With 129 entries this year, the Best of Interop judging team was once again fortunate to be challenged with examining a wide variety of progressive and innovative products. We chose to mix things up a little from the start, so you may have noticed that for 2014 we decided to give storage its own category, separate from data center, and added a whole new SDN category to better cover the innovations in these important technologies. We hope you approve.
Our winners this year are a strong line-up of some of the smartest technologies introduced since last year's Interop Las Vegas, and we had some lively debate among the crew when it came to the difficult task of choosing the overall Grand Award winner. We had strong candidates, but when the smoke cleared, we all felt really great about this year’s top product. What made it perhaps the most intriguing and compelling choice in years was the fact that the Grand Award will be going to not one vendor, but instead to the tangible results of an open-source collaborative project formed by the top companies in networking, stewarded by The Linux Foundation, and focused on cooperatively advancing the goals of SDN.
Our Grand Prize winning product is undoubtedly in the early stages of development, but what really gives us the greatest sense of pride in this choice is the teamwork among vendors that made it possible. The very legacy of the Interop show itself has at its core the spirit of interoperability, a noble premise that has defined Ethernet networking from the start and that we believe everyone in this industry should embrace and applaud. Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly bring you the top products of Interop 2014. – Steven Hill, Lead Judge, Best of Interop 2014
Grand Award and SDN Winner
OpenDaylight - Hydrogen
Judges: Mike Fratto, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Network Systems, Current Analysis
Ethan Banks, Founder, Packet Pushers Interactive, LLC
OpenDaylight Hydrogen wins the SDN category and overall Best of Interop because it not only embodies a strong product, but also represents what can occur with industry-wide collaboration. Hydrogen is a modular SDN controller that can support any number of southbound interfaces to control both hardware and software networking products as well as northbound interfaces accessible to a variety of SDN-minded applications.
With Hydrogen, vendors, open source developers, enterprises, service providers, or any end user who wishes to invest the time can unlock the power of SDN and NFV. OpenDaylight enables innovation in SDN with far-reaching impact, because developers can focus on building applications that leverage SDN, leaving the mechanics of carrying out programmatic instructions to Hydrogen and its successors.
Already, OpenDaylight has seen integration from vendors as diverse as Cisco, ConteXtream, IBM, Inocybe, and Microsoft; more vendors have promised integration in the future. The Open Daylight Summit was a sold-out event with many standing room only sessions. This demonstrates great interest in the project from not only vendors, but also enterprises and service providers. While Hydrogen is still in the early stages of development, there are three editions available for download and installation aimed at specific audiences to get them up and running quickly. Support is available via a wiki, a number of active mailing lists, and IRC channels occupied by developers around the world.
The other two finalists, Cisco’s APIC and VMware’s NSX, were strong contenders in their own right, clearly offering solid SDN solutions, and they will be able to attract a number of integration partners, but OpenDaylight’s nature as an open source project offers more open and inclusive potential than any single vendor’s product. – Mike Fratto
VMware - vCloud Hybrid Service
Judges: Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, InformationWeek
David Linthicum, Founder, Blue Mountain Labs
The basic attributes of VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service are well known. They include provisioning virtual servers and other resources in one of VMware's four vCloud Hybrid Service data centers, initiating workloads there and managing those workloads, much as a customer might initiate a workload on the Amazon, Rackspace or GoGrid. All of that is just catch-up work. But VMware has done the hard work of making vCloud not just another cloud service, but one that mirrors and interoperates with the enterprise's virtualized data center.
VMware dominates virtualization in the data center and provides about 80% of the virtualization software in the enterprise market, so there's no surprise here. The achievement is in how relentlessly and thoroughly it's done so. A customer doesn't just initiate a workload under the VMware hypervisor in the cloud; he initiates one, when desired, that's identical to the one running in his data center. The network characteristics are the same. The policies on the firewall and other security measures are the same.
To the system administrator in the enterprise, the new workload may be in the cloud, but it's managed from a familiar vCenter management console and it looks and acts just like those across the data center floor. In particular, VMware’s efforts to virtualize the network and assign it as a flexible resource to a virtual machine at the moment of creation means a system administrator can stretch layer 2 and/or layer 3 networks seamlessly from the data center to vCloud Hybrid Service without the need for manual configuration changes.
In the past, moving the workload has been possible into a public cloud, but that necessitated using different tools and monitoring systems and setting up networking on the cloud provider's terms. VMware is making it possible to extend the server, networking and storage envelope inside the data center out into the public cloud, making it an extension of the enterprise. – Charles Babcock
Data Center Winner
Cisco - Nexus 9516 Switch
Judges: Steven Hill, Senior Analyst, Data Center Solutions, Current Analysis
Howard Marks, Chief Scientist, Deep Storage.Net
The data centers of the future will only get more dense and task-focused, and this means that more and more will be expected of the high-performance networks that keep everything flowing. But today, it’s not all about horsepower, it’s about density and flexibility and keeping your options open as technology changes around us. The new Nexus 9516 in the 9000-series family from Cisco is truly an impressive example of next-generation thinking from a company we’ve come to expect it from.
The top-of-the-line Nexus 9516 is a 22RU supercar of a data center switch with room for 16 line cards, six fabric modules and nine high-efficiency power supplies. Delivering up to 2,304 ports of 10GbE, or 576 ports of 40GbE (even 1GbE and eventually 100GbE); this monster of a switch was independently tested using all 576x40GbE ports concurrently at full line rate and it passed with flying colors and zero dropped packets. But 9516’s beauty goes beyond pure performance; the 60Tbps-capable, mid-plane free chassis design offers a remarkable new degree of flexibility when it comes to mixing and matching front-facing line cards with rear-facing fabric cards to better meet your specific network performance and topology requirements.
But that’s not all there is to flexibility these days; you also need to take into account the advances being made in SDN technology. With that particular market still in the process of sorting itself out, the 9516 is capable of operating in stand-alone mode, as well as supporting multiple forms of management automation, programmatic policy and dynamic workload-anywhere models. Yet another force to be reckoned with will be Cisco’s emerging Application Centric Infrastructure, a feature that will be available soon on the entire 9000-series, but that’s a different conversation for another time.
At first blush, the Nexus 9516 really seems to share the pedigree of the venerated Catalyst 6500 in the nature of its future-proof design and modular flexibility. The one major difference in this iteration of the Nexus line is Cisco’s use of Broadcom ASICs in combination with its own custom chips, a marriage that results in line cards with substantially fewer components, higher port densities, increased power efficiency and lower costs -- something for everyone to love. From everything we’ve seen so far, the Cisco Nexus 9516 may well be the standard by which future data center switches will be judged, and is our well-deserved Data Center category winner for 2014. – Steven Hill
NEXT: Management, mobility, and networking winners