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Prizewinning IT Products: Best Of Interop 2015

  • The wait is over!

    It's with great pleasure that we announce the winners of the 2015 Best of Interop awards. The awards recognize innovation from Interop exhibitors across nine categories of enterprise technology. The winners were unveiled in a ceremony on the Interop Expo floor Tuesday.

    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 91 submissions to determine the finalists. After in-depth briefings, demos and debate, the judges chose the winners.

    The categories include networking, storage, cloud computing, and mobility. Awards were also presented for Grand Award winner and Best Startup. Interop attendees vote live for the Audience Choice during Wednesday's keynotes.


  • Grand Award & Applications Winner

    JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service

    Directories have long been dominated by Microsoft Active Directory and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), but Active Directory doesn't work with Gmail, Mac, and Linux devices -- or some cloud servers. With the exception of a few holdouts, the days of the single-vendor shops are over. With access from so many devices and applications required, JumpCloud is offering what could potentially be any entirely new category of app: Directory-as-a-Service.

    Many enterprises find themselves with pocket directories to handle access for services not covered by AD or LDAP. This can create security leaks, management headaches, and lost productivity.

    JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service can act as an extension or a replacement for existing AD or LDAP directories. It lets you extend access to SaaS applications and allows for cross-platform device management.

    JumpCloud promises easy set up and to become the authoritative directory for your entire enterprise. It also promises easy user configuration, credentials, key management, and employee self-service for managing data, passwords, and multi-factor authentication. It also serves as an all-in-one management tool for Mac, Windows, and Linux devices with security and management control.

    Creating a more secure environment allowing multiple cloud offerings in a quick-to-manage, single-stop option is a potential game changer for admins wrestling with allowing access to multiple cloud and on-prem applications from an increasing array of devices.

  • Cloud & Virtualization Winner

    FixStream Operational Analytics and Visualization Platform

    Where other data center management systems rely on log files and data from physical or virtual management systems, FixStream maps physical and virtual devices together, then benchmarks performance for each system. It can then function like a real-time change management database, capturing any additions or changes in the data center and building them into the map.

    When there's a slowdown, FixStream gets that information in real-time, and allows a system administrator to click through various high-level views down toward the root cause. If application performance is slow, FixStream determines whether it's a network segment or the database system, and what specifically in either one is the problem.

    Founder Sameer Padhye calls it, "a Google Maps for the cloud data center, because it puts operations in the context of a troublesome application or slowing business process, allowing a birds-eye view that then zeros in on the details.

  • Data Center Winner

    Cisco Intelligent Traffic Director

    Cisco Intelligent Traffic Director (ITD) takes its widely installed Nexus 5K, 6K, 7K, and 9K switching platform and turns it into a wirespeed layer 4 switch with nothing more than a software upgrade and licensing fee per switch. There is no service module to take up chassis real estate.

    ITD load-balances servers or services such as firewalls, proxies, deep-packet inspection engines, and L7 application delivery controllers, with no need for WCCP or other control protocols. Neither hosts nor servers/services being load-balanced need to be aware of ITD.

    Configuration is reasonably simple at the CLI with just a few statements per service, or optionally configured via the Cisco DCNM GUI management tool.

    Although ease-of-use is a key feature, performance is what makes ITD so compelling. Cisco has come up with an algorithm that works with various Nexus ASICs to achieve L4 load balancing at line rate and large scale. Using a minimal amount of TCAM space (less than a similar function using WCCP), ITD load-balances a virtually unlimited number of clients to as many as 2,000 servers or services.

    The service is also resilient, working identically across multiple physical switches without having to maintain state between them. The end result for customers is a layer 4 load-balancing service that's integrated into their Nexus switching fabric.

    For customers with straightforward load-balancing needs, ITD will be able to replace their slower load-balancer appliances with a lower cost and much higher performing alternative.

  • Mobility Winner

    Cisco Hyperlocation Module

    Businesses that want to provide information to visitors can do so more effectively when they know the location of their visitors. But the ability to precisely locate people strictly through network interactions with their smartphones can vary greatly, depending on the quality of the WLAN design.

    Cisco's Hyperlocation Module changes that equation. It allows network owners to determine the location of connected devices to within one meter, compared to the five- to seven-meter accuracy obtainable by comparing data from multiple access points.

    Cisco's technology has the potential to enable better asset management and wayfinding in businesses, more relevant shopper engagement in retail settings, and more contextually appropriate interaction in museums and schools.

