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Enterprise data storage 2021 Products of the Year finalists

The 20th anniversary of the 'Storage' magazine and SearchStorage Products of the Year contest showcases 39 finalists in backup, cloud, disk, hyper-converged and management.

The 20th anniversary edition of the Storage magazine and SearchStorage Products of the Year competition looks very different from its inaugural year. For example, the current cloud storage and hyper-converged categories didn't exist in 2002, and ransomware protection did not dominate the headlines.

What hasn't changed is the objective of the competition -- to recognize outstanding enterprise data storage products and help IT professionals make wise choices among the abundance of offerings on the market.

Several trends stand out among the five categories of finalists this year, including protection against cyber attacks in backup products, a focus on the cloud and its integration across the board, and support for newer technologies such as containers.

A group of industry analysts, consultants and TechTarget editors slimmed the list of approximately 80 entrants to the 39 finalists detailed below.

This year's five categories are: backup and disaster recovery (DR) hardware, software and services; cloud storage; disk and disk subsystems; hyper-converged and composable infrastructures; and storage system and application software. Enterprise data storage products qualified if they were new or significantly upgraded and first shipped on or after Sept. 21, 2020, and before Sept. 22, 2021.

Congratulations to the 2021 Products of the Year finalists. We will reveal the gold, silver and bronze winners for each category next month on SearchStorage and in the February issue of Storage magazine.

Backup and disaster recovery hardware, software and services

The finalists in this year's backup and DR category embody the growing need of IT professionals to address some of the most pressing issues in data protection, such as SaaS backup, growing cybersecurity threats like ransomware and cloud management. Scalability, replication and immutability capabilities were also key components in many finalist entries along with Kubernetes support and backup of containerized workloads.

With the rise of remote work and cybersecurity threats, many finalists in this category recognize the needs of enterprise IT infrastructure, such as air gaps, replication across different backup media and the necessity for features like anomaly detection and hybrid workloads. Tape, an inherently offline backup media, is also represented in this year's finalists.

This category includes data protection hardware, backup software integrated with hardware appliances, tape libraries and drives, backup media, disk backup targets and deduplication devices. It also covers backup and recovery software, cloud backup and recovery services, and on-premises backup and disaster recovery, snapshotting, replication and archiving products.

Here are the 11 finalists in the backup and DR hardware, software and services category.

Arcserve Unified Data Protection 8.0. Safeguarded by Sophos Intercept X Advanced, Arcserve LLC's recent upgrades to Unified Data Protection focus on ransomware protection for backups with native immutability. It also includes backup of Oracle RMAN configurations, immutable cloud storage for backups, snapshot-based backup of Nutanix files and backup for Microsoft Teams objects.

Clumio Protect with Discover. A cloud-native backup-as-a-service product, Clumio Inc.'s Protect with Discover offers account-level air-gapped backups for cloud platforms such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, Microsoft 365 and VMware Cloud on AWS. The product includes data recovery, long-term data retention and backup encryption.

Dell EMC PowerProtect Data Manager 19.9. Dell's suite of protection options includes coverage of file systems, VMs and Kubernetes containers. Recent updates include Transparent Snapshots, a feature that enables users to back up VMs without pausing them.

Druva Cloud Platform. Built as a cloud-native protection option, updates to Druva Inc.'s Cloud Platform include anomaly detection, data protection for hybrid workloads and orchestrated cloud DR. The product, now called Druva Data Resiliency Cloud, also includes data protection for SaaS applications such as Salesforce, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365.

Kasten K10 v4.5. This update to Kasten K10, which specializes in Kubernetes backup and DR, adds multicluster management, immutability against ransomware or accidental deletion, and support for data services such as Microsoft Azure Stack and Red Hat OpenShift. Vendor Kasten by Veeam has also enhanced the product so users can create policies for specific applications.

Other World Computing Mercury Pro LTO. An expansion into the modernization of tape, Other World Computing Inc.'s product enables users to manage LTO backups formatted with LTFS with a drag-and-drop operation using LTO-8 tapes.

Qumulo Recover Q. Within the Qumulo Core, Recover Q expands on anti-ransomware capabilities with features such as access control, snapshots, erasure coding and replication to off-site clouds with options for on-premises and cloud DR. The product also includes failover and data encryption, as well as log auditing to identify malicious activity.

Unitrends Recovery Series Gen 9. Recovery Series Gen 9 backup appliances include AI-based ransomware detection, self-healing backup software and predictive analytics to monitor disk and RAID failures.

