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NIA awards: A look back at a year of network advancements

SearchNetworking presented eight companies with Network Innovation Awards in 2017, recognizing network advancements that ranged from a programmable chip to cloud visibility software.

SearchNetworking's Network Innovation Award has been presented to scores of companies since the accolade was first created in 2011. During that time, vendors have been recognized for their efforts in developing a wide range of network advancements -- from controllers and wireless analytics to cloud-based network monitoring platforms and network fabrics. This year was no different; in 2017, SearchNetworking recognized eight companies for their work on network advancements. Here's a recap:

Arista Networks' Universal Spine architecture

In July, Arista Networks, based in Santa Clara, Calif., was recognized for its Universal Spine distributed leaf-spine approach. Designed as an alternative to massive core routers, the architecture is intended to meet the needs of internet service providers and large enterprises.

Built on Arista 7500R Series high-performance switches and routers, Universal Spine is able to handle a capacity of up to 15 Pbps. Martin Hull, Arista's senior director of systems engineering and platforms, said the technology was inspired by customer demand for open API-based networks.

"We've been deploying leaf-spine -- two-tiered -- networks for many years," Hull said about the product. "So, this was the concept that spine could actually be used as the next tier up."

Read more about the Arista architecture and the company's strategy.

Aruba's ClearPass Universal Profiler detection software

Aruba received a Network Innovation Award (NIA) for its ClearPass Universal Profiler, which detects every device connected to an enterprise network. That information is then poured into a database administrators can use to keep tabs on those devices.

The goal is increased visibility across both wired and wireless networks, according to Trent Fierro, director of software solutions marketing at Aruba, based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Knowing what's on the network becomes even more critical in the era of internet of things (IoT).

"IT is losing visibility, especially as more and more IoT devices are connected," Fierro said. "We had examples where someone in a department might have gone out, purchased a device and placed it on the network. IT then found out it was there, but had no idea where it came from. Not only that, the department expected IT to support that device."

Read more about Aruba and its Universal Profiler.

Barefoot Networks' Tofino programmable chip

Barefoot Networks, based in Palo Alto, Calif., was recognized for Tofino, a high-speed programmable chip designed to integrate the technologies of software-defined networking (SDN) into the forwarding plane of the silicon underpinning the chip.

The company is touting the 16-nanometer-linewidth chip both as an alternative to fixed-function application-specific integrated circuits and as a means to extend SDN's fundamental programmability.

Functionality is enabled through P4, an open source language that directs how packets are processed by network devices.

"[Tofino] allows organizations to scale out their networks, letting them allocate resources to the features they care about," said Ed Doe, Barefoot's vice president of products and marketing. "With the programmable data plane, you can instrument the network to instantaneously identify a point of failure and then immediately fix it. So, it's almost like a self-healing network."

Read more about Barefoot Networks' switch chip.

Ixia CloudLens Public cloud visibility software

Ixia, a unit of Keysight Technologies, snagged an NIA in September for network advancements associated with its CloudLens Public cloud visibility software. CloudLens Public supports Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Bluemix and Alibaba Cloud, and it relies on a combination of containers and a software-as-a-service management portal to underpin its operation. The software helps companies see into their providers' data centers and offers them tools to quickly diagnose performance problems.

Scott Register, vice president of product management at Ixia, based in Calabasas, Calif., said companies have found ways to monitor performance and quality of service in their private networks. However, as companies increasingly migrate to the cloud, visibility into those operations has been greatly diminished, thus increasing the need for products like CloudLens.

Read more about Ixia's CloudLens Public.

Mist Systems' wireless network analytics platform

Mist, based in Cupertino, Calif., was honored in August for the rollout of its Mist networking analytics service. The platform melds artificial intelligence, virtual Bluetooth Low Energy beacons and cloud-based machine learning to provide real-time wireless and Wi-Fi performance metrics, said Mist CEO Sujai Hajela. If a performance hiccup is detected, Mist adjusts access points and notifies IT with root-cause information, so issues can be remediated.

"IT has no idea about what's happening with users' mobile connections," Hajela said, explaining the rationale behind Mist. "So, on what basis can an experience be provided if IT doesn't even know what that experience is? The only way you can begin looking at network performance, to offer a personalized experience, is to put artificial intelligence and machine learning into play."

Read more about Mist Systems' wireless analytics.

Nyansa Voyance end-user experience monitoring platform

Nyansa received an NIA for its Voyance network monitoring platform. The software blends cloud-based analytics and real-time deep packet inspection with an easy-to-use management console.

According to Abe Ankumah, CEO of Nyansa, based in Palo Alto, Calif., the goal of Voyance is to provide enterprises with information they can use to better pinpoint where application performance problems may exist. Armed with that information, IT can adjust the network as needed to improve end users' experiences.

"What we do is give [our customers] a perspective of how that end user is actually experiencing that application, Anhumah said. "We tell them about what specific areas, which applications are having issues, for example. And we also look to quantify, from an overall company productivity standpoint, how those issues are actually affecting the bottom line of the organization."

Read more about Nyansa's network monitoring platform.

Vidyo’s Vidyo.io PaaS

Vidyo, based in Hackensack, N.J., was profiled for its Vidyo.io platform as a service (PaaS), which allows developers to embed video conferencing capabilities into business apps. The DIY version of the company's technology offers tools and video APIs at no cost to users, permitting developers to bake in multiparty video conferencing features.

Everything else is managed by the company, which means enterprises can add video to their applications as they wish, according to Eran Westman, CEO and president at the company.

"We believe [video] improves productivity and makes life easier," he said. "Video also maintains those relationships that disappear when users rely on text messages or voice calls."

Read more about Vidyo's PaaS technology.

ZeroStack Z-Block private cloud management

ZeroStack Inc. notched an NIA for its Z-Block private cloud management software. The software, described as "private cloud in a box," lets companies set up and oversee private clouds, incorporating resource management, monitoring and provisioning.

Steve Garrison, vice president of marketing and business development at ZeroStack, based in Mountain View, Calif., said the typical Z-Block customer is one transitioning from traditional, three-tiered applications to cloud-native, microservices-based systems.

"Using very sophisticated software tricks, we've got all [the elements needed to create a private cloud] built together," Garrison said. "You don't have to build it. You don't even have to maintain it. It just automatically loads and configures."

Read more about what ZeroStack is doing with Z-Block.

This was last published in December 2017

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