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The best enterprise cloud storage of 2021

Judges in this year's Products of the Year competition tap the best cloud storage products for enterprises, with unstructured file storage and Kubernetes storage taking honors.

A mix of old and new defines the best enterprise cloud storage products category in the 2021 Storage magazine and SearchStorage Products of the Year competition, with a Kubernetes-native object store taking home the top honor and cloud file storage systems garnering the other two podium positions.

One cannot overstate the significance of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the cloud storage market. Many organizations were forced to choose products for remote working and data accessibility with barely enough time to examine their options.

Thankfully, as two of this year's winners show, decades of cloud file storage improvements gave most organizations a variety of flexible and powerful options to wrangle unstructured data.

Nasuni Corp. and Ctera Networks Ltd., our second and third place winners, respectively, continued to refine their products with a focus on maintaining file access speed for users at the edge.

Gold winner MinIO Inc. represents a relatively new trend within the data storage industry. The ubiquity of Kubernetes has led legacy vendors to purchase many startups specializing in persistent storage for containers. Finding stateful high-performance container storage not tied to a specific vendor is a powerful sales pitch itself; this, in addition to numerous accolades from our judges, clinched MinIO's position as our best enterprise cloud storage product.

Gold winner: MinIO

MinIO made big bets when launching its container-focused, distributed object storage product to general availability in 2017, but the company hasn't shied away from changing focus and radically adjusting its strategy.

The company's push into Kubernetes container object storage this year, however, caught the attention of our judges and secured its spot as the cloud storage category winner.

One judge called MinIO the "object store for everyone. [It] runs everywhere and runs blazingly fast."

MinIO's Kubernetes-native object store, according to the company, enables persistent storage for containers across all major public clouds, private clouds and edge locations. The company claims to have compatibility with every Kubernetes distribution and continues to offer its platform as open source software for future improvements and additions.

Judges were effusive in their praise for the MinIO platform. One judge said MinIO's "storage technology and performance for Kubernetes-focused object storage is second to none."

The MinIO Console browser-based interface enables users to select time windows to see current and past performance metrics about pools, servers, buckets and storage used.

The company expanded this year with the launch of enterprise-focused features, including a Kubernetes cloud infrastructure deployment tool and a GUI console -- both simplified enterprise workflows.

"The product is still maturing in its overall 'enterprise readiness,'" one judge said. "Technical organizations will have no problem deploying the solution, but it's not as turnkey as some of its competitors. That lack of polish won't be an inhibitor for many, where the product's performance and capabilities will be the deciding factor."

Silver winner: Nasuni Cloud File Storage 9.3

A longtime vendor in the cloud file storage market, Nasuni shows there is always a way to improve product performance.

The Nasuni UniFS global file system creates a single namespace to manage unstructured file data, primarily to replace traditional NAS. Users interact with Nasuni like any standard file system, but the data itself is stored in public or private clouds via object storage. Access speed is maintained through caching on physical appliances or VMs.

Nasuni is sold as a SaaS offering with a handful of premium services available to enhance UniFS. Those services currently include global file lock technology and multisite file synchronization capabilities.

The catalog of premium Nasuni services expanded this year with the addition of Global File Acceleration (GFA), which enables faster file synchronization across multiple Nasuni appliances. The service caches frequently accessed files and maintains immutable copies of prior file versions per user policy.

The GFA platform enhancements "help advance this mature cloud file storage technology," one judge said.

Nasuni Cloud File Storage 9.3
The Nasuni Management Console web-based UI provides centralized management of edge appliances, volumes, snapshots and more through a single pane of glass.

Other judges indicated the addition "solves mostly a Nasuni synchronization performance problem," but felt the new features evolve the platform into a "highly capable cloud file environment."

Specifically, GFA's immutable cloud storage feature helps protect file data against ransomware attacks, one judge noted.

Bronze winner: Ctera 7.0

Turns out seven is a lucky number, as the 7.0 release of Ctera's global file system (GFS) takes home the bronze in this year's cloud storage category.

The Ctera GFS creates a single namespace for users to view and access their files. Edge caching and multisite synchronization help maintain file access speeds and file integrity, making cloud storage appear as fast as local storage to users.

Ctera 7.0 further solidifies the file synchronization capabilities of the product with Ctera Direct. The company claims this new protocol enables throughput of 30 TB per day to remote sites. A new security framework enables administrators to restrict data access according to data sovereignty and compliance mandates. New migration tools also ease the transition from traditional NAS to the cloud, enabling imports from legacy hardware without third-party software.

All these features, according to the vendor, directly address the new enterprise challenge of distributed workers and the uptick in working from home.

"This space is increasingly important as enterprises embrace remote workers, and remote workflows begin to shift to support that new reality," one judge said.

Ctera 7.0
Ctera Migrate, part of Ctera 7.0, is a built-in data migration engine that provides data discovery and automated import of file shares from legacy NAS systems.

Judges praised the overall capabilities of Ctera 7.0, highlighting the performance and migration enhancements, "coming at a time when cloud file sharing is especially valuable to many organizations."

Not every organization may immediately see Ctera's benefits since the product targets larger enterprises, but "those that do will be hard-pressed to find a better solution," one judge said.

Read more about the gold, silver and bronze winners in each of the five Storage magazine and SearchStorage 2021 Products of the Year categories.

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