Veeam Backup & Replication v11. Veeam Software's platform includes data protection, NAS and VMware backup, as well as integrated native backup and recovery for AWS, Google Cloud and Azure. Updates to the product include continuous data protection (CDP) and ransomware protection for Linux repositories.

Veritas NetBackup 9.1. Version 9.1 includes data protection for databases such as Microsoft SQL and Oracle, plus backup services for cloud and other media. In this update, Veritas Technologies LLC doubled down on containerized environments and ransomware protection with additions such as native Kubernetes support and anomaly detection.

Zerto 9.0. Recently acquired by HPE, Zerto offers cloud data management and cloud DR, and focuses on CDP for backup and DR across hybrid and multi-cloud environments. Additions to the product include cloud tiering and immutability settings for long-term data retention.

Cloud storage

Organizations moving data to the cloud have several options at their disposal, with object storage products, NAS replacement technology and Kubernetes offerings, among others, all vying for customers' attention. Individual products vary in focus and technical approach. The subdivisions within the broader cloud storage category sometimes overlap, adding to the complexity.

This year's cloud storage category finalists emphasize simplicity and ease of use as market differentiators. Storage at the edge surfaced as another common theme among vendors, in keeping with the rise of AI, IoT and other edge uses. As for target markets, the shortlisted companies pursue customers ranging from small businesses to large, distributed enterprises.

The products qualifying for this wide-ranging category must run in the cloud with no reliance on underlying on-premises hardware. The technical scope includes software that pools and centrally manages storage, file systems not tied to specific arrays and gateway appliances.

Here are the five cloud storage category finalists in the 2021 enterprise data storage Products of the Year competition.

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage, Spring release. This S3-compatible object storage platform offers Cross-Origin Resource Sharing, which enables users to securely serve B2 Cloud Storage content from other websites, according to the company. Other features include a partnership with HashiCorp Terraform for infrastrucure as code and Object Lock Legal Hold for compliance-minded customers.

Ctera 7.0. The 7.0 release offers multi-cloud file services with edge caching, which Ctera Networks Ltd. said enables customers to modernize distributed file services delivery for remote office, virtual desktop infrastructure and other uses. Other updates include Ctera Migrate, which automates the process of importing file shares from legacy NAS filers.

MinIO. MinIO Inc. issues weekly releases of its Kubernetes-native object store. In this particular iteration, MinIO offers features such as Subnet Health, which automates root cause analysis; and continuous data protection, which provides time-machine functionality and object recovery.

Nasuni Cloud File Storage 9.3. New additions to Nasuni Corp.'s SaaS offering -- which replaces on-premises NAS filers, backup and DR -- include a Global File Acceleration feature and Rapid Ransomware Recovery. The former speeds up multisite file synchronization, while the latter enables customers to restore entire volumes and directories or individual files, according to Nasuni.

Robin Cloud Native Storage. This software-defined Kubernetes storage system provides application-aware incremental backups and snapshots. The product's API enables developers to manage stateful applications, while its support for multiple replication modes offers customers granularity.

Disk and disk subsystems

Products in the disk and disk subsystems category range from storage arrays to offerings available with flash storage, hard disk drives or a hybrid mixture. Products include flash and disk drive-based Fibre Channel (FC) and iSCSI SAN arrays, NAS, multiprotocol systems, converged infrastructure products, disk controllers and caching appliances. Arrays in this category have all the software management and storage features integrated with the storage media, as opposed to software that can run on any appliance.

The 2021 finalists embrace modern app technologies, such as virtualization, containerization, cloud-native infrastructure, hybrid cloud and integration with a significant cloud platform.

Some deliver all-flash systems that add comprehensive NVMe and NVMe-oF. Intel Optane storage class memory (SCM) has become more common, at least as an option. There is also growing use of intelligence in the form of AI, machine learning, predictive analytics and modeling, and intelligent caching.

Here are the eight finalists in the disk and disk subsystems category.

Dell EMC PowerStore 500 with PowerStoreOS 2.0. PowerStore is a midrange infrastructure platform that runs PowerStoreOS 2.0, which Dell Technologies said provides greater performance and scale than earlier OS versions. Comprehensive NVMe-oF support and metadata tiering capabilities that use IBM Optane SCM are included. Dell said the PowerStore 500 guarantees 4:1 data reduction. An ESXi hypervisor runs data-intensive applications directly on the system, and the platform integrates with leading management and orchestration frameworks.

