Microsoft Tech•Ed took place in Atlanta, Georgia, this year—and a month earlier in the year, avoiding the oppressive heat that afflicted last year’s humid New Orleans event. In tune with the weather, Tech•Ed was a cool and cloudy affair. Indeed, the convention air was filled with talk about the cloud, and it only made sense that our Best of Tech•Ed awards program introduced a new Best Cloud Computing Product/Service category into the mix.

The Best of Tech•Ed Award awards, of course, recognize Microsoft partners that offer innovative products and services in the marketplace. Our judging panel—consisting of Windows IT Pro, SQL Server Magazine, DevProConnections, and SharePoint Pro editors Michael Otey, Sean Deuby, Amy Eisenberg, Jason Bovberg, Jeff James, Zac Wiggy, and Caroline Marwitz—narrowed an impressive field of more than 300 submissions down to 46 finalists in 17 categories. Onsite in Atlanta, the team interviewed the finalists and evaluated the products to determine a final list of winners. As always, the three criteria for the judging process were strategic importance, competitive advantage, and value to customers. Show attendees also cast their votes to determine the winner of the prestigious Attendees' Pick Award.

It was a fun week in Atlanta, capped off with a wonderful awards party at the aquarium. We would like to congratulate our 2011 winners!

Backup and Recovery

CommVault Simpana 9 for Windows and Windows Server

Simpana has evolved into a comprehensive, one-stop suite of data-protection functionality, and version 9 brings an impressive array of new features to the table. New “universal de-duplication,” snapshot protection, and fast-migration options—as well as smooth Exchange/SharePoint and VMware/Hyper-V virtualization integration—push CommVault into the winners’ circle. 

Business Intelligence

ComponentOne OLAP for Silverlight

Component One’s OLAP for SilverLight enables you to create interactive reports, charts, pivot tables, and dashboards. Custom end-user views can be persisted and reports can be distributed as PDFs. This product fills an important need by bringing OLAP data-analysis capabilities to businesses without the need for complex BI infrastructures.

Database Administration

Idera SQL toolbox

Idera SQL toolbox is a powerful collection of database-management tools that perform system monitoring, diagnostics, and troubleshooting. SQL toolbox includes: the SQL admin toolset, SQL comparison toolset, SQL safe lite, and SQL virtual database. One feature that sets Idera’s SQL toolbox apart is its SQL doctor feature, which provides an easy-to-use wizard that allows non-DBAs to diagnose and remediate SQL Server performance and tuning problems.

Database Development

Red Gate SQL Developer Bundle

DBA Developer Bundle is a collection of ten SQL development tools, including SQL Prompt (which helps you write T-SQL scripts), SQL Source Control (which facilitates teams development), and SQL Compare and Data Compare (which compare and synchronize databases), and SQL Search (which locates database objects). This product’s seamless integration with SQL Server Management Studio makes it an essential tool for the database developer.

Hardware/Storage

Cisco Unified Computing System B250 M2 Blade

The Cisco Unified Computing System is a high-end, high-density, highly scalable, awesomely powerful network, compute, virtualization, and management backbone that re-architects the notion of the blade chassis. The B250 M2 Blade exemplifies Cisco’s ubiquitous nature in the server room, bringing a new level of power and management, thanks to the revolutionary Unified Fabric interconnect.

Messaging

Messageware OWA Desktop

Messageware OWA Desktop is the first desktop client for Microsoft Outlook Web Access (OWA), bringing web mail functionality to the desktop with a thin client. It gives users access their mailbox right from the system tray with one-click access to inbox and calendar; single click compose of mail, meetings, and tasks; and the ability to manage multiple accounts. The small footprint, time-saving features, and low cost make this product stand out.

Microsoft

Windows Intune

Windows InTune makes system management easy. Companies of all sizes can begin managing their clients in hours rather than weeks or months. And this significant first step opens the door to a whole range of future management services to be released at a pace that traditional on-premise products simply can’t match. Windows InTune will change the way we manage everything.

Mobile/Wireless

Odyssey Athena for Configuration Manager 5.0

Athena is a mobile device management product that integrates with System Center Configuration Manager to provide administrators a "single pane" view of all the smartphones and tablets they have to manage. It has close competition, but Athena won because of its lower cost and focus on being compatible with the full range of modern devices—administrators must be able to manage the latest devices in today's heterogeneous, bring-your-own-device corporate world.

