Enterprise data storage buyers seek several important technologies and features in their products: security, higher capacity and speedy performance, to name a few.
Winners in the 22nd edition of the TechTarget Storage Products of the Year competition showcased these elements and shined a spotlight on current trends, including ransomware protection, automation and data orchestration. The annual awards, which recognize the best in enterprise data storage systems, again drew numerous heavy hitters from the data storage and technology market.
TechTarget invited vendors to submit their products for consideration last fall. To be eligible, vendors must have initially released or significantly upgraded their products on or after Sept. 1, 2022, and before Sept. 1, 2023.
A panel of industry experts -- consultants, analysts, users and TechTarget editors -- helped select the winners in four categories: backup and disaster recovery hardware, software and services; cloud storage; disk and disk subsystems; and storage system and application software.
Judges rated products on several factors, including innovation, performance, ease of integration into the environment, ease of use and value. Usability was especially important this year, as judges were impressed with products that make IT administrator tasks easier.
This year's top enterprise data storage products feature a range of vendors, from industry veterans such as Dell Technologies, HPE and Western Digital, to younger companies such as Hammerspace and HYCU.
Two of this year's gold winners -- Pure Storage and Infinidat -- also reached the top of the podium last year.
The top backup and disaster recovery services of 2023
Security is a top-of-mind concern for backup and disaster recovery (DR) professionals, and the winning products in this category reflect that. Judges gave high marks to backup and DR services that offered SaaS data protection, risk analysis features and ransomware mitigation. Ease of integration with different platforms and simplified management were other winning traits of top products.
Gold winner: HYCU R-Cloud
Judges were impressed by HYCU Inc.'s R-Cloud, particularly its protection of SaaS applications. As the first low-code development platform for data protection, R-Cloud enables SaaS companies and service providers to rapidly deliver native backup and recovery.
"HYCU really sets the bar for SaaS data backup and protection," one judge said. "Its ease of integration for both end users and SaaS providers stands out."
HYCU had created 12 purpose-built SaaS integrations through R-Cloud when the product launched, and had more than 30 when it submitted its award entry to TechTarget, according to the vendor.
The product's R-Graph feature lets customers detect and visualize all their data, including SaaS applications, with an intuitive interface and a single dashboard. The platform also offers role-based access controls and granular, application-consistent recovery.
Silver winner: Commvault Data Protection Platform
Commvault's Data Protection Platform took silver this year in the backup and DR hardware, software and services category for its addition of a wide array of security functions. Key additions to the platform include early warning technologies, exfiltration prevention and the use of machine learning (ML) to conduct risk analysis.
The product's use of ML earned the backup and DR service high praise from one judge, who also was pleased with its ease of use. "[Commvault's] use of ML in risk analysis is innovative in this space, and its seamless integration with the rest of Commvault's portfolio makes it easy to deploy," the judge said. The Commvault Cloud Command lets customers manage all Commvault products using a single platform and user interface.
The Commvault Data Protection Platform takes an active approach to ransomware protection with its ThreatWise Advisor feature, making it stand out to our judges in terms of data security.
Bronze winner: Zerto 10
Zerto 10 -- a backup and DR service from Zerto, an HPE company -- impressed our judges with its ransomware mitigation, journaling technology and security features, such as the Cyber Resilience Vault. This new feature uses a real-time warning system and rapid air-gapped recovery to protect critical data.
Our judges also commented on the expansion of Zerto 10's capabilities into Azure and AWS environments as impressive.
"Zerto's ability to protect Azure workloads is a nice differentiator," one judge said, who also noted the product's entropy-based anomaly detection.
New detection technology monitors and reports on encryption and can detect anomalous activity within minutes to alert users of suspicious activity, according to Zerto. The technology provides early warning of a potential ransomware attack and helps pinpoint the time of an attack.
The best enterprise cloud storage of 2023
Artificial intelligence, either through ML or the hype around generative AI, has once again made executives pay attention to how to support tool development. The best enterprise cloud storage products of 2023 might not have innovative AI features, but they let developers create products of their own.
Gold winner: Pure Storage Evergreen//One
Pure Storage Inc.'s Evergreen//One storage-as-a-service platform emerged as TechTarget's cloud storage category gold winner with "potentially transformative [service-level agreement] guarantees," according to one judge.
Evergreen//One bundles Pure's FlashArray and FlashBlade storage hardware and Pure Cloud Block Store to create a unified block, object and file storage service fully managed by Pure.
The hybrid cloud managed service lets customers use bare-metal and Pure1 storage analytics and automation capabilities. According to our judges, both capabilities are among the best additions to storage products in the field.
Judges noted the service ultimately bundles the vendor's existing technologies with a more C-suite palatable sales veneer. It also offers significant SLA add-on benefits, including ransomware recovery environments, or clean rooms, for storage.
"The SLA comes bundled with technical and professional services to help recover from an attack," one judge said. "It also guarantees next business day shipping of a clean storage array."
Silver winner: Ctera Networks Enterprise File Services Platform 7.5
Incremental upgrades might not gather headlines, but the enterprise target audience of Ctera Network Ltd.'s cloud storage platform looks for proven and reliable technology.
