We announced today that the HP ProLiant DL320 won our Reader's Choice award. Our Reader's Choice awards program is based on the results of a poll that you can participate in by using the voting buttons on the left side of the page on any of the ISAServer.org Web pages.
The HP box won in a blow out. HP garnered 46% of the vote and the Celestix and Network Engines boxes were distant second and third, at 16% and 10%, respectively.
I found these results very interesting, because it may give some insight into the mindset of the typical ISA Firewall admin. The HP box, unlike the Celestix and Network Engines boxes, is a completely open setup and is essentially a pre-install of the ISA Firewall software on top of Windows Server 2003. There isn't much customization or "hardware-izing" of the ISA Firewall. Instead, what you get is high quality HP hardware and a simple setup wizard. After that, your ISA Firewall admin experience is not different from the admin experience you have if you installed the software on a white box.
In contrast, the Celestix and Network Engines ISA Firewall appliances are highly customized and include management interfaces and other software that are designed to enhance the ISA Firewall admin experience. This "middleware" represents a major value add for both the Celestix and Network Engines products, so it seems counterintuitive (and almost unreasonable) that these two players fell so far behind the HP offering.
On the other hand, there is more to selling a product than the value add software. I suspect that people go with HP because they know the company, use HP for other servers and network gear, and have established relationships with HP resellers and vendors. In contrast, they don't know Network Engines and Celestix, and so in spite of the software enhancements they've made to their products, they had a hard time getting into radar range in order to make the sale.
All three products are top of the line and I wouldn't argue with anyone who decided to get any one of them. Each offers a differ ISA Firewall admin experience. The HP is the pure ISA Firewall admin experience, the Celestix box offers a Web interface that you can use to configure many of the ISA Firewall settings, and the Network Engines boxes were traditionally "locked down 'hardware'" firewall like devices. Maybe the lesson here is that ISA Firewall admins want to be in complete control of the software?
Whatever the reasons for these results, I don't want to take anything away from HP's victory in the Reader's Choice poll. Congratulations!