The votes are in. From application servers to virtualization tools, readers have voiced their opinions and noted their top picks for software, hardware, and more. If we had to pick a common thread running through all of the categories, it would be innovation. The results showed that open source products from start-up companies were on equal footing with more-traditional players, in both emerging technologies, such as real-time communication and established areas, such as application servers.
Which server hardware and software has earned the hearts — and votes — of ServerWatch readers? Whether open source or commercial, from large OEM to small ISV, the recurring theme among winning products is a commitment to innovation.
Application servers are often synonymous with middleware, occupying and connecting the territory between database servers and the end user. Traditionally, a few stalwarts owned the space. Because of that, the results in this category surprised us. Not only did our winners finish in a dead heat, but they were also from opposite camps.
On one side, JBoss, the open source application server that has become the darling of the tech world. The popular application server picked up 35 percent of the vote. The most recent version, released in February 2005 and updated throughout the year, boasts J2EE 1.4-certification, integration with Apache Tomcat 5, CacheLoader support, and more.
In the opposite corner, also picking up 35 percent of the vote, was Oracle Applications Server. Oracle is a veteran in this space, and despite the press coverage attributable to its status, it lacks the splashy mindshare of JBoss. Tried and true can sometimes be a good thing, however, and readers certainly found that to be the case with Oracle 10g. The J2EE-based server provides business integration, business intelligence, and portal software.
Real-Time Communications Server
ServerWatch readers either love an underdog or love the XMPP (aka Jabber) open protocol — or maybe both. We also now know you appreciate an innovative product, as Wildfire from Jive Software ran away with the real-time communication category, capturing more votes than Microsoft Live Communications Server 2005, IBM Lotus SameTime, and Antepo OPN XT combined.
Jive’s Wildfire is an XMPP-based IM server available under the GPL and through a commercial license. It includes Web management tools and a number of extensions designed to ease management, including the capability to create user groups and automatically populate user rosters, as well as push updated client software to users.
Although Jive is a 25-person startup, it has high hopes and has made it clear that it has its sights set on Microsoft’s Live Communication Server and IBM’s Sametime servers.
Live Communications Server 2005 didn’t pack many big changes into its real-time communication platform this year, but it did enough to earn runner-up honors. Microsoft has added support for mobile devices, and it’s expected to offer more telephony capabilities in the coming year.
Messaging and Collaboration Server
Messaging and real-time communications are closely related categories, so we weren’t surprised to see an open source product come out on top here, as well. Open-Xchange, a messaging and collaboration suite available under the GPL, finished well ahead of IBM Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. Domino and Exchange — which arguably dominate the market — were far from dominant in our voting, each capturing only about 9 percent of the vote.
ServerWatch readers instead cast their votes for the well-traveled free and open source software (FOSS) project that’s based on Postfix, OpenLDAP, Apache, Cyrus IMAP, Tomcat, and PostgreSQL
Although Domino and Exchange didn’t make a strong challenge, Kerio MailServer did. This well-rounded mail and collaboration server supports Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. In a market filled with both large enterprise behemoths and myriad smaller players, Kerio stands out for its simplicity in setup and administration, a feature set that belies its SMB focus and its price.
Blade servers are a hot technology. In fact, IDC predicts it will be a $10 billion market by 2010. ServerWatch readers weighed in similar to the larger marketplace, awarding IBM top honors in the blade server category.
IBM has been the leader in the blade market leader in terms of revenue for the past two years, and clearly ServerWatch readers are buying in, too. IBM attributes its BladeCenter success to both the very high end and smaller businesses. IBM points to the dozens of BladeCenter deployments on the list of the Top 500 Supercomputer Sites. However, Big Blue is also quick to point out that about one-third of BladeCenter sales are to small and midsize businesses.
Despite HP’s nipping at the heels of IBM for the top spot in blade server market share, ServerWatch readers went in a different direction for runner-up.
Egenera’s BladeFrame EX came in a close second to IBM. Egenera has its own twist on blade servers. By combining only processors and memory (bypassing an operating system or physical components that would be fixed resources) with a high-speed fabric and its Processor Area Network (PAN) software, it virtualizes compute, storage, and network resources to a blade pool.
Small Business Server
In a voting process that turned up its fair share of surprises, Apple’s win in the small business server category (those with fewer than four processors) was certainly a bit of an upset. In fact, Apple didn’t just win top honors, it ran away with them.
