The 2013 Tech Innovator Awards
We live in fast times, and the tech industry accelerates that pace exponentially each year. At the 10th annual NexTI Conference this week, the CRN Test Center honored high-tech companies that have delivered outstanding innovation over the past 12 months in one or more of 17 categories. Manufacturers, software developers and solution providers this summer submitted their latest products, and a panel of CRN editors selected the winners based on each company's use of innovation to advance technology, increase productivity, reduce cost and complexity, and provide value to the reseller channel. Here are this year's winners, with awards presented in Las Vegas by Test Center Managing Editor Edward J. Correia and CRN Senior Editor Joe Kovar.
In the Storage Solutions category, IBM's research and development efforts -- among the finest in the world -- have been at the heart of many of the tech industry's most significant advances. This year's storage category winner has a starting configuration of 400 terabytes, and its performance and features make it well suited to analytics, video on demand and the coming era of big data. For innovation in storage solutions, the Test Center honored IBM for its System X GPFS Storage Server. Accepting for IBM was Scott Tease, director of IBM Hyperscale Computing Solutions for System X.
Handheld Retail Devices
The next category -- Handhelds for Retail and Specialty Markets -- moves us from the very big to the very small. With this year's winner, Motorola has come up with a brand-new category of mobile device. Evoking images of Star Trek's Captain Picard using his communication badge, Motorola's SB1 smart badge displays not only a worker's name and photo, but also has a push-to-talk function for hailing colleagues, can scan bar codes, perform price checks, get inventory info and even ring up sales. Accepting for Motorola was Product Manager Joe Licari.
This year we had a repeat performance in the category of Managed Services. Last year, N-able introduced N-central 9 and the industry’s first standards-based remote monitoring and management platform for business enablement, process automation and advanced remote control of client devices. This year, it kept the innovation flowing with the release of Automation Manager, an environment that's designed to let MSPs drag-and-drop customer systems to fully scripted Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 automation of daily maintenance activities and better productivity. Accepting was N-able General Manager J.P. Jauvin.
Highly innovative software products crowded entries for the Cloud Solutions category. But this year, the award went to hardware. With support for up to 520 virtual servers in a single box, IBM's zEnterprise BC12 packs an enormous amount of cloud into a very small footprint -- and does so economically. Accepting for IBM was Deon Newman, vice president of marketing for System Z, and Jacqueline Woods, vice president of marketing for systems software and growth solutions.
Enterprise Networking wasn't among Dell's core strengths until a key acquisition put it squarely in the arena. The Networking S-5000 unified storage switch is an innovative top-of-rack solution that addresses a problem common to many of today's highly converged networks: It allows LAN and SAN traffic to converge over a single 10-gigabit Ethernet connection regardless of protocol. This reduces the complexity of separate switches and simplifies migration to different or faster topologies. Accepting for Dell was Allen Arguijo, director of Dell U.S. channels and networking sales.
This year's winner in the Wireless Networking category -- the ZoneFlex 7055 from Ruckus -- impressed editors with a versatile device that combines dual-band Wi-Fi with a wireless and wired power-over-Ethernet switch with VLAN support and wireless meshing, plus a PBX pass-through port. Accepting for Ruckus was Ron Gill, vice president of enterprise sales for the Americas.
With a newly defined Networking category that combines voice, data and UC, it seemed fitting to honor a company not previously recognized as a Tech Innovator. Verizon's Virtual Communications Express is a cloud-based alternative to traditional hardware-based PBXes that integrates directly with Google Docs, seamlessly providing presence information through tools already in use by many small and midsize businesses. A mobile app brings all the features to smartphones too. Accepting for Verizon was Andy Roth, senior consultant for product development.
Laptops And Convertibles
In the Laptops and Convertibles category, the positive effect that the Ultrabook spec has had on mobile computing is immeasurable. The breadth and scope of today's ultraportables is simply beyond beyond. And in this category, Lenovo has led the way from the beginning. The winning device this year is an Ultrabook with five distinct working modes. Congratulations to Lenovo for the ThinkPad Helix. Accepting for Lenovo was Mary Ann Griffiths, channel sales director at Lenovo.
Smartphones And Tablets
In Smartphones And Tablets, the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 combines some of the best innovations available today for enterprise-class tablets with the military-grade ruggedness that has become synonymous with the company's ruggedized brand. Accepting for Panasonic was Kyp Walls, director of product management.
