Interop 2009 Show Winners

This year's champs come from every corner of IT -- cloud computing, virtualization, network management, security, wireless -- and more. Judges also handed out a green award, and picked a favorite startup before announcing the coveted Best Of Interop winner.

May 19, 2009

18 Min Read
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Category: Cloud Computing

Winner: VMware -- VMware vSphere 4

Judges: Charles Babcock, InformationWeek; Steven Schuchart, Current Analysis, Inc.

The adoption of server virtualization is growing by leaps and bounds every day. VMware has really stepped up in delivering the next-generation platform offering advanced features and capabilities that will propel x86-based server virtualization well into the next decade. The new and beefier vSphere 4 can manage up to 1,280 virtual machines on 32 servers -- or an average 40 VMs per server -- although there's no reason vSphere can't manage more than 40 if the customer wishes.

Each server in a vSphere cluster or private cloud may have up to 64 cores, and each VMware host under vSphere 4 may host 32 terabytes of RAM. But the statistical dimensions of vSphere 4 are less important than the way the product changes how we think about the data center. VMware's new vSphere 4 gives enterprises new levels of reliability and new features that competitors in this market space cannot currently match.

For example, the innovative Fault Tolerance feature of vSphere 4 allows enterprises to designate two identical blades within a chassis as a fault tolerant pair. When one blade fails, the second blade has an identical copy of the first, all the way down to memory and internal IO operations. This allows for instant failover, a feature that has in the past only been found on specialty servers designed for full fault tolerance. VMware Fault Tolerance can also automatically bring another identical blade into sync, re-creating a fault tolerant pair if such a blade is available.

Then there's vShield Zones, which address the security vulnerability of virtual machines by giving them a zone definition of what security measures must accompany their operation. This definition then follows the virtual machine around when it is moved by vMotion from one server to another. VMware Host Profiles in vSphere 4 make it much easier to determine what combination of components is a balanced one for the workload under consideration. And for added resource conservation, VMware Distributed Power Management tracks which servers are underutilized and could be shut down if their virtual machines were migrated to another server.

Under vSphere 4, the fully virtualized data center is really beginning to take shape and vSphere 4 is a big step forward in server virtualization; bringing new features and value along with general upgrades that make it truly Best of Interop.

-- Charles BabcockCategory: Collaboration

Winner: Cisco -- WebEx Node on Cisco ASR 1000 Series Routers

Judges: Nick Hoover, InformationWeek; Brad Shimmin, Current Analysis, Inc.

While cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) continue to gain traction in the enterprise, bandwidth and performance remain ongoing concerns of IT pros. Cisco's WebEx Node on ASR 1000 Series routers is a blade that runs WebEx software like an on-premises extension of Cisco's hosted service, greatly improving performance while decreasing bandwidth requirements.

Without a WebEx Node, all of a company's WebEx sessions connect over the Internet via disparate streams, potentially using up large amounts of bandwidth, especially with WebEx's new video and voice capabilities.

The WebEx Node acts as a point-of-presence at the edge router, meaning that internal meetings are hosted and switched onsite at the closest available node to consolidate required bandwidth. That way, in the case of a company holding a huge meeting, there's only one stream rather than hundreds. Since the WebEx Node is embedded in the ASR, network admins can also continue to maintain controls over network policies via ASR features such as deep packet inspection.

One success story: According to Cisco, a WebEx Node customer needed to have monthly meetings with thousands of employees, but didn't want to purchase all the bandwidth required for once-a-month meetings. Instead, the customer rented microwave links that didn't provide the best user experience. The WebEx Node has saved enough bandwidth that the company has turned on other pieces of WebEx such as video, that the company had been hesitant to bring onboard before. Cisco estimates companies using the WebEx Node can decrease bandwidth use by WebEx by up to 90% and WAN costs by up to 67%.