    Location-based services are hot. Increased accuracy only further enables the potential of what is sometimes called "indoor GPS." Hardware beacons have been used for this purpose, but many businesses would prefer not to take on the management and maintenance of more hardware. Where complex WLAN systems are in use, administrators already frequently suffer from "UI overload," so third-party beacon frameworks can come with baggage.

    Cisco's Hyperlocation Module can simulate up to five virtual beacons to enable location-specific communication without physical beacons. The Hyperlocation Module attaches to Cisco Aironet 3700 and 3600 Series access points, so current customers can leverage what they already own into new capabilities. With built-in BLE beacons, it supports BLE as well as WiFi networking in an interesting, integrated package.

    Its no coincidence that Cisco has also recently overhauled its Mobility Service Engine (MSE) platform to version 10, as the company amps up the focus on location capabilities. MSE 10 joins the Hyperlocation Module in ushering Cisco's latest version of a feature set that competitors are actively aiming to top, and this race is really just beginning.

    (Image: Riaz Kanani)

  • Networking Winner

    ALE Intelligent Fabric

    This year's round-up for Best of Interops Networking category ran the gamut of solutions, but after the dust settled, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise's Intelligent Fabric came out on top, because the operational benefits built into Intelligent Fabric span the data center and campus LAN.

    Starting with zero-touch provisioning, new nodes are added to the Intelligent Fabric, and a discovery process initiates where the switch learns from the network the basic configuration requirements to participate in the network. This greatly reduces the time to install and configure a new node.

    The Intelligent Fabric also auto configures when attached to non-ALE switches by discovering the Ethernet, then routing protocols in use and configuring itself. Administrators who prefer more manual installation can adjust the degree of the automated configuration.

    ALEs Intelligent Fabric discovery and configuration extends to VXLAN tunnels in the data center. The Intelligent Fabric snoops VXLAN traffic and will apply the appropriate virtual network profiles (vNP) to the VXLAN tunneled traffic. As VMs move from hypervisor to hypervisor, auto-detection and vNP application follow along.

    The VXLAN detection occurs without any specific integration with the hypervisor or virtual networking product, and thus supports a variety of overlay products. It also provides a consistent network configuration for both physical and virtual workloads.

    ALE has also added SDN capabilities to Intelligent Fabric including support for OpenStack Kilo and python scripting. ALE eases management by adding predictive analytics and KPI reporting to its OmniVista 2500 management system, as well as creating support services to help customers transition to ALE networking.

    The business demands placed on data center and campus LAN networking are growing and IT is looking for better, more efficient ways to deliver services. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprises Intelligent Fabric addresses those demands by simplifying network operations and providing a foundation for further SDN capabilities.

  • Performance, Management & Monitoring Winner

    VMware vRealize Operations 6

    The single pane of glass is the ideal goal of IT management tools. Like Tolkiens One Ring, its the master system that allows for perfect visibility into, and ultimate control over, your entire domain. Also like Tolkiens One Ring, the single pane of glass is a fiction.

    But even though you cant go full Sauron over your data center with a single product, you can minimize the number of panes through which you view and manage your environment.

    VMwares goal for vRealize Operations 6 is to be a general-purpose tool to manage heterogeneous data center and cloud environments. To that end, version 6 (formerly known as vCenter Operations Management) extends its monitoring and management capabilities beyond vSphere to encompass Hyper-V and KVM hypervisors and Amazon Machine Instances.

    Dashboards and reports provide current and historical views into performance, capacity, and configuration metrics across vSphere, Hyper-V, and KVM. Administrators can also take actions on vSphere and third-party hypervisors, such as adding memory or CPU to a specific VM, or changing configuration properties.

    Version 6 can also monitor workloads in AWS. It uses Amazons CloudWatch API to grab performance metrics and display them in the vRealize console.

    Advanced and Enterprise versions of vRealize Operations 6 also monitor and provide analytics for third-party SAN storage, middleware, and databases, as well as operating systems including Windows, Linux, and Solaris.

    Version 6 also represents a full redesign of the platform to support scale-out deployments. vRealize can be deployed as nodes based on performance requirements and the number of objects to be monitored. As the number of objects being managed grows, administrators can add more nodes to support larger data sets.

    This scale-out architecture also improves resiliency. If one node goes down, the system can fail over to other nodes to continue operations.

