contexts - from small, local-office performance monitoring to global-scale carrier issues. It provides a large library of commonly-needed templates, as well as ability to craft custom HTML5 dashboards suitable for framing using your favorite tablet or smart-phone. But the big kicker that ScienceLogic EM7 introduced this year for version 7.3 is the ability to visualize your resources within the cloud.
One of the key weaknesses of the cloud today is the lack of a common API, something that would dramatically simplify the integration of cloud services and provide the degree of freedom of choice that cloud advocates initially promised.
Well, just like with our friends in the hardware community, it seems that standardizing APIs for the cloud is still like herding cats, which leaves a vacuum for a company like ScienceLogic to fill. And fill it they do, with new capabilities that now extend to public services like AWS; as well as to hybrid and private cloud applications. It also provides support for converged compute stacks like Cisco UCS, VCE Vblock, and Flexpod; not to mention granular visibility all the way down to the hypervisor and VM level for virtualized workloads. The EM7 v7.3 is pretty much the network administrator's equivalent of Batman's amazing utility belt, offering practically any customizable tool you need when you need it. You can see the EM7 in operation for yourself in the InteropNet NOC on the expo floor at Interop Las Vegas. – Steven Hill
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