Technology takes the prize

Picks and pans

Some products and vendors deserve to be singled out for their innovation or excellence. Other products and vendors deserve to be singled out for other reasons, whether they like it or not. So in what may be the beginning of another proud annual ritual, we’ve come up with a handful of ‘awards’ to recognise those who, although not necessarily innovative or excellent or even adequate, managed to stand out from the crowd in one way or another during 2003.

And the winners are...

Advanced Micro Devices’ Opteron processor truly is the Little Engine That Could. When Opteron launched in April, the Intel x86-compatible 64-bit processor faced a steep uphill battle against Intel’s Itanium. By year’s end, IBM and Microsoft delivered on early promises, and Sun Microsystems joined the bandwagon. Will Dell and Hewlett-Packard be next, or can’t they see Opteron from where they sit behind Intel?

Apple Computer receives the Dude, Where’s My Product Road Map? award in return for providing absolutely no helpful indication regarding when we might expect a G5-powered Xserve. Remember Steve, if you’re serious about the enterprise IT market, your servers really should be more powerful than your workstations.

EMC bags our All-You-Can-Eat award for not even blinking when it dropped $US3 billion on the table to acquire Documentum and Legato Systems, and another $US635 million to devour VMware before year’s end. What’s next? We’re bracing ourselves for yet another overblown utility computing initiative ... not to mention expensive ILM (Information Lifecycle Management) applications.

Microsoft deserves our coveted Pain in the NAS award for confounding competitors in the sleepy network-attached storage market. Attacking from the low end, Redmond’s Windows Storage Server 2003 is putting the heat on expensive proprietary NAS solutions.

Microsoft again wins the Best Shipping Beta award for Microsoft SQL Server 2000 for 64-bit Itanium systems. It’s a lightning-fast database engine, to be sure, but is missing crucial management features that DB admins would expect in a commercial release — as we discovered in our October test.

Network Appliance warrants the Old Dog New Tricks award for its surprising October launch of one of the most interesting iSCSI SANs, based on its entry-level FAS200 arrays and Adaptec controllers. Not bad for a die-hard filer vendor. And finally, Novell nabs our Stealth Fighter award for flying under nearly everyone’s radar to snatch SuSE Linux AG. Following on Novell’s acquisition of Ximian, the addition of SuSE’s enterprise-class Linux OS distribution puts Novell in the ring with Red Hat and Sun, who are also betting big on commercial Linux.

Staff writers

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