The 800-pound gorilla in the room, Hall of Famers go through a rigorous evaluation, not once, but over a space of years. They have to be creative, well-managed, forward-looking and successful. Don't forget that last one, either. Success is the yardstick by which we measure the worth of these creative companies.

We pick our Innovators each year based, in part, on our experience with them during the intervening year between December issues. After two to three years, depending on the company and how it fares in our Group Test reviews and First Looks, its road map for the future, and its performance against its earlier road maps (including turn-on-a-dime responses to unavoidable changes, such as market conditions or the economy), we push the best of the best into the Hall of Fame.

Getting to the Hall of Fame requires innovation, staying power and demonstrated success. Last year, we inducted several companies into our inaugural Hall of Fame. This year, there is only one, but it is an interesting story because it is the amalgam of two companies, both of which have, over time, demonstrated the characteristics that we look for in Hall of Fame candidates.

There is a notion that getting votes in the Reader Trust Awards, part of the annual SC Awards, equals Hall of Fame status. Because of the way the Reader Trust Awards are granted, however, they only count for part of the total picture. Reader Trust Awards, for example, may equate in part to market share, which, in turn, may equate to company size and age. 

There are a couple of Innovators this year that might very well win a Reader Trust Award. That would be a very good thing given that the designation bestowed by us would tend to validate the kudos presented the winner by our readers. And that sums up the whole idea nicely. It is the well-rounded company with appropriate products in the right place at the right time that wins Hall of Fame honors. Today's technology companies ought not to win by brute force, but, rather, by a combination of attributes that define excellence in their respective fields.


vGW Virtual Gateway from Juniper Networks


This is the third year that we have looked at Altor, the company that burst on the scene with the first product to firewall individual virtual machines in a VMware environment. At the time, we asked the company's visionary what the company was going to do when VMware decided to build its own similar product. “That's not going to happen” was the answer. 



Altor's approach is still hot, but it's not Altor anymore. This year, Altor became part of the Juniper family. We cannot think of a better marriage. Both deserve to join other Hall of Famers as the cream of the crop.

As it happens, Juniper was not really an outside choice for a suitor. Juniper, in many regards, incubated Altor, so it was predictable that the company would come inside. Juniper has a leading place in physical firewalls and the vGW, Altor virtual firewall's new name, works at the wire speed of the virtual system. With the acquisition, developers focused on adding additional layers of security. Being hypervisor-based makes the vGW efficient. Then, with new resources available, the team was able to add things like contiguous monitoring, integrated compliance, anti-virus and virtual machine image enforcement.

The big bonus, though, is the connection between the physical firewall and the virtual one. The net result of that capability is total firewall protection for the virtual data center and its physical hosts. Layered protection means defense in depth, and that is just the ticket for a virtual environment. 

The vGW Virtual Gateway is Juniper's positioning for securing virtualized data centers and clouds. The centerpiece is a hypervisor-based stateful firewall that secures inter-VM traffic at wire speeds. Layers of defense include application monitoring, integrated intrusion detection, VM compliance assessment, image enforcement and now integrated, high-performance anti-virus. This functionality makes the vGW much more than a virtual firewall. It really is a true gateway that joins the physical and virtual environments for generalized security. And that is worthy of a spot in our Hall of Fame.

AT A GLANCE

Vendor: Juniper Networks

Flagship product: vGW Virtual Gateway

Cost: $3,000 per CPU socket

Innovation: A total firewall that marries the physical and the virtual to protect everything from the data center to the virtual machine.

Greatest strength: Ability to work in physical and virtual worlds with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of both.