GRAID SupremeRAID SR-1000. SupremeRAID is an NVMe RAID card designed for software composable environments. It can be used with direct-attached flash storage and NVMe-oF connected devices. The card promises 100 GBps throughput via PCIe Gen 4 without using CPU resources or relying on memory caching technology. Features include compression, encryption and thin provisioning. The card's chip uses AI and advanced algorithms to maximize performance.

HPE Alletra platform. HPE said its Alletra platform provides automated provisioning and transparent upgrades, which cuts the time it takes to deploy and manage storage. The platform, which includes the 6000 and 9000 systems, has adopted a predictive model of support and management and uses AI-driven recommendations to optimize performance and availability. Alletra supports NVMe and can deliver more than 2 million IOPS. Other features include the integration of InfoSight to provide predictive recommendations to managers, the full features of the Data Services Cloud Console and the option for HPE GreenLake infrastructure as a service.

IBM FlashSystem 5200. The FlashSystem 5200 features all-NVMe flash, 100% availability and integration of Spectrum Virtualize, its symmetric virtualization technology. IBM Storage Insights management platform capabilities are helpful for administrators looking to optimize their environment.

Infinidat InfiniBox SSA. The InfiniBox SSA uses commodity triple-level cell flash storage on the back end and DRAM caching on the front end. The product includes Neural Cache deep-learning software, as well as support for native block and file access, and a Trie data structure to store data and metadata. Infinidat said all critical system components are triple-redundant and set up in an active-active-active configuration to provide greater availability and resiliency.

IXsystems TrueNAS M-Series Gen 3. The TrueNAS enterprise storage platform scales from 20 TB to 20 PB. In addition, TrueNAS Scale software makes it possible to scale out clusters to 2 exabytes. The system offers NVMe connectivity, up to 20 GBps storage bandwidth and up to 1.2 million IOPS. The platform runs on open source technologies, uses industry-standard hardware components and integrates with VMware vSphere Storage APIs -- Array Integration.

NetApp AFF A250. The AFF A250 entry-level system supports NVMe SSDs and NVMe over FC connectivity, and delivers up to 440,000 IOPS and latency below 1 millisecond (ms). NetApp said the platform integrates with major public clouds, and provides a unified system for SAN, NAS and object storage. The AFF A250 runs NetApp's OnTap 9.8 data management software, as well as NetApp Active IQ and NetApp Cloud Insights. Users can cluster the system with capacity flash, hybrid flash or other AFF A-Series systems.

Tintri VMstore T7000 Series. The T7000 Series, from DataDirect Networks (DDN) subsidiary Tintri, is a VMstore offering that integrates AI technologies to help manage most administrative tasks. The system is built on DDN NVMe hardware, which Tintri said can support up to 7,500 virtualized applications, while delivering high performance with less than 1 ms latency. The T7000 uses a purpose-built file system that provides granular control at the managed object level, such as VMs and databases. In addition, the system's OS supports VMware Tanzu persistent volumes.

Hyper-converged and composable infrastructures

As hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and the underlying processors, memory and storage evolves, so too do the applicable uses and potential benefits of the technology.

Whereas HCI was a niche or SMB platform originally, enterprise-level IT shops are now increasingly incorporating the technology into their central data centers and edge computing deployments. Total system sales in the HCI market reached $2.46 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to IDC.

HCI provides support for more than just virtualization stacks. It also supports container clusters, machine learning and deep learning algorithms, and even the emergence of streaming data analytics.

Acceptable entries in this category included hyper-converged systems and software that combine storage, compute and virtualization resources for management as a single system through a common tool set. Software-defined storage products were also eligible.

In addition, this category included composable systems and software that use a unifying API to disaggregate and manage shared pools of physical compute, storage and network fabric IT resources. These products treat resources as services, so administrators don't have to physically configure hardware to support specific applications.

Here are the five hyper-converged and composable infrastructures category finalists.

Cisco HyperFlex 5.0. Cisco HyperFlex delivers the agility, scalability and pay-as-you-grow economics of the cloud with the benefits of multi-site, distributed computing at global scale. It includes hybrid, all-flash, all-NVMe and edge configurations; an integrated network fabric; and powerful data optimization that brings the full potential of HCI to a wide range of uses.

Dell EMC VxRail P Series. Joint engineering between Dell EMC and VMware has led to a curated and optimized hyper-converged appliance. This deep integration, combined with the simplicity of VxRail HCI System Software and the performance of next-generation PowerEdge servers, provides a platform across core, edge and cloud. The VxRail P Series has a rich feature set and simple-to-manage control plane. The product also provides the hooks required to integrate into a multi-cloud environment for enterprises.