The 12-core processor, 4 Gbytes of memory, 256 Gbyte hard drive of the WebEx Node can accelerate the performance of up to 500 WebEx sessions via a single blade. When the node reaches capacity, it simply overflows automatically to the Web. Meetings that include both internal and external participants traverse the Web via encrypted SSL traffic.

Look for more from Cisco on this -- the company hopes to partner with third parties to build something similar for other services.

-- Nick HooverCategory: Data Center

Winner: Cisco -- Unified Computing System

Judges: Steven Hill, InformationWeek; Ray Lucchesi, Silverton Consulting

Throughout the beginning of 2009 there was a load of speculation about whether or not networking giant Cisco would make a move into the general computing hardware space. Well, the speculation is finally over because on April 16th Cisco announced its first computing platform, the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS). Based on a blade server core, the UCS offers all of the efficiencies inherent in blade server technology, but ups the ante by adding some twists to conventional server/network relationships.

It's obvious that Cisco was targeting the high-density virtualization market when it set out to design the system. The UCS chassis and blades take a more streamlined approach than others in the industry by reducing the number of components in each chassis without a huge compromise in processor density at rack level.

At present, each 6-U chassis can support up to 8- B200 M1 half-blade, or 4- B250 M1 full-blade servers. Both blade designs have two sockets for new Intel Xeon 5500-Series (Nehelem) quad-core processors, with the key difference between the two being RAM capacity.

The B200 can hold a substantial 12 DIMMs (96GB) of DDR3 memory, but the B250 offers an eye-popping 48 DIMMs -- or up to 384GB of memory per full-width blade. This would allow configurations from 64 cores and 768GB per chassis, to only 32 cores, but 1,536GB per chassis for those apps that could benefit from a little more memory.

With memory no longer being an issue, the next big trick is supplying those blades with enough IO, so each half blade is designed to support 20Gbps of redundant IO throughput, while the full blade has 40Gbps of bandwidth.

At present Cisco offers converged fabric blade adapters from both Emulex and QLogic, as well as their own M81KR Virtual Interface mezzanine IO card based on their Unified Fabric design. All three cards are dual-10Gb adapters and capable of offering numerous virtual interfaces that can be configured for either Ethernet or Fibre-Channel traffic.

To manage all this bandwidth at the backplane of the chassis there's room for dual UCS 2104XP Fabric Extenders that can provide 80Gbps of throughput, aggregate all IO traffic, and provide the interface for managing IO and blade server configuration. Breaking from conventional wisdom, Cisco has no management modules in its chassis and instead uses external Cisco UCS 6100-series Fabric Interconnects to aggregate the IO from and provide role-based management for all devices within the UCS chassis, as well as provide outside connectivity for FC and Ethernet.

This allows each chassis and blade to remain stateless and supports the dynamic transfer of identities such as MAC addresses, World Wide Names, and IP addresses to all components within the system when they require modification or replacement.

It's clear that Cisco examined the server virtualization challenge carefully when it designed the UCS. Everywhere you look, you can see how the engineers focused on removing virtualization bottlenecks and enabling flexible device management at every level -- plus they've left plenty of room for growth. That's why the UCS is our choice for the BOI Data Center and Storage Category winner for 2009.

-- Steven HillCategory: Infrastructure

Winner: Juniper Networks -- SRX650 Services Gateway

Judges: Mike Fratto, InformationWeek; William Terrill, Current Analysis, Inc.

Multi-service branch boxes that combine multiple features such as switch ports, routing, firewall, VPN, and so on, into a single system are nothing new. But Juniper's SRX650 packs a bunch of horsepower and features into a single unit and leaves room for expansion.

Priced at $16,000, the chassis includes routing, switching, firewall, IPSec , VPN, and content filtering all running on JunOS and managed through onboard GUI or Juniper's Network and Security Manager.

