10 IT products for taking your network to the next level

Page 4 of 5

Need a deeper look into your virtual environment so you can charge departments for resource use? Want to keep closer track of communications among virtual machines? Ready for a product that extends the life of the batteries operating your critical wireless networks? Here are 10 best-of-their-kind products for increasingly sophisticated IT environments.


Slideshow: Get a visual view of these 10 advanced IT products.

Podcast: How to optimize a data center through automation.


1. Altor Networks' Virtual Network Security Analyzer

Availability: Now Starts at $500 per physical server; supports an unlimited number of virtual machines. A required Altor Center management system supporting unlimited VNSA agents costs $1,500. The VNSA appliance lets IT departments oversee virtual switches to make sure that communications among virtual machines are compliant and secure. It relies on agents for monitoring traffic and a centralized management tool for detecting, analyzing and alleviating problems across the virtual enterprise. For instance, VNSA can alert IT groups to top talkers, configuration errors, inappropriate protocols, network anomalies and compliance issues. "Not only can the technology look at [virtual] traffic, it can act on it. It can drop packets, manipulate traffic and quarantine machines," says Phil Hochmuth, senior analyst at Yankee Group. (Read more.) Nielsen Mobile, a division of The Nielsen Company, uses VNSA for real-time and historical monitoring and analysis of its virtual switch traffic.

Pricing:

What it does:

Why it's important:

In the field:

Media giant Hearst uses the VNSA appliance to look at virtual machines at rest and in motion among physical machines. The company's production environment is made up of hundreds of virtual machines.

Alloy products supplier Winsert uses VNSA to carry out network management and security best practices in its virtual environment. The company also relies on VNSA to monitor and troubleshoot performance problems among virtualized applications and servers.

2. Cirba's Cirba 5.0 data-intelligence software

Availability: Now Cirba's subscription pricing is based on both the number of targets - physical or virtual operating-system instances - under analysis and the length of its contract with a customer in years. For example, under a 500-server, three-year commitment, the cost per year is approximately $150 per server. Cirba 5.0 analysis dashboards help companies predict, plan, deploy and operate efficient virtual data centers. For instance, an IT group can assess options for server consolidation, optimize the placement of physical and virtual resources, and manage capacity changes in real time. Cirba 5.0 helps track and reduce power consumption and other costs associated with virtual server environments. "This tool addresses a critical area of the virtual environment. Too many organizations jump into virtualization deployments without really investigating resource capacity or compatibility. They end up overusing servers and degrading performance; underusing servers and failing to realize true cost savings; or collocating incompatible workloads on a single virtual server, causing compliance, risk, exposure, performance and other critical problems," says Andi Mann, research director, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). Reliance Limited Partnership, an energy and security company, uses the capacity-planning tool to determine the virtual-machine resources that new applications will require and to create an audit trail for change management. (View a slideshow.)

Pricing:

What it does:

Why it's important:

In the field:

3. Cisco's VFrame Data Center

Availability: Now Starts at $59,000 for a fully functional starter kit that can scale to support several hundred data-center devices. With the VFrame appliance, companies can carry out policy-based provisioning of shared physical and virtual computing, storage and network resources. These policies can be based on a wide range of instances, such as server failures or the need for load-balancing x86 servers across multiple VMware ESX server clusters. With VFrame, application deployments are faster and more efficient because configurations are automated and standardized. "Process automation and orchestration, which is what VFrame does, embeds standards and skills into software and allows virtualization deployments to execute unattended at computer speeds. This technology drives high availability, dynamic flexibility, agile response to business needs, strong cost reductions and more," EMA's Mann says. Cisco would not release specific customer names. However, it says that a Southern California high-tech company uses VFrame to build its application grid environment, which has standardized hardware that has to adapt to various workloads; and that a city government deployed VFrame to automate the addition of networking and storage provisioning to its physical infrastructure.

Pricing:

What it does:

Why it's important:

In the field:

4. Embotics' V-Commander 2.0 

Availability: Now $10,000 V-Commander manages servers' life cycles to help IT organizations tamp down on dangerous virtual-server sprawl. Users can track their machines in real time, keeping tabs on patches, configurations, access and retired servers. They also can create and enforce policies to control and automate virtual-machine deployments. V-Commander includes detailed reporting to support regulatory and organizational compliance. "Embotics is coming at the problem of managing virtual machines from a broad, long-range view, incorporating inventory, usage, managing resources, applications and the policies that apply along the duration of the virtual machine's life cycle," says Rich Ptak, principal analyst at Ptak, Noel and Associates. (Read more.) Alcatel-Lucent uses V-Commander to combat the virtual-machine challenges that occur as the company consolidates and centralizes its data centers, increasing the overall volume of virtualization.