Networking

Spiceworks

Combining network, PC, and Help desk management with a robust online community, Spiceworks has become a one-stop resource for 1.7 million IT professionals. Factor in the cost (it's free), the rapid pace of upgrades (several a year), and the ingenious combination of offline and online resources, and Spiceworks points the way to a future in which content, community, and product are seamlessly integrated into one platform. For all these reasons, Spiceworks is the winner in our Networking category.

Security

Accellion Secure Collaboration

Providing secure access to valuable files and data inside and outside of organizations has become a vital concern for businesses of all types, especially those that have a raft of regulatory, compliance, and auditing demands to meet. Accellion Secure Collaboration provides a solution to that problem, and—via plug-ins for Outlook, SharePoint, and Office—integrates seamlessly with your existing IT environment and makes secure file transfer a point-and-click affair. For these reasons and more, Accellion Secure Collaboration takes the prize.

SharePoint Administration

Colligo Networks Contributor Pro

Contributor Pro is client software for SharePoint that aims to extend SharePoint’s collaboration and content-management features. It lets users access SharePoint via Microsoft Outlook’s email interface, links folders on users’ file systems to SharePoint document libraries, and has a standalone client interface that allows for metadata management and SharePoint access offline. Its emphasis on increasing user adoption of SharePoint and on metadata management turns SharePoint into a tool that’s easy to use and easy to search for data.

SharePoint Development

K2/SourceCode K2 blackpearl

K2 blackpearl is a business process management solution for SharePoint that lets you automate and streamline business processes including workflows. It’s a Silverlight-based solution that offers three design environments in which devs, admins, and power users can create SharePoint workflows, processes, and applications. The visual, easy-to-use design tools, wizards, and inline functions let you assemble new solutions from information you already have—in some cases without having to use code. It also offers views into processes and reports on bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

Software Development

DevExpress DXperience Universal

DevExpress DXperience Universal is an enterprise-level component suite that enables developers to build WinForm, ASP.NET, WPF, and SilverLight applications. DXperience includes all of the company’s UI controls, as well as the Object Relational Framework and productivity tools. All the components support themes and skinning. Multi-threaded controls enable the UI to be responsive while performing data retrieval. The CodeRush and Refactor Pro! features enable developers to write better code faster.

Systems Management/Operations

Specops Deploy 4.2

SpecOps Deploy rises to the top of the software-deployment field, handling the entire range of software deployment, from simple user self-service to unattended re-imaging of an entire department of computers. Its combination of ease of installation, ease of use, and intelligent leverage of Active Directory and Group Policy make it a terrific addition to an IT department’s set of must-have capabilities.

Virtualization

Citrix XenDesktop

XenDesktop manages desktop virtualization. It handles both VDI and application virtualization. It gives users access to their desktops wherever they are, from practically any device, with advanced technology for providing a quality experience no matter where it's used. The product’s longstanding reputation as a leader in desktop virtualization and its commitment to keeping up with the latest trends and platforms make it a clear leader in virtualization.

Cloud Computing Product/Service

Windows Intune

Windows InTune is a major milestone for Microsoft and the avatar of a new category of products: management as a service. By using the advantages of the Windows Azure public cloud, Microsoft has brought system management and software assurance to thousands of companies that couldn’t previously afford it. Take note of this product! It’s a herald of things to come from Redmond.

Breakthrough Product

Xiotech Hybrid ISE

The Hybrid ISE Storage Blade is a high-performance storage device that fuses together traditional hard disk drives and SSDs to provide more than 60,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS), as well as a stunning 14.4 terabytes of usable capacity. The Hybrid ISE wins the coveted Breakthrough Product of the Year thanks to its patented Continuous Adaptive Data Placement (CADP) feature, which moves data from hard disk to SSD on an as-needed basis, avoiding hot spots and providing unprecedented performance. With the Hybrid ISE, five 9s of availability is only the starting point.

Attendees' Pick

Xiotech Hybrid ISE

Congratulations to Xiotech for capturing the Attendees' Pick award! We felt very good about the popular choice, which only confirmed our view that Hybrid ISE is one stylish, powerful, revolutionary piece of technology.