    VMwares vRealize 6 may not be the One Ring, but if youre running a heterogeneous environment its worth a look for one of your data centers panes of glass.

  • SDN Winner

    Cisco APIC

    The competition for the award in the Best of Interop SDN category was not only heated, but nuanced. In technology that is advancing as rapidly as SDN, a decision winds up being something of a moving target. While the field presented a set of clear innovators as finalists, the decision was swayed by the most recent innovations in the winner, the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC).

    The Cisco APIC represents a network-centric view of control that extends up to application functionality. It offers a scalable design that breaks new ground in the way in which its control capabilities are extended to the broader network infrastructure that it looks to manage. It has the ability to integrate native network control with the virtual implementations that run on top of them.

    The APIC is the policy management core of Ciscos Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) architecture. It's able to make application-aware policy decisions to manage native network performance. It provides operational visibility and situational awareness for application performance. APICs multitenant capabilities allow resource and control partitioning that can address enterprise and service-provider requirements. The path control capabilities can perform service insertion for security, resilience, and scaling functionality.

    While targeted at Cisco environments, its declarative OpFlex protocol is being supported by a growing community of partners, including Avi Networks, Citrix, F5, and Red Hat. APIC supports multiple hypervisors, and Cisco has submitted OpFlex to the IETF. The APIC object repository is also available through a RESTful API for integration with other systems and services.

    The challenges for managing SDN environments are complex and require policy capabilities that can deal with the full stack from application requirements down to low-level path performance. Ciscos efforts with APIC to date are impressive, encompassing multiple levels of visibility and control. There is still considerable potential to be delivered and we expect much more to come in SDNs rapid growth.

  • Security Winner

    Dell SonicWall Secure Remote Access

    One of the greatest challenges for IT security departments today is the enforcement of mobile-device security-policy -- finding ways to ensure that the data accessed via user-owned mobile devices is secure, without restricting the devices ability to function.

    With its new Secure Remote Access (SRA) Series of products, Dell SonicWall takes a major step forward in solving that challenge. SRA lets organizations create policies that provide context-aware authentication, granting access only to trusted devices and authorized users.

    A major component of the SRA Series is the Mobile Connect app, which provides simple, policy-enforced, network-level access for users of Apple iOS, MacOSX, Google Android, Kindle Fire, and Windows 8.1 mobile devices.

    With the Mobile Connect app, authenticated users can securely browse and view allowed intranet file-shares and files. Administrators can establish and enforce policy to control whether files accessed and viewed with the Mobile Connect app can be opened in other apps, copied to the clipboard, printed, or cached securely within the Mobile Connect app. This lets administrators isolate business data from personal data stored on the device and reduces the risk of data loss.

    If a users login credentials are revoked, user authentication will fail, and content stored in the Mobile Connect app is locked and can no longer be accessed or viewed.

    From an access control perspective, the SRA management console consolidates network access control of all Web resources, file shares, client-server resources, host-based resources (such as virtual desktop), and back-connect applications (such as VoIP) into a single location, with central administration and a single rule set for all resources and access methods. The SRA appliances also allow system administrators to set role-based policies for end-users.

    SRA helps organizations securely bridge the gap between personal devices and corporate data in a way that is relatively simple and low-cost.

  • Storage Winner

    NEC Hydrastor HS8-4000

    The latest version of NECs Hydrastor includes enhancements that increase the backup platform's interoperability and boost overall performance by four times.

    Hydrastor is, and has been for years, the biggest, fastest system that deduplicates data to spinning disk. Its grid architecture and use of erasure coding gives it a level of resiliency and scale significantly beyond that of the competition -- it can support up to 165 nodes and is capable of 40 TB/hr throughput per node.

    Enterprises with huge backup requirements or that run archival applications where the data is duplicable should consider this system.

    Over the past few years, storage vendors have been offloading part of the deduplication compute load from the backup appliance to the media server. This lets solutions like Symantecs OST and EMCs Boost accelerate backups and reduce the network traffic those backups generate.

    The problem with this approach is that it requires that both the application and the deduplicating storage system support the same proprietary API -- and those APIs were designed strictly to support the backup workload.

    NECs latest addition to HydraStor, Deduped Transfer technology, lets applications use standard file-read-and-write APIs to write data to Hydrastor and still gain the advantages of source deduplication acceleration. This is especially attractive for media, entertainment, and other archive use-cases where the best archiving applications dont support OST or BOOST.