Pricing:

What it does:

Why it's important:

In the field:

Advanced Micro Devices deployed V-Commander to maintain control while it adapted server virtualization from a consolidation project to a data-center architecture.

Zentra Computer Technologies takes advantage of V-Commander's policy-based management and control, automation and operational oversight to avoid the inherent risks of virtual servers.

5. EMC's enterprise flash drives

Availability: Enterprise flash drives are available now in the Symmetrix DMX-4; they will be available for the Clariion CX4 storage systems this month. The EMC Symmetrix DMX-4 with flash drives starts at $250,000; the Clariion CX4 with flash drives starts at $31,185. Solid-data, flash-based drives should speed the performance and reduce the power consumption of EMC storage systems; the company reports the flash drives deliver single-millisecond application-response times - 10 times faster than the response time of traditional Fibre Channel drives. EMC combines single-layer, cell flash technology and controllers for ultrafast read-and-write performance, high reliability and dependable data integrity. Users should be able to provision, manage, replicate and move data among the flash drives and Fibre Channel and Serial Advanced Technology Attachment disk drives. (Listen now to EMC's Barry Burke on flash drives for the enterprise.) "Although there is a range of possible solid-state storage options, there is little doubt that flash technology will become a significant contributor to the next-generation enterprise. Some of the positive attributes are well known: Mainly, compared with standard spinning disks, the technologies provide extremely high I/O rates with low latency and low consumption of power and space. Cost is viewed as an impediment to adoption, but that could soon change as we start to measure storage devices in terms of I/O and kilowatts," says Mark Peters, analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. EMC has not disclosed users of its enterprise flash drives.

Pricing:

What they do:

Why they're important:

In the field:

6. GainSpan's GS1010 chip and software 

Availability: Now Not applicable GainSpan's GS1010 dual-core, ARM-architecture system-on-a-chip and management software work together, via an 802.11b/g implementation, to extend the life of batteries in wireless-network sensors and other devices. Sensors, such as those used in building automation, transportation and supply chain management, can tap into a company's Wi-Fi infrastructure and run as long as 10 years on a single AA battery, the company says. The chip and software introduce the combination of IP and the 802.11 wireless LAN standard as a viable and proven network technology for wireless-sensor networks that can be integrated easily with the enterprise without gateways or separate networks and protocol stacks. (Read more.) GainSpan would not release specific customer names, but says its technology is used in Wi-Fi-based thermostats and IP-based monitoring and management systems for energy monitoring and management in commercial buildings, as well as in demand-response units with a Wi-Fi thermostat and electric meters with Internet connectivity through home broadband connections. In addition, supply-chain management and logistics companies are using the technology for asset- and people-tracking using Wi-Fi location and sensor tags.

Pricing:

What they do:

Why they're important:

In the field:

7. Moka5's MokaFive Virtual Desktop

Availability: Now Annual license fees are $79 to $99 per user depending on volume, and include the cost of support and hosting. MokaFive Virtual Desktop, a software-as-a-service offering, lets IT managers create, deploy, monitor, patch, secure and update the vendor's LivePC virtual-desktop environments. The centralized administration console also lets IT teams run multiple virtual desktops on a single machine to guarantee a secure separation between work and personal applications. MokaFive locally caches LivePC images so users can work offline. If a virtual desktop experiences a security problem because of malware, spyware or other threats, it can be rebooted to a previous, uninfected state. "Desktop virtualization is the fastest growing of all virtualization technologies. The drivers are greater workforce mobility, faster repair times, less downtime, reduced security risk, improved compliance, and lower costs for business units and IT departments. To achieve this success, enterprises need to focus on making sure they accommodate user differences; ensure compatibility between desktop virtualization and the workloads they have to handle; plan around network issues, such as low bandwidth or connection dropouts that would cause slowdowns or downtime for virtual desktops; and create and test high availability for critical servers delivering remote, server-based virtual desktops," EMA's Mann says. IT administrators at Panasonic Emerging Advanced RF Laboratory use MokaFive Virtual Desktop to carry out business-continuity and disaster-recovery plans while remaining compliant. In a disaster, they could access virtual desktop images safely via an encrypted USB and VPN on any PC.

Pricing:

What it does:

Why it's important:

In the field:

With the MokaFive Virtual Desktop, law firm Fenwick & West creates sandbox environments for evaluating new technologies from its patent and trademark group's clients. Attorneys can install and test the clients' products without jeopardizing the stability of their corporate work environment.

