Do you know what we like most about our annual Products of the Year (POY) competition? It gives us a chance to see the very best that today’s IT industry has to offer. It’s a fantastic opportunity to forget all about the vendors’ names or revenue numbers, focus objectively on the products, and show you what those products can bring to your data center. We’re proud to announce that our tireless judges have finished their first pass and selected the final set of products for 2011. These are not the winners, but rather their top picks in computing hardware, infrastructure and systems management products. Judging will continue into January, and winners will be announced on Jan. 17, 2012.
It’s a thankless job
Selecting the best IT products is a difficult assignment, and we don’t envy the task that our judges have undertaken. Not only has there been a bumper crop of product submissions, but we’ve also raised the bar by revising and enhancing our judging criteria for 2011. Here is what we’re evaluating every product against this year:
- Innovation. Does the product introduce new capabilities or provide such significant improvements to standard capabilities that it stands out within its product category? Does it break new ground, redefine the category or define a new "subcategory" within the overall field?
- Performance. Does the product perform to the degree that it could improve a significant portion of the overall data center operation?
- Ease of integration into environment. How easily does the product integrate with other products – both from the same manufacturer and others? Can the product operate effectively in heterogeneous environments? Has the product been certified by a significant number of major vendors?
- Ease of use and manageability. Is the product easy to install? Are the product's interfaces intuitive? Are the product's functions clear as well as easy to learn and run? Is the product likely to require the help of professional services on an ongoing basis? Does the product provide useful reports, audits, etc.? Will the product scale smoothly to accommodate growth in an environment?
- Functionality. Does the product deliver as promised? Is the product's feature set complete and more than adequate to handle its job? Does the product provide greater or more useful functionality than others in its category? Compared with the competition, does the product feature key functions?
- Value. Does the product represent a cost-effective solution? Can the return on investment be easily justified? If the product is expensive or represents an additional cost for most data centers, is the added functionality worth the price? Will the product be cost effective to maintain total cost of ownership?
- User feedback. What are actual users saying about the product? Judges may check with customers to determine how nominated products meet the judging criteria above.
It’s thrilling to see how the vendors have responded! We received an amazing 75 product submissions, and every one made strong and compelling cases for each of our judging criteria. But ultimately our judges selected the strongest products below as finalists.
The computing hardware category includes all server-class computer hardware in any configuration and delivered in any form factor, including rack and blade. This category also includes related computing hardware such as networking and storage systems as well as integrated infrastructure suites.
Dell Inc.; vStart
Dell vStart comes assembled, delivered in a single rack, wired and ready to deploy from the factory. VStart solutions are optimized for VMware and Microsoft, and they both include plug-ins to simplify Dell infrastructure management.
Violin Memory Inc.; 6000 Flash Memory Array
This product is designed to high-read/write and low-I/O operations. This is what the future of virtualization will require when it comes to efficiently pushing down large workloads.
Hewlett-Packard Co.; CloudSystem
HP CloudSystem is a single unified architecture that combines hardware, software and services. It enables businesses to build and manage cloud services across private, public and hybrid clouds without knowing whether those services come from CloudSystem's own on-premises resources, from an existing infrastructure or from the public domain.
Riverbed Technology; Stingray Traffic Manager 8
Stingray Traffic Manager frees applications from the constraints of proprietary, hardware-based application delivery controllers (ADCs), enabling them to run in any physical, virtual or cloud environment, and to migrate and scale on demand.
Brocade; VDX 6720 Datacenter Switch
System performance degradation can usually be traced to the switching environment, but with this enterprise-ready switch, you're able to provide 60 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports that support Fibre Channel over Ethernet, iSCSI and network-attached storage.
F5 Networks Inc.; Viprion 2400 LTM v11
The F5 Viprion is a powerful ADC that uses modular performance blades. Blades can be added or removed with no disruption to applications. Deploy Viprion in an active/standby configuration to add another level of redundancy.
Hewlett-Packard Co.; ProLiant DL980 G7
This server machine, for its price point, is an absolute beast considering its throughput, amount of RAM and the raw power of 80 CPU cores – all for about $40,000.
Nutanix; Complete Cluster
Nutanix enables you to virtualize your data center without requiring a storage area network. The converged compute and storage architecture is a hardware and software solution that delivers a purpose-built building block for virtualization.
Infrastructure products are related to power generation, power protection, power distribution, air or water cooling, raised floors, environmental or green technologies, container-based data centers and any other “facilities-oriented” elements of a data center or facilities management.