The modular SRX650 offers a handful of common interface options for T1/E1 and 16- or 24-port Ethernet modules with or without PoE. Juniper plans on adding DS3, OC3, and OC12 modules in the future. The switch fabric can push 120 GBps per switch/route engine (SRE) and dual, hot-swappable, SRE's in active/active failover is also envisioned.

Each SRE is a high-capacity computing system featuring a 12-core processor, 2GB of RAM, hardware-cryptographic acceleration, and hardware-based UTM signature matching.

The impressive hardware performance features 7 Gb/s firewall with NAT, 1.5 Gbps VPN, 900 Mbps AV. Two SRX650's can be installed in an active/active failover mode, maximizing investment in both units. Other security features such as IPS, Web filtering, anti-virus and anti-spam are available by additional software license. The dual 645W power supply can 32 PoE ports at 15.4 Watts per port, or more ports if each uses fewer watts.

The SRX-650 comes with a wealth of software features such as firewall, VPN, IDP/IPS, content filtering, Unified Access Control, routing, and switching. The relatively low cost coupled with Juniper's plans to add more features, new processing cards for application acceleration, and integration with Juniper's Network Security Manager (NSM) make the SRX650 an excellent candidate for a branch office appliance. For these reasons it was selected as the Best of Interop Infrastructure award.

-- Mike FrattoCategory: Network Management

Winner: ScienceLogic -- EM7 G3

Judges: Andrew Conry-Murray, InformationWeek; Bruce Boardman, Syracuse University

ScienceLogic's EM7 G3 is all about scalability. With a target audience of large enterprises and service providers, the network and business service monitoring system provides a package of features designed for large-scale deployments, including service monitoring for private and public clouds.

EM7 G3 takes a mostly agent-less approach to monitoring. Customers deploy collector appliances at key points on the network. These appliances can be configured to monitor a variety of devices and software, from network hardware to applications, operating systems and servers, both physical and virtual.

Collectors then gather event data from logs and SNMP traps, performance statistics, and configuration data, including hardware and software configurations. To speed discovery, the G3 uses fingerprints to identify device attributes, including which ports are open and what applications may be running on the device.

The company claims a single collector appliance can monitor 200 to 500 devices, and accept updates on 250 items per device per minute. Capable of processing much of the information themselves rather than sending raw data back to the central database, collectors can also be configured only to send changes back to the database. The database normalizes and stores information from the collectors.

The product can be deployed in a multi-tenancy mode, which is ideal for service providers that want to provide monitoring information to multiple customers. Enterprises can use the multi-tenancy deployment for chargebacks to different departments, or to set up separate monitoring interfaces for various private clouds.

The product also lets administrators perform end-to-end polling of public cloud applications. It uses an agent installed at a user site. Administrators use the agent to check availability and latency of SaaS applications such as Salesforce, or for applications running on public cloud services such as Amazon's EC2.

-- Andrew Conry-Murray

Category: Performance Optimization

Winner: Expand Networks -- Virtual Accelerator

Judges: Mike Fratto, InformationWeek; Larry Chaffin, Pluto Networks

Expands Virtual Accelerator brings application acceleration into virtualized environments in a meaningful way by leveraging the strengths of virtualization -- resource sharing and application mobility. The Virtual Accelerator, starting at $995, is a full-featured soft appliance that runs on VMWare's line of hypervisors from workstation through ESX Server 3 and includes support for layer-4 through layer-7 acceleration, advanced compression, and wide-area file services.

WAN optimization advanced compression caches data-to-disk, and is used to compress the traffic on the wire. If the virtual appliance is configured to use the SAN available to the hypervisor, Virtual Accelerators can be added or moved to another hypervisor connected to the same SAN and start using the existing disk cache immediately.

In the event of a computer hardware failure, a new virtual appliance can be running with a warm cache in the time it takes to create a new instance -- a few minutes. The Virtual Accelerator also benefits from VMWare's high availabilty to be restarted on a separate server, and a distributed resource scheduler to be managed without IT intervention.