8. Palo Alto Networks' PA-4000 and PA-2000 series next-generation firewalls

Availability: Now The PA-4050, which supports up to 10Gbps throughput, costs $60,000. The PA-4020, which supports up to 2Gbps throughput, costs $35,000. The PA-2050, which supports up to 1Gbps throughput, costs $16,000. The PA-2020, which supports up to 500Mbps throughput, costs $12,000. These firewalls comprise a trio of technologies that monitor applications, users and content to detect network threats: App-ID classifies application traffic regardless of its port, protocol or SSL encryption; User-ID taps into Microsoft's Active Directory to map policies to user activity; and the Content-ID inspection engine blocks file transfers and controls Web surfing to thwart content-based threats. The focus on such "business-relevant" application, user and content information improves overall security, Palo Alto says. The Palo Alto firewalls change the way enterprises do outbound firewalling. "For a long time, [companies] either had an 'unlimited outbound policy' - which was a bad idea but the only option due to lack of tools - or blocked most outbound and required all Web-based traffic to go through a proxy, such as Blue Coat Systems or IronPort Systems [now part of Cisco]. With Palo Alto's products, security managers can actually control in fine detail what the users are allowed to do on the Internet. The deep knowledge of application, rather than simple dependence on ports, helps to both define what is and isn't allowed and to catch various tricks people use to sneak through enterprise firewalls and get around policy," says Joel Snyder, senior partner at Opus One and Network World product tester. (Read the test results.) Koch Logistics, a global transportation, shipping and distribution logistics provider, uses the firewalls to set and enforce policies and scan for threats at the application level.

Pricing:

What they do:

Why they're important:

In the field:

Mercy Medical Center, a healthcare facility and teaching hospital for the University of Maryland, implemented the firewalls' policy-enforcement features to secure network access for staff, contractors and more than 50,000 patients. Mercy has the visibility and control needed to keep the network open while protecting patient privacy.

Western & Southern Financial Group, a financial services firm with more than $48 billion in assets, uses the firewall to identify malicious software on desktops, shut down evasive applications and threats, and pinpoint the locations of application sources and destinations worldwide.

9. VKernel's Capacity Analyzer, Chargeback and Modeler appliances

Availability: Capacity Analyzer and Chargeback are available now, as is a beta version of Modeler. All start at $199 per CPU socket These virtual appliances work individually or together to gain visibility into virtual environments, which leads to greater overall operating efficiencies. Capacity Analyzer identifies and prevents inappropriate allocations of such shared resources as CPU, memory, storage and network. Chargeback gives IT teams a way to measure and recover the costs associated with departments' use of virtual machines. And Modeler enables IT staff to safely model and validate VMware ESX changes to avoid production-environment problems. "In virtualization deployments, business owners are starting to demand chargeback and other metrics as a way to ensure they are getting the resource allocations that they are paying for, and IT is using these metrics to prove to business owners that they are saving money on infrastructure without any performance degradations," EMA's Mann says. Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga., uses the Chargeback virtual appliance to control, monitor and charge back resources in real time for each virtualization project. The school relies on Chargeback's detailed reporting to provide users with information about resource consumption and costs.

Pricing:

What they do:

Why they're important:

In the field:

Game and toy maker Hasbro uses VKernel's virtual appliances to get an insight into its VMware ESX environment's use of capacity. For instance, the company monitors its Top 5 resource-consumers to architect resource pools better. It also uses the tools to check the impact new virtual machines have on the overall environment.

Hovensa, a global refinery, uses VKernel Capacity Bottleneck Analyzer to monitor its VMware ESX environment and allocate shared resources among virtual machines.

10. Wireless Grids' Innovaticus software

Availability: Will be released in beta in November with virtual file-sharing A beta evaluation license will cost $75,000 plus a negotiable per-user license fee. With Innovaticus software, users can break down the barriers between their wired and wireless network devices. Using automated negotiating technology, Innovaticus links files, speakers, printers, microphones, cameras and screens into a single mashup. Then users can extend those mixed resources to their friends, co-workers or other Innovaticus users. Think of Innovaticus as a structure for mobile spontaneity: Your personal or business devices become part of an interoperable grid that amplifies what you can do but lets you do it with and through the resources others make available. (Read more.) Carnegie Mellon University, Clear Channel Communications and Syracuse University use Innovaticus to let users create ad hoc device networks that other users can tap into to share photos, files, printers and other resources.

Pricing:

What it does:

Why it's important:

In the field:

Gittlen, a freelance technology writer in the Greater Boston area, can be reached at sgittlen@verizon.net.

Return to main page: The Best of the New Data Center | Next story: What IT pros like best about next-generation technology

Learn more about this topic

Slideshow: 2008 wireless/mobile companies to watch 

7 virtual management companies to watch

Podcast: Category-breaker: Mitchell Ashley on Cisco's VFrame

Slideshow: 13 desktop-virtualization tools 

| 1 2 3 4 5 Page
Editors' Picks
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies