Editor's note

This year marks the 15th edition of the Storage magazine and SearchStorage.com Products of the Year awards. That's 15 years of identifying the very best in data storage for our readers. As before, the Products of the Year competition began with an invitation to technology vendors to nominate their products for consideration. And, unlike other awards, we only recognize products introduced or significantly upgraded during the course of the previous year. This evens the playing field, giving new or lesser-known products and startups a fairer chance against more established brands and products.

Technological innovation is a significant factor for our judges when adjudicating the nominees, but it is by no means the only one. A product wouldn't do much to satisfy if it's hard to use and implement! So, in addition to technology, our judges graded on performance, manageability, how easily a product can be integrated and used, functionality and value. Our judging panel consisted of users, analysts and consultants, along with Storage magazine and SearchStorage.com writers and editors.

Nominated products competed in the following categories: all-flash storage systems, backup and disaster recovery software and services, backup hardware, hybrid flash storage systems, server-based storage and SAN management tools.

Of the many products nominated in these six categories, only 17 earned gold, silver or bronze awards to become Products of the Year winners. We would like to congratulate each of the 17 winners on a job well done.

Click on the links in each section below to learn more about why each of our winners made our list of best data storage products for 2016. You'll also find links to the finalists in each category. That way, you can read up on the nominees who gave our medalists the stiffest competition.

1Storage and SAN management tools

Entrants for the storage and SAN management tools category for the Storage magazine/SearchStorage.com 2016 Products of the Year award ranged from a complete data center management suite to a tool for checking on how the network component of your NAS system is performing at any given moment. All of the products fit into one of these areas that made them eligible for consideration: SRM and SAN management software, performance monitoring, configuration management, provisioning, or data reduction.

2Server-based storage

VMware's Inc.'s feature-packed vSAN 6.2 product update captured the gold award in the server-based storage category.

Startup Formation Data Systems was runner-up with its innovative new FormationOne software-defined storage product. DataCore Software Corp.'s Hyper-converged Virtual SAN P2P5 update took the bronze award with high marks in functionality and performance.

Products eligible in the server-based storage category included hyper-converged appliances that combine storage, compute, networking and virtualization in one box; software-defined storage systems; software that pools and centrally manages storage capacity across servers; and storage services found in storage arrays. The storage software could be sold standalone or packaged with hardware. All of the winning products can run on commodity x86 server hardware.

3Storage systems: All-flash systems

The winners in our all-flash storage systems category offer storage arrays that are available only with solid-state drives (SSDs) and no mechanical drives. Finalists include a newcomer to all-flash storage, a vendor product built on Western Digital PCIe NAND flash technology, and system designed to accept only proprietary flash module drives (FMDs) rather than generic flash media.

4Storage systems: Disk and hybrid systems

The Hybrid/All-Disk Storage Systems category is for the best storage platforms available with a mixture of hard disk drives and flash storage. These products include FC and iSCSI SAN, NAS, multi-protocol systems, converged/hyper-converged infrastructure products, DAS, hard disk drives, disk controllers, caching appliances, storage virtualization appliances, cloud-integrated storage)