CommScope Inc.; InstaPATCH ZERO
For data centers that require a high degree of flexibility and the ability to utilize multiple cabinet types and sizes, this product frees up cabinet space by removing patching and switching from the cabinets; it provide a neat, clean, uniform solution.
Continuity Software; RecoverGuard, v5.4
This product could well plug a major gap in the operations of most enterprises where the ability to recover is essentially untested and the time and best priorities unknown.
Tate Access Floors Inc.; DirectAire MultiZone Opposed Blade Damper
This new Tate product cuts air flow loss to around 10%, which is a dramatic air flow improvement. It also provides flexibility and configurability by decoupling the damper from the tile.
Tate Access Floors Inc.; SmartAire P
This airflow product is valuable in data center cooling designs that use cold-aisle containment with under-floor air delivery.
RF Code Inc.; R160 Air Pressure Sensor
The measurement of pressures and pressure differentials can be valuable in proper cooling and location of airflow tiles in air plenum floor systems or deciding whether to use perforated or “grate” type tiles and making damper adjustments.
Arbor Networks; Pravail Availability Protection System
This is a security product exclusively focused on stopping distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and availability threats that affect data centers and enterprise networks.
Eaton Corp.; Intelligent Power Software Suite, v1.2
This integrates with VMware’s vCenter to enable power management in a virtualized environment through the vCenter dashboard. It is also compatible with Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) including the Live Migration virtualization solution.
Dell Inc.(Rittal); EnergySmart Containment Rack
This product is usable with any air plenum raised floor, but is specifically compatible with the Tate “RackAire” product. Dell claims the cabinet can achieve cooling levels of 30 kW.
Systems management products include any systems management appliances and software products designed to measure, benchmark, report, provision, plan, and control servers and other data center devices. Entrants may include any systems management point products up through major management frameworks.
VMware Inc.; vCenter Operations Standard 1.0
VCenter Operations provides real-time, actionable dashboard-based information to infrastructure and operations teams. It is closely integrated with VMware vSphere and collects data from its supporting server, network and storage environments as well as other third-party management tools.
Dell Inc.; Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM)
AIM is a heterogeneous product, able to work with a variety of different vendors to maximize data center compute resources, often automatically. AIM also complements the existing systems management environment, integrating with several of the common virtualization and management products that are already in the data center.
Enterasys Networks Inc.; Data Center Manager (DCM) 1.1
DCM helps manage costs by automating policy provisioning for virtual machines (VMs) in both the physical and virtual network infrastructure. DCM also provides real-time visibility per virtual machine in both physical and virtual networks to the network and server administrators.
VKernel Corp.; vOperations Suite 4.0
This product simplifies virtualization management by visualizing, analyzing and remediating performance, capacity and cost issues in virtualized environments. Version 4.0 supports enterprise deployments with both Hyper-V and vSphere and adds robust visualization abilities.
Microsoft; System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 R2 SP1
This version includes a host of new and improved capabilities, such as support for Dynamic Memory and RemoteFX features, VM Queue and TCP Chimney features, Quick Storage Migration, and a streamlined process for updating all the VMs on a given host. This version also integrates with VMware VI3.
Splunk Inc.; Splunk 4.2
Splunk 4.2 is software product that collects, indexes and harnesses any machine data generated by an organization's IT systems and infrastructure (physical, virtual or cloud). Version 4.2 adds real-time alerting, a new Universal Forwarder, improved usability and performance, and centralized management capabilities for distributed Splunk deployments.
1E; NightWatchman Server Edition 2.5
NightWatchman Server Edition is an energy and efficiency software management product for servers. It measures useful work across physical and virtual servers, and can reduce energy consumption across all servers by continually analyzing how much power is used by business applications and how much is wasted on unproductive processes.
VMTurbo Inc.; Cloud Operations Manager
VMTurbo Cloud Operations Manager takes some of the best features in the systems management space and combines them into a product that provides excellent virtualization metrics and a reasonable cost as a single appliance-based solution based on SUSE Linux.
Watch for the winners in January
There you have it – the top picks in computing hardware, infrastructure and systems management. Our judges are back to work now, whittling down their picks to the top three Gold, Silver and Bronze entries, and we’ll announce the winning entries on Jan. 17, 2012. If you're curious about our previous awards, take a look at our award winners for 2010 and 2009.