HPE Nimble Storage dHCI. Delivered as a service, HPE Nimble Storage dHCI is a disaggregated hyper-converged infrastructure (dHCI) that delivers the HCI experience but with better resiliency, performance and economics. The product has 99.9999% guaranteed data availability, sub-millisecond latency and cloud-based operational agility support that works for business-critical apps and mixed workloads. HPE's dHCI enables administrators to create an HCI environment from existing resources, a powerful feature for enterprise IT shops that want an easy-to-manage HCI platform.

Lightbits Labs LightOS 2.1. LightOS is composable, disaggregated and software-defined storage that accelerates applications in private and edge clouds running in bare metal, containerized or virtual environments. It's a clustered, NVMe-based, scalable, block storage system based on Linux. LightOS 2.1 also has one of the strongest cloud-native and container integrations among the submitted category entrants.

Scale Computing HC3 for Video Surveillance. The HC3 for Video Surveillance, on the HC5250D-V appliance, is purpose-built to be the infrastructure for video management systems and building automation systems. The product combines the high availability, simplicity and scalability of Scale Computing's popular HC3 family. Video surveillance is one of the most prevalent edge uses, and this product fits into a small footprint.

Storage system and application software

Finalists in this category seek to solve a broad range of common data management issues. Unstructured data management products are clearly represented in our final 10, but that's far from the only process covered by these systems.

There are common threads among the category entries, but the diversity of products showcases the wide range of needs storage admins have today. Products that made our cut tackle ransomware defense, cloud infrastructure and containerization.

Systems and software that use a variety of storage methods, including file, block, object and cloud, also made an impact in 2021 because of the versatility they provide customers. The interest in data management across incompatible storage methods shows that modern storage admins aren't simply using one storage infrastructure and sticking with it.

Products eligible for this category included SAN management, storage resource management software, third-party analytics, performance monitoring, configuration management, provisioning, data reduction and container storage. Storage-related software products that are not dependent on a specific storage array or device could also compete.

Here are the 10 finalists in the enterprise data storage system and application software category.

Data Dynamics ControlX. Backed by blockchain technology, ControlX mitigates modern storage security risks. It uses RESTful APIs to integrate with existing storage environments and offers features such as intelligent file repermissioning and immutable audit reporting.

Komprise Intelligent Data Management 4.0. This multisite unstructured data management SaaS product adds centralized management to handle files across data centers and the cloud. The update also includes built-in search and analytics.

NetApp Cloud Insights. This infrastructure monitoring tool provides visibility into an organization's infrastructure, both on premises and in the cloud. It offers Kubernetes topology views and integrates with Spot by NetApp's Cloud Analyzer for cost reporting and optimization of public cloud resources.

OpenDrives Atlas 2.1. Atlas 2.1 abstracts data accessibility from the storage infrastructure as a form of data management. This release adds significant functionality, including intuitive workflow automation, high-performance scale-up speeds and low latency in a scale-out architecture.

Pavilion HyperParallel Data Platform. This upgrade to Pavilion Data Systems' unified file, block and object flash storage adds global namespace for NFS and S3 objects and data versioning that can prevent bit rot in SSD drives. It also offers RAID 6 data protection and container support.

Portworx Enterprise 2.8. With this upgrade, Portworx container-native storage integrates with Pure Storage's storage arrays and brings enterprise features and performance to Kubernetes. This product delivers secure enterprise-grade scalability without hurting performance.

Quobyte 3.0. This product update adds end-to-end encryption, policy-based data management, expansive automation and a new web user interface to this Portable Operating System Interface-compatible scale-out file system. Quobyte 3.0 includes a free edition with full file system functionality.

Spectra Logic StorCycle Storage Lifecycle Management Software 3.5. This tiering software upgrade includes support for cloud storage, encryption and VM failover. The platform helps free up primary storage capacity for active data, while reducing backup windows and increasing performance.

StorMagic ARQvault. StorMagic's ARQvault active intelligent repository uses automated tiering to optimize performance and reduce storage costs. Users can operate and manage ARQvault from a single pane of glass in one or multiple locations. The product improves unstructured data performance with low-resolution proxies of high-resolution files.

StrongBox Data Solutions StrongLink 3.2. StrongLink 3.2 adds significant functionality, including bidirectional multisite replication for distributed environments, third-generation query and reporting engines and the ability to automate policy-based file movement at any scale.

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