The data center products of the year fall into three categories:
Systems management software tools IT managers can't live without
According to SearchDataCenter.com's 2009 data center purchasing intentions survey, only 9% of U.S. data center managers plan to increase spending on systems management tools. Budget-strapped IT shops simply don't have the staff or the money to support high-maintenance systems management software -- they need an off-the-shelf, inexpensive technology.
That is exactly why Service-Now.com walked away with Gold for the 2009 systems management product of the year. Service-Now is systems management delivered as a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering that provides IT process automation and IT service management functions, competing against the entrenched Big Four vendors -- BMC, CA, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
The company has garnered customers away from its competitors by offering simple pricing plans ($100 per seat per month) and frequent, painless software upgrades. In April 2009, SearchDataCenter.com reported that data center managers had jumped ship from clunky legacy framework tools to Service-Now.com, and enthusiasm for the software has steadily grown.
One common thread among Service-Now.com users -- they're all frustrated by the Big Four. One data center manager described a competing service desk product from one of the Big Four providers as "riddled with bugs, unstable (crashing daily), and inflexible as well."
IT managers said they loved Service-Now.com's Web-based delivery model and that the product's out-of-the-box workflow and customization options really allow the company to wrap its IT processes around the tool quickly.
The hottest server models of 2009
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the enterprise server category of data center products of the year was which hardware products didn't make the cut. One might have expected to see Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) product take a medal, and while judges scored Cisco's UCS servers high on innovation, they were hesitant to give it high rankings on other criteria, such as performance.
"I was a bit [more] conservative in scoring Cisco's UCS servers than the others, mainly because they've been in the market for so short a time," said one judge. "The company deserves kudos for audacity but determining overall performance and manageability will take a while longer."
It was also surprising that none of the newly labeled Energy Star-rated 1U servers were on the short list of award winners. "There really seemed to be a fall off in interest in energy efficiency," said one judge. "It was a really hot topic in the early half of 2009, but as the economic situation continued to deteriorate, the whole green IT thing seemed to take a hit."
Instead, high-density, high-performance servers made the cut.
The winning server of SearchDataCenter.com's 2009 Products of the Year was IBM's System x iDataPlex dx360 M2.
IBM debuted the iDataPlex server form factor in April 2008, but did not nominate the product last year. Big Blue's latest version boasts Intel's 5500 series Nehalem processors, a factor that helped it walk away with the Gold.
Our judges were impressed that this product was designed with the large-scale Web server farm in mind. The half-depth server form factor is straight out of the Yahoo-Google playbook. Also, typical Web farms don't need highly available hardware, so IBM removed the expensive high-availability features and lowered the price.
"This is the hardware that Web 2.0 companies require in their data centers," one judge commented. "IBM is building what the customers are telling them to build."Click here for the Silver and Bronze award winners in the server hardware category.
Data center infrastructure
In data center power and cooling arena over the past couple of years, measurement and metrics have been hot topics, and SynapSense's Data Center Monitoring and Energy Management (SynapSoft 5.0) is a powerful tool to help IT managers track what's actually going on in their data centers.
The SynapSense data center monitoring and energy management system uses wireless sensors to monitor all the environmental aspects of the data center. IT managers can use it to assess current operating conditions, identify opportunities and quantify efficiency improvements.
The SynapSense monitoring system tracks temperature, humidity levels, dew point, subfloor air pressure differential and computer room air conditioner unit efficiency.
"The ability to see the temperatures graphically, in real time and throughout the room, makes fine-tuning the raised floor to eliminate wasted cold air and eliminate hot spots possible," said one reference customer. "As an engineer, I appreciate the ability to raise the temperature differential, making the cooling solution more efficient."
The IT manager also cited the product's ability to bring IT and facilities departments together with a common language.
"This product, properly applied, can provide graphic tools to make management of the computer room easier," said one judge. "This tool does the analysis and presents the data usefully, functions most sites do not have staff to perform. It's a real staff-extender."
The ability to do more with fewer IT staff is probably the No. 1 criteria for a data center product of the year in 2009. Check out our full report on Data Center Products of the Year 2009.
What did you think of this feature? Write to SearchDataCenter.com's Matt Stansberry about your data center concerns at email@example.com.