Costs per remote office rise linearly as more offices are added. One way organizations are reducing costs is through consolidating applications back to a data center and reducing computers in the office. Using virtualization to consolidate critical resources onto a single platform makes sense and fitting in Expands Virtual Accelerator as one more service reduces another remote system.

Expand Network's Virtual Accelerator solves practical IT issues and leverages the flexibility and versatility of virtualization. That is why it is the winner of Best of Interop's Performance Optimization category.

-- Mike FrattoCategory: Security

Winner: Charge Anywhere -- Charge Anywhere PCI Security Solution

Judges: Tim Wilson, Dark Reading/InformationWeek; Andrew Braunberg, Current Analysis, Inc.
This year our judges have picked what may be a dark horse winner in the Security category: Charge Anywhere. It is a third-party service that allows small businesses to handle credit card data in a manner that makes them PCI-compliant right out of the box.

Charge Anywhere was chosen because PCI compliance is a huge problem for the retail and banking industries, and small business is the greatest weak spot in the credit card chain. It is estimated that fewer than 25 percent of small businesses are PCI compliant, and some estimates go as low as 10 percent.

The Charge Anywhere service makes it possible for all small businesses to achieve the same level of PCI compliance as major retailers, but at a price that isn't much more than a phone bill. A service like this could really make a difference in how many small companies comply with PCI . In the process, it would take the credit card data out of their hands, eliminating a major entry point for identity theft and other forms of computer crime.

From a technical perspective, Charge Anywhere is unique. The company has spent four years essentially building a Level-1-compliant data center that can accept input from all types of credit-card-processing devices -- point of sale terminals of all different vendors and types, mobile devices used by fleet services and retailers at trade shows, even desktop PCs and Blackberrys.

Although there are some PCI compliance offerings on the back end (mainly credit card processors), and at the retailer end (mostly POS terminals and associated services), this is the only service that offers PCI compliance on both ends without forcing the retailer to change the hardware or software they use for handling credit cards.

And because it's a service, it doesn't require the end user to know anything about PCI compliance or security, and it essentially eliminates all need for the small business to get itself in trouble by storing personal credit card data.

We could have picked another enterprise box or appliance, but this is the one thing that we saw that was truly different that meets a crying need in the market, and that is transformational in the way it affects the everyday operations of the businesses that use it.

-- Tim WilsonCategory: Wireless & Mobility

Winner: Aruba -- 600-Series Branch Office Controllers

Judges: Michael Brandenburg, InformationWeek; David Molta, Syracuse University

Traditionally, deploying networks to remote sites meant a lot of work for IT personnel. Many times, the gear is brought in house, configured, repackaged, and finally shipped back to the remote site. Installation typically involves putting an IT person onsite, adding travel expenses, and lost productivity to the costs of the remote deployment.

Aruba's 600 Series Branch Office Controllers mitigate many of the pain points of delivering wireless and wired network to branch locations and remote sites. The controllers, part of Aruba's Virtual Branch Networking architecture, can be configured by having remote users simply enter the Web address of the central WLAN controller. A secure VPN link is created and all wired and wireless configuration, user security policies, and the remote site is brought online, without putting IT boots on the ground.

If there is trouble, a simplified diagnostic page helps remote users quickly relay the status to the network administrators, and if necessary, reset the controller to factory fresh and reload from the main controller.

Combined with options for network attached storage (NAS), 3G cellular connectivity, and wireless mesh services, the Aruba 600 Branch Office Controller covers all the bases for a branch-office-in-a-box solution, no matter where the branch office may be.

As many enterprises transition from traditional offices and cube farms to remote sites, virtual offices, and telecommuting, the benefits of Aruba's zero-touch remote management are clear: simplified configuration and management, reduced deployment costs, and a minimal hardware footprint at remote locations.

-- Michael Brandenburg

Category: Best Start Up Company

Winner: Rhomobile -- Rhodes

Judge: John Foley, InformationWeek

So many smartphones, so little time, what's an application developer to do? Rhomobile's open source framework may be the answer. Rhomobile's Ruby-based framework, called Rhodes, lets developers write applications in HTML for five of the most popular smartphone operating environments: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Symbian, and Windows Mobile.

If ever an argument was to be made for a write-once, run-anywhere approach, smartphones are it. Businesses have a hard time mandating that employees use a standard mobile device, and, given the many great options out there, why should they? The trick isn't to limit user choice, but to develop capabilities for a variety of platforms efficiently. Rhomobile lets mobile developers do that.

For all of these reasons -- its openness, portability, and, with HTML, familiarity -- Rhomobile is our choice for the best startup at Interop. The privately held company is located in Silicon Valley and has received venture funding from vSpring Capital.

Rhodes 1.0 was introduced in March. The framework allows access to smartphone capabilities such as GPS, personal contacts, SMS push, and camera, works with software-as-a-service applications, and supports offline work via a synchronized local data store.

Because Rhomobile is a startup, it has few named customers and not much of a track record. For those reasons, potential customers should exercise due diligence and spend time with the Rhodes framework before getting in too deep. That said, Rhodes is a promising solution to a common smartphone dilemma.

-- John FoleyCategory: Green Award

Winner: Cisco -- Cisco EnergyWise

Judge: Steven Hill, InformationWeek

Every year we're delighted to see more and more companies nominating new products that are designed with energy efficiency in mind. This is a great thing when you consider the scale of modern data centers, and we're seeing even more enlightened vendors extending their green initiatives to include their manufacturing practices, packaging and end-of-life strategies to reduce their impact overall impact on the environment.

This year's Green Category winner -- Cisco EnergyWise -- is a surprising new centralized energy management initiative by Cisco, designed to extend energy monitoring and management capabilities well beyond its own products. With the January 2009 purchase of intelligent middleware company Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence, Inc., Cisco laid the foundation for a long-term strategy that leverages the capabilities of many of its switching and routing products as a communication platform to monitor, measure and control the energy use of systems and devices throughout the enterprise.

In March of this year, Cisco began offering a free firmware patch for a number of Catalyst products to enable device communication and discovery for this project. But this is only part of a much larger and aggressive concept to establish role-based energy monitoring and management capabilities for Ethernet devices like IP phones, computers, printers, and wireless endpoints.

From a big-picture standpoint, this system is also envisioned to be extensible to virtually any network-enabled system such as lighting, HVAC and other facility-wide control devices. In its goal to establish such a complex and broad power management platform it appears that Cisco is going to great lengths to offer an open API on their end, as well as remaining adaptable to API's from existing IP-manageable systems. This also applies to the top level, where the EnergyWise system can be managed by either Cisco's Network Management products or a third-party energy management solution.

-- Steven Hill

Category: Best Of Interop

Winner: VMware - VMware vSphere 4

Judges: Charles Babcock, Michael Brandenburg, Andrew Conry-Murray, John Foley, Mike Fratto, Steven Hill, Nick Hoover, InformationWeek; Tim Wilson, Dark Reading; Andrew Braunberg, Steven Schuchart, Brad Shimmin, William Terrill, Current Analysis, Inc.; Larry Chaffin, Pluto Networks; Ray Lucchesi, Silverton Consulting; Bruce Boardman, David Molta , Syracuse University.

With over 160 products vying for recognition, trying to decide the top winner for Best Of Interop is always a challenge. Interestingly enough, the choice this year became a knock-down, drag-out challenge between two companies whose products actually fit hand-in- glove. Cisco's new UCS and the latest iteration of VMware's venerable virtualization platform, vSphere 4, were top-flight contenders to the very end.

Though it was almost a chicken and egg argument, our BOI winner -- VMware's vSphere 4 -- emerged as the winner because of its outstanding innovation, industry-wide impact, and substantial improvement over previous generations.

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