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  • 04/01/2014
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Best Of Interop 2014 Winners Unveiled

The Best of Interop award recognizes innovation in nine categories, including networking, storage, cloud, and security.

Performance Winner

Spirent Avalanche NEXT

Judges: Mike Fratto, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Network Systems, Current Analysis

Ethan Banks, Founder, Packet Pushers Interactive, LLC

Spirent’s Avalanche NEXT wins in the performance category, because we believe it has finally brought application performance testing capabilities into the realm of traditional IT. Performance load testing has historically been a complex and costly process, because building and verifying the test bed, defining the tests, and interpreting the results required expertise in a variety of disciplines. Avalanche NEXT packages performance and security tests into ready-to-use profiles, creating both the client and server networks and hosts, a functionality which greatly simplifies test generation and execution. With an ongoing subscription, users can download new tests from Spirent as they are made available.

Avalanche NEXT users can also create custom tests based on packet captures that will analyze the packet capture and generate a test scenario with the capability to edit the resulting testing, including changing protocol timings and protocol mixes. NEXT can also be used for protocol fuzzing, a technique of manipulating protocols in abnormal, unexpected ways to test how the target device reacts. Avalanche NEXT tests can be created and modified using a well-designed GUI with intuitive controls.

Tests can be shared among the customer’s team, allowing experts in networking or security to build specific tests that others can use in a repeatable fashion. There is also a full API so that tests can be defined and executed programmatically. Avalanche NEXT is well suited for testing network infrastructure supporting applications, providing excellent ease of use, flexibility, and predictability. Avalanche brings complex testing within reach of the average enterprise. – Mike Fratto

Security Winner

SpectorSoft - Spector 360 Recon

Judges: Tim Wilson, Editor, Dark Reading

John Pironti, President, IP Architects, LLC

Since the release of sensitive military documents to WikiLeaks two years ago -- followed by the even larger release of national security documents by NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year -- enterprises have been enormously aware of the dangers of insider data leaks. Enterprises understand that they need a better way to monitor employee activity and restrict the distribution of sensitive information, but they are also reluctant to play the role of Big Brother, making employees uncomfortable by tracking their every move and robbing them of any privacy they might have while on the corporate network.

Enter Spector 360 Recon, a new approach to protecting corporate data from insider theft that also provides some level of privacy for the employee. Like products that preceded it, Spector 360 offers the ability to monitor employee activity at a highly granular level, and even offers video-like screen captures that show a user’s actions, including the systems, applications, file shares, websites, and databases that a particular user has been accessing.

Unlike previous user monitoring tools, however, Spector 360 Recon logs user activity in a secure “black box” for 30 days, encrypting the data so that it cannot be casually observed by IT staff. When suspicious activities are detected, early warning alerts are generated, and the organization has the power to decide whether or not further review is necessary -- and specifically who should have access to the information. This preserves the privacy of users who have not given their organization reason to believe they are a threat, while ensuring that the organization will be warned if a user is consistently breaking policy or engaging in activities that might suggest malicious or dangerous activity.

While the judges reviewed many great new products for this year’s security awards, Spector 360 Recon seemed particularly groundbreaking, in that it solves a critical, high-profile security problem – tracking user activity to prevent data leaks while also solving a sensitive, problematic IT problem: protecting user privacy in the enterprise. The resolution of both these problems in an affordable, safe manner makes Spector 360 Recon a two-pronged groundbreaker -- and the clear winner in this year’s security category competition. – Tim Wilson

Storage Winner

VMware - VSAN

Judges: Howard Marks, Chief Scientist, Deep Storage.Net

Steven Hill, Senior Analyst, Data Center Solutions, Current Analysis

VMware’s VSAN is the standard bearer for a new class of storage solutions that promise to revolutionize how the world buys storage. Taking its cue from the Web 2.0 world of hyperscale datacenters, VSAN promises to replace the expensive centralized storage arrays using custom ASICs that have ruled the storage roost for the past two decades.

VSAN, which runs directly in the VMware ESXi hypervisor, takes the flash SSD and spinning disk installed in a cluster of ESXi servers into a single shared pool of hybrid storage. This eliminates not only the storage array itself, but also the complexity of connecting the ESXi hosts to a dedicated SAN. As in hyperscale storage systems like Hadoop and Google’s GFS, VSAN provides data protection by replicating virtual disk files across multiple hosts in the cluster rather than relying on RAID.

While similar technology has been available in the so called hyper-converged systems from Nutanix, ScaleComputing and Simplivity, VSAN and the other emerging server SAN products deliver this distributed storage without locking users into specific hardware configurations. – Howard Marks

Best Startup Winner

Basic6

Judges: Steven Hill, Senior Analyst, Data Center Solutions, Current Analysis

Andrew Conry-Murray, Director of Content & Community, Interop

A relative newcomer to the management market, Connecticut-based Basic6 offers an interesting, intuitive and inexpensive approach for managing resources in the data center, on the ground and in the cloud. Its agent-less solution is designed to provide single-pane-of-glass visibility and control over servers, cloud resources, user accounts and even Windows, Linux, and Macintosh-based end user systems. Basic6's first product was released in April 2013 and features a Microsoft Management Console, SSH server management, Amazon Web Services access, command line or GUI interfaces, and a file management system that supports drag and drop.

The Best Startup category is all about small new companies with big ideas, and Basic6’s goal is to help you tame of the many-headed beast made up of cloud resources, server systems, user devices and embedded endpoint technologies that are challenging IT managers of today. Don’t believe us? Well, the Basic6 product is currently available for anyone to test in the form of a download from the company's website. We all know that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and there’s nothing like testing a product for free in your own environment to establish its potential value to your company. Sometimes a big idea can be smaller than you might think. – Steven Hill


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