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The Top IT Products of 2016: Best Of Interop Award Winners Announced

  • Today at Interop Las Vegas 2016, the winners of the 2016 Best of Interop awards were announced. The awards recognize innovation from Interop exhibitors across 10 categories of enterprise technology. The winners were presented in a live ceremony on the Interop Expo floor.

    These groundbreaking IT products and services tackle new problems or offer innovative ways to solve existing problems. The winners represent a range of new automation capabilities, improved feeds and speeds, and cutting-edge features.

    The Interop judging team, which includes IT practitioners, analysts and editors, poured through dozens of submissions to select three finalists in each category (view the list of finalists here). After in-depth briefings, demos and debate, the judges then chose the overall winners.

    The categories include technology areas such as networking, storage, cloud computing, and wireless, as well as the Best Startup, and Interop's best-in-show Grand Award.


    The judges said:
    A young company, even by startup standards, AppFormix emerged from stealth last June but is already achieving industry-wide recognition. The promise of AppFormix's technology is that it provides real-time control and monitoring of hybrid cloud infrastructure to enable the best possible application deployment environments.

    AppFormix is engaged with the broader cloud and IT community, designing its system to work with OpenStack and Docker containers in Kubernetes. The company is also providing integration with Intel processors and working on projects involving Kubernetes and Azure. Just last week, AppFormix partnered with Rackspace to provide its customers with real-time monitoring, analytics and optimization tools. The company's product fills a big need right now, and the hybrid cloud market the company addresses is a major concern for enterprise IT customers. 

    CollabNet TeamForge

    The judges said:
    Why is TeamForge an important product for enterprise infrastructure pros? The infrastructure is changing, DevOps and cloud automation are driving the greatest level of business value seen in infrastructure in a generation of technology. The lines between application and infrastructure are blurred.

    More and more, operations staff are thinking about development and developers are thinking about operations. The maturation of cloud services has fostered a maturity around DevOps teams and discussions across companies about "accelerating product development" using continuous development, continuous testing and deployment processes.

    It's with that spirit of change that TeamForge was selected as the winner of the application category. TeamForge is an ambitious collaboration tool that looks to merge the critical components of the development life cycle in one central modular tool. It is a tool that can be shared across application and infrastructure teams. 

    Cisco Nexus Fabric Manager

    The judges said:
    We are pleased to name the Cisco Nexus Fabric Manager the Data Center category winner for 2016. The new Cisco Nexus Fabric Manager (CNFM) appliance simplifies deployment and configuration for Cisco Nexus 9000 switches running in NX-OS mode. Initially, the CNFM management platform works out-of-band to identify all of the elements of a Nexus 9K data center environment to define network topology, and then rapidly automates configuration and role-based policy instructions to individual switches to build a fully-integrated, self-managed, VXLAN-based fabric in a fraction of the time that it would take to do so manually. The system is also designed to simplify additions or physical re-configuration of the network environment to accommodate growth and minimize downtime.

    In addition, the CNFM provides a unified tool for monitoring and managing the fabric as a single dynamic entity. This offers graphical topology views and autonomous health management capabilities and enables detailed and granular controls for network admins who appreciate the familiarity and efficiency of a CLI-based environment. Ultimately, the Cisco Nexus Fabric Manager promises to substantially reduce the amount of time and busy-work needed to administer a highly efficient data center network fabric.


    The judges said:
    As the cloud ecosystem matures, users expect stable environments that enable agile development and reliability for critical applications. However, cloud infrastructure is shared by definition, so resource contention is a fact of life. AppFormix provides a cloud monitoring and optimization platform that allows workload management that creates isolation between workloads, visibility into performance, and collaboration tools.

    AppFormix runs as an agent on the host system, and it can run inside a container that can run inside a virtual machine. Through integration with Intel, it can even monitor demands at the processor level. Dashboards and APIs provide visibility into each layer of the stack -- physical hardware, application software, and platform and management layers -- to show how applications consume server, storage and networking.

    The platform also provides policy-driven resource orchestration and optimization, proactively providing remediation to improve application performance. AppFormix could prove to be an indispensable tool in the management of cloud environments as container adoption increases and software-defined architectures become common.

    Cisco Flexible Radio Assignment

    The judges said:
    In the wireless market, it's increasingly more difficult to find key differentiators that not only impact the management of the network but the overall user experience. Through the flexible radio architecture Cisco has introduced, we are able to see a new feature set that not only differentiates a product, but helps with two key aspects of the wireless network: management and user experience.

