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InformationWeek Analytics Presents: The Best of Interop 2011

Well, the votes are in and once again we're pleased to bring you the top new products that appeared at Interop 2011 Las Vegas. Every year, my fellow judges and I are delighted to be able to review and compare some of the hottest technology available, and this year was no exception. This year we had 135 qualified entries for Best of Interop, and in reviewing the nominees this year the trend seems to be a focus on a number of great products to allocate, secure, manage, and improve the performance
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Alcatel-Lucent -- Alcatel-Lucent Data Center Switching Solution Blueprint

Judges: Kurt Marko and Howard Marks

Radical changes are coming to data centers on a number of fronts, from the flattening and convergence of data and storage networks to the transformation of power and cooling hardware into smart, adaptive systems. Yet in a category so broad, it's easy to see where the most monumental and strategically significant technical innovations and vendor battles are occurring this year by looking at our three finalists, all of which are breaking new ground in improving the nervous system of every data center: the network. While not a household name in enterprise wiring closets, our winner, Alcatel-Lucent, is clearly exploiting its decades-long history as a preeminent supplier to telecoms and ISPs alike in developing its Data Center Switching Blueprint, which includes an innovative edge network mesh and companion switch, for an MPLS-compatible core coupled with management software designed for today's virtualized workloads.

While co-finalist Mellanox won the edge-switch speeds-and-feeds battle with its impressive SX1036 10/40 Gbps Ethernet device, Alcatel-Lucent prevailed by providing plenty of 10 Gbps edge capacity, an edge mesh directly supporting over 200 server ports, a "pod" architecture extensible to more than 14,000 ports at multiple sites, and a management stack providing virtual network profiles that can bind network configuration to virtualized applications and follow them as they migrate throughout the infrastructure--both within and between data centers. The pod design allows network managers to start small, with a mesh of six Omniswitch 6900 edge devices, and grow into a multisite fabric using Alcatel-Lucent's OS 10000 core routers. Because it uses Shortest Path Bridging and is compatible with MPLS WANs, the fabric can span multiple data centers and even public ISPs or cloud providers. This incremental, modular architecture is one important factor distinguishing Alcatel-Lucent's design from our other co-finalist, Juniper's QFabric. While both provide flat, high-performance, massively scaleable networks, QFabric seems more appropriate for a wholesale data center redesign, as it requires a greater architectural, hardware, and thus budgetary, commitment to deliver on the promise of a single flat yet highly scalable network.

All three finalists were strong entrants. We can't help but admire the QFabric's innovative, extensible switch backplane and the impressive custom silicon enabling Mellanox to deliver 36 40-Gbps ports in a 1U box. But in the end, Alcatel-Lucent had the most compelling design and supporting products for building extremely scalable, high-performance, cloud-like data center networks suitable for today's virtualized applications. -- Kurt Marko

Other Best of Interop finalists in Data Center & Storage:
-- Juniper Networks
-- Mellanox Technologies

For the latest news and commentary from the show, go to the Interop Special Report.

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