eWEEK Labs Picks the Top Products of 2005

Analysts recognize the year's best innovations and upgrades.

Every year, the analysts at eWEEK Labs evaluate hundreds of enterprise products. The goal is to provide technology decision makers with a strong sense of direction as they navigate IT waters made choppy by hype, regulatory mandates, security concerns, competitive issues, budgetary and personnel constraints and, well, the list goes on and on. This year we found much to recommend, as vendors continue to innovate and to listen to their customers (and potential customers) concerns. Products that pushed the technology envelope, made it easier to comply with various regulatory mandates and that heeded enterprises desire for more interoperable solutions were just some that rose to the top of the analysts picks for the best products they evaluated in 2005. Heres to even better things in 2006.

/zimages/1/28571.gifNot all was well on the technology front this year. Click here to read eWEEK Labs picks for the Top Technology flops of 2005.

StorageAuthority Suite 4.0

AppIQs StorageAuthority Suite 4.0 blends streamlined management with strong standards support, making it my choice for best storage product of 2005.

With its ability to quickly and accurately discover SAN (storage area network) resources and provision them on the fly, AppIQ StorageAuthority Suite 4.0 allows IT personnel with limited SAN skills to use SAN resources. AppIQ has extended StorageAuthority Suite management to backup platforms and to Network Appliances NAS (network-attached storage) Filers, making NAS Filers a more complete solution and enabling IT managers to corral more resources in less time.

AppIQs storage-centric technology is a big part of the storage management suites of Sun, HP and others. AppIQ was acquired by HP late this year, and it remains to be seen if HP will continue to push forward with storage standards support. —Henry Baltazar

Solaris 10

My favorite product of this year is Solaris 10. Sun Microsystems flagship operating system underwent a major overhaul that included impressive new features such as the DTrace diagnostics and observability facilities and the systems extremely cool Containers quasi-virtualization functionality. The upgrade also encompasses important architecture, business model and licensing changes.

With Solaris 10, Sun smartly re-embraces the x86 architecture, thereby making the operating system relevant for mainstream servers and workstations. Whats more, Sun has made Solaris 10 freely available, with for-pay services available as an option—a shot across the bow of Red Hat, which requires service subscriptions for Red Hat Enterprise Linux whether you require them or not.

Last but certainly not least, Sun executed an initiative to release Solaris as open-source software, with hopes of broadening the relevance of this operating system by allowing for community participation. Even if Solaris code cant easily mix with Linux, Suns move to open Solaris is still valuable. —Jason Brooks

Antepo OPN System XT

This year, standards and gateways evolved sufficiently to make instant messaging a professional and outward-facing communication tool. And no IM system better exemplifies the state of the art in standards than Antepos Open Presence Network System XT.

Antepo OPN System XT embraces both major IM standards—XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) and SIP/SIMPLE (Session Initiation Protocol/SIP for IM and Presence Leveraging Extensions)—and can connect to IM systems beyond the firewall and can act as a front end for Microsofts Live Communications Server to bridge IM systems internally.

Antepo OPN System XT is a full-featured IM environment supporting group chat. Its SIP/SIMPLE support not only brings extensive compatibility to the platform but also allows users to tap into the presence capabilities of other SIP-based communication devices, such as VOIP (voice over IP) phones. —Michael Caton

VMware Workstation 5

VMwares VMware Workstation 5.0—which enables multiple virtual machines to run on one piece of hardware—packed on features and performance enhancements that earned it Analysts Choice honors in June.

VMware Workstation 5.0 boosts IT organizations infrastructure flexibility; increases productivity; and lowers IT costs for tasks such as technical support, training and software development. This update also includes significant improvements in memory management, allowing users to run multiple VMs without noticeable performance degradation.

I also liked new features such as the ability to take multiple snapshots and to revert to specific ones. Cloning capabilities, which enable easy duplication of VMs, were also something I was glad to see.

And now that VMware has released VMware Player, anyone can get a glimpse of what is possible with virtualization and VMware Workstation. The handy player is free for download and allows users to run a VMware instance on their Windows or Linux host operating system. —Anne Chen

Java Studio Creator 2

I found Suns NetBeans-powered Java Studio Creator 2, which I reviewed in its first Early Access release, the most attractive developer product of this year.

General release of JSC2 is expected in mid-January but will be offered as a free download rather than at the $99 price that was planned at the time of my Early Access review. The Early Access version gave me the kind of drag-and-drop convenience that developers expect after years of experience with Microsofts Visual Basic or Borlands JBuilder and Delphi. It not only worked well when used as intended but also resisted my attempts to confuse its cooperating tools.

Suns Java tool kit keeps things straight, in part, by channeling a developers changes through property structures, meaning that its not a tool that invites casual point-and-click exploration. It deserves the time required to go through its tutorials: In return, it consolidates many tedious user interface assembly and layout tasks into simple operations.

JSC2 gave me the same ease of visual construction, navigation and linkage among the HTML pages of a Web application that it did among the UI components of a single page, with an HTTP monitor tool that sped my investigation and debugging of behind-the-scenes details. Its data provider components offered me convenient and powerful abstractions; its lower-level code editing tools had the kind of power that todays developers demand. —Peter Coffee

True MIMO Generation 3

Airgo Networks continues to offer tantalizing glimpses at the MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output)-based wireless LAN glory yet to come.

Generation 3 of Airgos True MIMO technology, which first appeared last month in Linksys WRT54GX4 router and WPC54GX4 PCMCIA client adapter, delivers slightly more than 100M bps of real wireless throughput across a single access point. This figure blows the doors off competing WLAN technologies now on the market.

Using the same spatial multiplexing routines seen in previous True MIMO chip sets, plus the new ACE (Adaptive Channel Expansion) capability to simultaneously transmit using multiple radios on multiple channels, the Gen3 chip sets promise this tremendous speed boost while maintaining friendly coexistence with nearby wireless devices.

Enterprise customers will still have to wait for their wireless vendors to put the technology to use, but anyone interested in doing multimedia over wireless will want Gen3-based gear for the home or office. —Andrew Garcia

WordPress 1.5.2

Sometimes, when you test a new product, its like a really hot date. You become infatuated with its great usability and flashy feature set. But once you become deeply involved with it, you realize its hidden bugs, limitations and management headaches are the technology equivalent of a rabbit boiling in your kitchen.

Then there are products such as WordPress, an open-source blogging platform: When you first see them, you think, "nice," but you dont exactly howl like a wolf. But when you use these products every day, you realize how truly wonderful they are.

With WordPress, my first impression was, "This might work." Then it was, "Hey, the usability isnt bad, especially for an open-source product. And the management options are really flexible." From then on, anything I wanted to do to the blogging platform, WordPress let me do it. Any feature or any design tweak, whether through plug-ins or simple code tweaks or right there in the main product, WordPress never said, "No, you cant do that."

I know what youre thinking: If you love WordPress so much, why dont you marry it? I think I will (in the technology sense, that is). —Jim Rapoza

LANDesk Server Manager 8.5

LANDesk Server Manager 8.5 gains a small-footprint on-demand agent that places almost no burden on the managed servers.

For data centers that use Windows and Red Hats Red Hat Enterprise Linux, LANDesk Server Manager 8.5 includes a host of productivity-boosting tools bundled in a package thats easy to deploy and maintain. Even new users of the product should be able to get up and running on the system management tools without a lot of training time.

LANDesks small-footprint agent uses resources only when the required function, such as polling for inventory information, is requested. Furthermore, a sensible collection of tools makes LANDesk Server Manager 8.5 a fine example of how to build a truly useful IT management tool.

—Cameron Sturdevant

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