NEC Corporation of America
Judges: Steven Hill (Interop), Andrew Conry-Murray (InformationWeek)
2012 was a big year for the Management, Monitoring, and Testing category, with almost 40 high-quality entries. But this year's winner is unique in that there's nothing comparable on the market today. As mentioned in the Best of Interop Grand Prize category, the PF6800 ProgrammableFlow Controller from NEC stands alone as the first commercial OpenFlow network controller to advance beyond an open-source project in the software defined network (SDN) movement. The PF6800 is an important first.
OpenFlow networks require a master controller to orchestrate the network environment, and as of now the NEC PF6800 ProgrammableFlow is the only controller you can buy. Being the first at anything paints a huge target on your back, so NEC deserves a lot of credit for taking OpenFlow out of the lab and into the real world. The open-source controllers out there may be a good starting point for testing and development purposes, but most companies want a product with a vendor--and the accompanying technical support--behind it before they'll trust production loads to such an important role. NEC offers the PF6800 controller as an appliance or as a software product that can run on your server hardware of choice. This can be important for companies that prefer to minimize their hardware footprint.
There were other strong MM&T finalists: Riverbed's Virtual Cascade Shark offers an excellent tool to provide analytics and visibility into virtual switches in VMware's ESXi hypervisor. And Net Optics' Spyke appliance provides detail about every single network transaction you could want, plus root-cause analysis capabilities for problem resolution at a price that's viable for smaller businesses as well as large enterprises. But it's hard to beat something as groundbreaking as the NEC PF6800 ProgrammableFlow Controller.
The PF6800 is based on the OpenFlow 1.0.0 standards published by the Open Networking Foundation, making it the only commercial controller that's cross-functional with products from dozens of OpenFlow-based networking companies. The promise of SDN--making deployment of network capacity as quick and easy as launching a virtual server--is appealing. New competition is good for the industry and will hopefully spur innovation. --Steven Hill