    Traditional radio resource management (RRM) allows network managers the ability to determine the best channel, data rates, and antenna, and has helped simplify and automate some daunting tasks that can save deployment time. However, RRM cannot deploy access point hardware when a larger concentration of users shows up in a space. Usually this is accomplished by a network technician running down a hallway with a ladder, a spool of cable, and the required access point.

    Cisco flexible radio architecture alleviates this need by cycling an independent radio on and off within the access point to create a microcell as it is needed. As a higher concentration of users fills an area, this integrated radio is activated, using a separate antenna configuration, creating a new and smaller coverage area and re-allocating users to allow a better wireless experience.

    Advancements like this stand out because they show the flexibility of what can be done with software defined architecture and software defined radios. This early glimpse into how to use a software defined radio in an enterprise environment is a great sign of things to come for WiFi capabilities. 

    Pluribus VCF Insight Analytics

    The judges said:
    The dynamic nature of today's infrastructure makes tools that provide visibility into complex environments critical. Software-defined networking makes the performance monitoring task even more challenging, because traditional tools often lack sufficient insight into the emerging technology.

    In fact, a survey by Enterprise Management Associates of 150 early adopters of SDN showed that 60% to 69% say their existing performance and availability monitoring systems do not fully support data center SDN. Pluribus Networks has stepped in to fill the gap with VCF Insight Analytics (VCF-IA).

    The SDN startup's flow-based product provides deep visibility into its Netvisor SDN fabric to spot latencies and other network issues. VCF-IA also works with non-Pluribus networks via a Pluribus switch that acts as a collector of traffic from non-Pluribus network devices. While the company bills VCF-IA as low-cost network monitoring solution for branch offices and campus networks with non-Pluribus network infrastructure, its unique value comes in providing a high level of visibility into Pluribus networks.

    Cisco Enterprise Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)

    The judges said:
    Cisco's Enterprise Network Function Virtualization (NFV) has earned winner status in the Networking caegory because it creates a framework for deployment and management of virtual products such as iWAN and the ASA firewall on generic x86 platforms, as well as the ability to support third-party network functions. Enterprise NFV operates in both data center and remote office/branch office (ROBO) environments, giving networking professionals the flexibility to expand NFV deployments across their environments.

    Cisco Enterprise NFV has the potential to accelerate adoption of NFV by enterprises without having to deploy multiple hardware appliances at the branch. Licenses are portable from physical to virtual appliances, which protects existing investments while at the same time shows value for running software in a totally virtualized environment.

  • SDN
    VMware NSX 6.2

    The judges said:
    As software-defined networking matures, it continues to be a hotbed of innovation. Picking a winner in this category wasn't easy, but with the latest iteration of its NSX platform, VMware proved the front-runner.

    With NSX for vSphere 6.2, VMware has extended its networking reach beyond virtual to physical and extended its ecosystem to physical networking vendors. It offers innovation beyond the core product technology and looks to address not only the overlay capabilities of NSX, but the integration with the physical network supporting it. The platform's "day two" operational improvements with functionality like Traceflow also help to bring together physical and virtual networking worlds to speed problem identification and resolution.

    The scale improvements in this release are also important, extending to multi-site data centers and more complex management. VMware's ecosystem expansion helps to more closely link a collection of networking equipment suppliers that enterprises and service providers deal with today. The security and automation functionality of NSX have been key aspects of its value and the new release makes it possible to extend that reach and the benefits.

    Cisco FirePower Next-Generation Firewall

    The judges said:
    Cisco's Firepower might be described as the next generation of next-generation firewalls. While many enterprises have reaped benefits from the more granular protection offered by NGFWs over the last decade, Cisco has added a new dimension by incorporating context. FirePower effectively collects information about how users connect to applications, and integrates that contextual information with threat intelligence and policy enforcement data. This enables it to build a defense against the threats that are most relevant to a specific enterprise, making it easier and faster to identify and block sophisticated attacks.

    By tracking actual user behavior and relevant external threats, FirePower can also help security organizations automate and fine-tune security measures to fit their specific environments. This is a different approach to previous NGFWs, which focused primarily on tracking general application usage. Cisco compares its solution to home protection systems -- while legacy NGFWs protect the "home" by securing windows and doors, FirePower seeks to identify, detect, and stop "burglars" no matter how they might gain access. Cisco is augmenting that capability with The Cisco Security Segmentation Service, an advisory service that helps organizations identify their specific needs and create security controls.

    From an industry perspective, the FirePower NGFW helps security departments customize their defenses to fit the most serious and relevant threats, while also enabling the enforcement of policy and controls that are specific to the organization. These capabilities take the NGFW to a new level -- and are among the reasons why we selected it as our winner.