Maybe it’s the buzz from its announcement that it will ship Intel Core Duo processor based servers later this year, or maybe it’s Apple users rallying to show their loyalty, but for whatever reason, Xserve G5 captured 50 percent of vote — as much as Dell, Gateway, HP, and IBM combined. With its long history in publishing and design shops, Apple clearly understands what small businesses want in its Xserve line. In addition to making significant changes in the past year in hardware and software, Apple has added storage capabilities in the form of Xsan for storage-area networking.
Coming in a clear — if distant — second is the HP ProLiant DL140 G2. With a starting price of $1,299 for a 1U, 2P (Intel Xeon) server, voters gave HP the edge over Dell, IBM, and Gateway.
Like the small business space, the midrange server space can be a confusing place to be. For the sake of consistency, we considered servers with between four and 16 processors for this category.
The Sun Fire T2000 from Sun Microsystems fared well in the midrange category, taking the top spot. Although Sun considers it its entry-level server, the multicore T2000 can run up to eight cores on 32 simultaneous processing threads.
The HP ProLiant DL 585 was our runner-up. Introduced in May 2005, the server sports up to four dual-core AMD Opteron processors running at 2.6 GHz with a 1 MB L2 cache and an on-board full speed memory controller.
If you’re in the market for a high-end server or mainframe, chances are you can’t afford for your workload to be unavailable or for the server to go down. Among ServerWatch readers, HP’s Integrity Superdome ranked number one for meeting mission-critical needs. The server is available in any number of configurations and supports up to 64 Intel Itanium 2 (1.6 GHz) processors, 1 TB of memory, and 192 PCI slots.
IBM is often thought of as the mainframe king, and according to our readers, its z9 mainframe was a fine runner-up. The z9, unveiled in the summer of 2005, is about as big as Big Iron can get. The result of a three-year, $1.2 billion development project, the z9 can virtualize hundreds of software applications, perform up to 1 billion transactions per day, and provide on/off capacity on demand.
Infrastructure Management Tool
Infrastructure management tools isn’t a new category, but it is a fast-growing one, due to the proliferation of servers and the need for software to manage them and other network resources. This category figured to be as competitive as any. High-quality products from big names and smaller but solid players filled the ballot.
As expected, no one product dominated. However, it was also no surprise to see HP OpenView capture 27 percent of the vote and take the top spot in this category. Offering a unified front for server management, OpenView keeps track of storage, networking, security, server performance, and server software.
Coming in a close second, with 25 percent of the vote, was Ipswitch’s WhatsUp. Aimed at small and midsize businesses or departments within larger business, WhatsUp monitors network devices and computer services, including DNS, HTTP, and SMTP. The Premium Gold version adds application monitor components for Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange Server.
Virtualization and Clustering Tool
It goes without saying how vital virtualization and clustering have become to enterprises. Organizations can partition servers and run multiple workloads, and in some cases operating systems, on a single box. Alternatively, they can cluster several systems together and have them function as a single powerful system.
This category had the most clear-cut single winner. VMware, the granddaddy of x86 virtual software cleaned up, garnering 68 percent of the vote for its flagship product — VMware ESX Server. ESX Server can run multiple instances of unmodified operating systems (Windows, Linux, Solaris, and NetWare) and their respective applications. Admins can manage the box both holistically and at each partition.
Virtual Iron was our runner-up. The three-year-old company delivered a solid finish in a space that many consider to be already owned. Unlike VMware, Virtual Iron takes a clustering approach to virtualization. The software enables users to take multiple computers in a data center and put them together in a building-block manner akin to Legos.
Open Source Community
We hear much about open source products and the impact they’re having on the ways enterprises do business. Although we’re not going to argue with this, we believe it is the project behind the product, and by extension the community, that differentiates a successful open source endeavor from the thousands of abandoned projects on SourceForge. All five of our nominees (Jabber, JBoss, OpenSolaris, SugarCRM, and Xen) are outstanding projects whose products have a place in many businesses.
There can only be one winner, however, and the Jabber community triumphed.
At its core, Jabber is a set of XML protocols for streaming communications. Because the Jabber protocols are standardized and freely available, any developer can incorporate Jabber with a compatible existing product. And they certainly have. Jabber is currently found in a host of products, both commercial and open source, including Antepo OPN, jabberd, Merak, and Wildfire.
Operating systems helped blaze the open source trail, and our runner-up is no exception to this. The OpenSolaris project, sponsored by Sun Microsystems, is a community built around the Solaris operating system. The project contains the core kernel, networking, libraries and commands from the Solaris OS as well as tools and community-driven off-shoots.