Workstations And Desktops
This year's winner in the PC Workstations and Desktops category is a sign of things to come. The innovative SD-A245 thin client workstation from ViewSonic is a productivity workstation that runs Android on a high-speed, five-core system-on-chip and comes ready to connect to Xen-based virtualized systems. It's a secure, manageable and connectible system that's well suited as a fixed-purpose workstation, touch-driven kiosk or desktop counterpart for the mostly mobile professional. Accepting was Cheryl Badley, ViewSonic's senior regional business manager.
Printing And Imaging
The award for Printing and Imaging goes not to the next high-tech printer or scanner, but to a software package that might reduce the need to print and definitely enhances the ability to scan. FormXtra Capture from Parascript analyzes the contents of a scanned document to identify and extract all relevant text, be it handwritten cursive or print. It also picks up bar codes, dollar amounts, routing numbers and other important symbology. Accepting for Parascript was Dwayne Ritchie, the company's senior vice president of sales and marketing.
Enterprise Management Software
What the previous product does for scans, the next product does for big data. The ability to extract intelligence from information will be a key differentiator for companies in the digital age. And this year's Enterprise Management Software innovator leverages the APIs of the popular Hadoop open-source framework for distributed computing, and adds home-baked innovations that simplify deployment, improve reliability and increase usability of the computing grid. Congratulations to MapR Technologies for its MapR M7 big data platform. MapR was not present at NexTI to accept the award.
These days, staying productive means staying connected and in touch. And this product makes sure we do. The innovator for Productivity Software is on a mission to find itself on literally every device, be it laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet running Android, iOS, Mac OS or Windows. The product is Lync. And the company is Microsoft. Accepting for Microsoft was Eric Martorano, general manager of U.S. channel sales.
This year's winner in the Servers category had to think outside the box. Moonshot from Hewlett-Packard employs a series of low-cost, low-power nodes, each of which is itself a self-contained server that can be specialized for web hosting, storage services, high-density computing and other purposes. With scores of these server nodes in each 4.3U server chassis, the system also must -- and does -- integrate its own redundant network switching modules. All this, while using almost 90 percent less energy and 80 percent less space than conventional servers. Accepting for HP was Paul Santeler, vice president and general manager of the Hyperscale Business Unit of HP Servers.
In today's world of high-tech spying by both bad guys and governments, you never know who might be listening to a phone call or intercepting a text. This year's winner in the security category secures perhaps the broadest array of operating systems and mobile devices out there. Secure Enterprise Management 3.0 from NCP adds two-step authentication with self-canceling passwords for remote access and management to virtually any mobile device. Accepting was Imtinan Hussain, NCP's director of sales and business development for the Americas.
Some might call this year's selection in the Virtualization category unconventional; the company is usually associated with network appliances for content filtering and firewall protection. So when a backup appliance came along that could not only store VMware images on remote hardware or in the cloud, but could boot and run those images for immediate disaster recovery, we took notice. The 2013 winner for virtualization is LiveBoot from Barracuda Networks. Accepting for Barracuda was Eric Thacker, Barracuda's senior director of storage marketing.
LCD, Signage And Projection
For LCD, Signage and Projection, this year's display winner applied innovation in an unexpected and somewhat ingenious way. Samsung's NC Series cloud displays combine traditional LCD monitors with the ability to connect to -- and display -- virtualized systems. Samsung cloud displays eliminate the cost and maintenance requirements of the dedicated PCs that would otherwise be needed for this purpose. Samsung was not present to accept the award.
In addition to individual awards for innovation, each year CRN bestows one company with its most coveted innovation honor of all: The CRN Editors' Choice award. This goes to a company whose innovations surpass all others, are believed to be particularly transformative, visionary or forward-thinking, and will be of lasting value and influence to the channel. The 2013 CRN Editor's Choice award goes to Hewlett-Packard for Moonshot. Returning to the stage to accept the award was Paul Santeler.
We in the CRN Test Center thank everyone in attendance at NexTI -- including the many VARs, solution providers, sponsors and honorees -- for making this year's NexTI conference truly memorable. A special thanks to comedian Juston McKinney, who had everyone at the awards dinner rolling in the aisles.