At the GCN Best of FOSE Awards, a glimpse of the future

Some of the innovations on the show floor were likely signs of things to come

The judges for the GCN Best of FOSE Awards always emerge from their meeting at the show talking about the winners, but some of the products that don’t win get a lot of attention, too.

Take the Faronics Deep Freeze, which ensures the stability and integrity of systems by preserving a PC’s baseline configuration. Deep Freeze is loaded onto a system’s kernel and then freezes the operating system and application configurations as they’re added. Each time a PC starts up, it returns to its pristine state — administrators would map areas where data can be saved.

It’s a nice product, a practical approach to security and reliability that would seem applicable to the Federal Desktop Core Configuration and especially useful in settings where computers are shared. And as GCN’s William Jackson, who judged the category, pointed out, if a user encounters a problem, “Finally, the help desk telling you to reboot actually will work.”

There was just one little problem when considering Deep Freeze for a Best of FOSE award: It’s 11 years old. It’s done well in educational circles and is just starting a push into government, so it’s sort of new to the FOSE crowd. But it’s tough in 2010 to give a best technology award to a product that predates the millennium. And so the judges moved on.

More on the GCN Best of FOSE Awards:

Listen: Lab Director John Breeden discusses the GCN Best of FOSE Awards on Federal News Radio

See photos and videos of the winners on GCN's Facebook page.

Fortunately, there was a lot to move on to. Nearly 100 products from more than 65 companies were submitted for Best of FOSE Awards, and many of them were worthy. But only 15 could be chosen, which made for some tough, close calls in the judges’ room.

Here are the winners in each category.

Storage: FalconStor File-interface Deduplication System

Also the winner of our Best in Show designation, the FalconStor system uses an approach that just might represent the next wave in storage.

GCN Lab technology analyst Greg Crowe noted that on a block level, a lot of documents are nearly identical. Consider almost any form — the questions, indicia, indents, spacing and so forth are the same, and they all consume megabytes. Only the filled-in information changes. Instead of keeping, say, copies of a million filled-out forms, the deduplication system keeps one copy of the form and a copy of each of a million responses. The storage space saved would add up quickly.

Because of space savings and the energy savings that would go along with it, judges concluded that file deduplication — which several other companies also are doing — represents a significant step forward in digital storage. And it’s interesting that FalconStor won in the storage category over a robotic system that makes it easier to expand your physical storage farm — a good idea, but one that might be headed in the wrong direction.

Audio/Visual/Surveillance: Tech Global’s NEC 46” Touch Screen

Tech Global brings the interactive touch-screen experience of some smart phones and laptop-sized devices to a large-format monitor, which not only makes the experience more pleasing but also potentially more efficient while opening the door to new applications.

Display Devices: Canson’s Papershow for Mac

The Papershow is a presentation system that spares the user from having to carry a projector or whiteboard, at least when speaking to a small group. The system uses an interactive pen with surprisingly inexpensive paper that has microdots on it. When the pen is used on the paper, whatever is written or drawn shows up on screen. And the software exists on a USB drive connected to a computer, so it leaves no footprint.

Handheld Devices: Research in Motion’s BlackBerry Bold 9700

The Bold 9700BlackBerry’s latest in a long line of fed favorites — combines a high-resolution display with trackpad navigation, new multimedia features, an array of advanced applications and fast 3G connectivity.

Networking Equipment: Virtensys’ VIO Series I/O Virtualization Switch

The VIO switch replaces the bird's nests of cables that are common in server rooms with a single cable that extends the native PCI express bus from each server to the input/output cloud. But it offers more than just aesthetic appeal: In addition to clearing the clutter, it can reduce power consumption and server costs.

Portable PCs: Getac’s V100

This is a convertible laptop/tablet PC that would be useful in tough climates. The V100 is fully rugged, like other portable PCs, but it has the added appeal of being convertible to a tablet with touch-screen capability, which would, for instance, allow a user working in freezing temperatures to wear gloves while working.

Peripherals: EDAC Systems’ IBML ImageTrac 3E

The ImageTrac is a high-speed, high-volume production scanner that handles a variety of paper sizes and formats. It can scan as many as 257 pages per minute at 200 dpi and has advanced features, such as the ability to recognize when two documents are passing through together. It’s caught on already at the Census Bureau, which is using it for the 2010 count.

Security Hardware: Xelerance’s DNSX Secure Signer

The DNSX Secure Signer is an appliance that automates the implementation and management of the Domain Name System Security Extensions, which is something every agency will be dealing with this year. Last year, the government completed implementation of DNSSEC at the top-level dot-gov domain and second-tier domains. But the job isn’t finished, and even when implemented, managing DNSSEC is a time-consuming job. So a product that automates the process would be welcome.

Security Software: Data Mountain Solutions’ Managed DNS Security Extensions

As in the Security Hardware category, Managed DNS Security Extensions automates what would otherwise be a time-consuming, difficult job, in this case as a managed service for updating and validating DNSSEC signatures. It can help take the pain out of a necessary task.

Servers: Fujitsu America’s Primergy TX 120 S2 Compact Server

This is a compact, quiet, power-saving server that delivers solid performance for offices thinking of going green. Designed for small-office environments, it runs on low-voltage Intel Core Duo processors and can accommodate as much as 16G of memory. And it’s quiet, idling at 27 decibels.

Software for Desktop Systems: Corel’s WordPerfect Office X5

The newest version of Corel’s office productivity suite, which was unveiled at FOSE, includes online collaboration tools such as SharePoint Server, integrated Thunderbird e-mail and support for more than 60 file formats, many of them common in government. It includes tools for working with and sharing PDFs and adds support for Microsoft Windows 7.

Software for Enterprise Systems: Zenprise Remote Control

A handy tool for administrators trying to managing their increasingly mobile workforces, Zenprise Remote Control allows centralized control of users' smart phones, which lets administrators keep track of their devices and help desks connect remotely to a device for troubleshooting and, when necessary, removing malware or unapproved applications.

Other: BreakingPoint Elite

In the miscellaneous category for products that didn’t quite fit in the other sections, Breaking Point Elite caught our attention. It’s a cyber simulation engine for testing the security and performance of network security devices. Routers and switches all come rated and often with the strong reputations of their manufacturers, but you still don’t know how they’ll perform until they’re live on the network. With Elite, you can find out first. It simulates a global network of as many as 15 million users and 4,300 live security attacks to throw at network devices, and it then derives a resiliency score on how the devices perform. The simulation network is updated weekly — and included in the price of the appliance — to keep the tests fresh.

Debut Exhibitor Award: Proton Data Security’s Proton T-4

Disposing of hard drives and flash drives can be a challenge for agencies because they must first get rid of all the data on the drive, which can be trickier than you might think. The Proton T-4 makes data destruction a sure thing. It’s a high-powered degausser that uses an electro-magnetic pulse to completely erase any data on a drive. Just drop the drive in the slot at the top of the box, and that’s that. It’s not for repurposing drives — they will no longer be usable — but it ensures that whatever data was on the drive is gone for good.

GCN Judges' Award: ABR Innovations’ Portable Crash Cart

The judges' award recognizes an innovative product that didn’t win any of the other categories but impressed us nonetheless. ABR did just that with the Portable Crash Cart, which puts a data center crash cart, which usually travels on wheels, into a backpack. PCC keeps your keyboard, mouse, monitor and other tools in easy reach for quickly troubleshooting malfunctioning servers. It might sound like a simple idea, but to those who work in data centers and have to answer the call, it’s a great idea.


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