The Ctera Enterprise File Services Platform offers cloud file storage and sharing access in public clouds. Judges said standout additions in the 7.5 update include the Cloud Storage Routing feature that enables multi-cloud customers to use a variety of cloud and on-premises storage environments and edge storage deduplication capabilities, which eliminate storage footprints.
"The Ctera platform was already a solid product, but the introduction of version 7.5 seems to have bumped it up a notch," one judge said.
Judges also liked the enterprise key management, which provides a delegated storage space for important cryptographic keys for the enterprise and a permanent delete feature for regulatory compliance.
Bronze winner: Portworx Enterprise 3.0
Containerized applications have rallied around Kubernetes for orchestration capabilities, with Portworx Enterprise 3.0 emerging as a feature-complete storage offering for these programs.
Portworx, a Pure Storage company, has a managed service option available for the data platform. Judges said Portworx lives up to its name by offering the features enterprises demand for a technology increasing in adoption by developers.
"All of these [capabilities] have been around from various vendors, but just for VMs [and not for Kubernetes] containers," one judge said.
Portworx lets infrastructure teams create Kubernetes storage environments for developers, using any variety of hybrid storage, with a single cloud control console. Portworx Enterprise 3.0 adds a fully managed service option for buyers, which further eliminates administrative overhead.
"[Portworx] zeroes in on the storage requirements of containerized applications, which have become a mainstay of modern application delivery," another judge said. "There is good reason why it's such a popular platform."
The best enterprise storage arrays of 2023
Medalists in the disk and disk subsystems category include updated versions of last year's top-placing products and a new system entry from a well-known storage media maker. All three enterprise storage arrays ranked high with our judges in terms of ease of use, a key concern in today's increasingly complex IT environments.
Gold winner: Infinidat InfiniBox SSA II F4316T
The Infinidat InfiniBox SSA II all-flash enterprise storage array garnered gold in the disk and disk subsystems category once again, this time with its new F4316T edition.
Our judges praised the offering's capacity bump to 6.635 petabytes effective after compression, and its scale-up storage architecture that lets users purchase storage in a new way. "Clever way to introduce essentially multiple models within one system -- 60%, 80% or 100% configured and easily [upgradeable] in 20% increments," one judge commented.
Infinidat noted the greener aspect of a product that provides twice the capacity using the same power and cooling footprint. The vendor continues to use its Neural Cache software for efficiency and optimization. As a customer grows, the full capacity of the back-end storage will not overburden the Neural Cache, according to Infinidat.
Silver winner: Dell PowerStore with PowerStoreOS 3.5
Dell Technologies' PowerStore with PowerStoreOS kept its silver podium finish in the disk and disk subsystems category for a second year, this time with version 3.5. Its added capabilities and ease of use were strong points, according to the judges.
Version 3.5 focused on security, performance and data protection. Dell expanded PowerStore's functionality and centralized these components in its UI. The intuitive design in the data protection and security areas makes it easier for users to reduce risks.
"While competitive offerings may have some of the same capabilities as PowerStore, none have the full combination," one judge said.
The product integrates multi-cloud backup -- users can back up PowerStore data directly to PowerProtect DD Virtual Edition appliances running in the public cloud. Mounted snapshots give users more protection points for granular recovery, according to Dell.
Bronze winner: Western Digital OpenFlex Data24 NVMe-oF Storage Platform 3200 Series
Western Digital Corp. is a repeat bronze finisher in the disk and disk subsystems category, this time with an enterprise storage array rather than an HDD.
Western Digital provides all-flash storage with its OpenFlex 3200 Series. The array supports faster connection speeds through its RapidFlex network adapters or Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA)-enabled NVMe-oF controller. The 3200 Series separates compute from shared storage pools to accommodate different workloads.
"RDMA over Converged Ethernet and NVMe/TCP for [just a bunch of flash] JBOF … can accelerate a storage system's performance or enhance a composable or software-defined storage implementation," one judge said. "[It's] a good way to expand [Western Digital]'s footprint."
The product provides up to 368 TB in a 2U platform of low-latency, dual-port PCIe 4.0 SSD support. Customers can also use it as a disaggregated storage resource in an open composable infrastructure environment using the Open Composable API, according to Western Digital.
The top data storage and management tools of 2023
The concept of storage as just a place to dump tons of accumulating data has been upended by new roles and specialized applications that innovative companies have introduced in the past few years.
The winners in the storage system and application software category are a testament to how storage technology has evolved to meet the needs of contemporary computing. These visionary vendors are turning storage into a strategic component for a broad range of high-end data processing applications. Each winner applied its expertise to distinct segments of these new data storage and management environments.
Gold winner: Hammerspace Release 5
Hammerspace Inc. grabs the gold in the storage system and application software category this year with the latest incarnation of its data orchestration software that helps stem the tide of the unchecked growth of unstructured data. Hammerspace works with any type of storage device, overlaying disparate systems with its Parallel Global File System. The result is a unified environment where all data -- residing locally, remotely or in the cloud -- can be managed centrally and placed where it is most needed. Hammerspace uses its extensive metadata to ensure proper data placement and to automate maintenance tasks so they're handled in the background without disrupting operations.
The latest version of the software offers several key enhancements, including a boost in metadata performance that helps speed up a number of file handling procedures. Collaboration has also improved, making it easier to share data among system clients. The vendor has reworked its management GUI to enable more user customization and make it easier to administer and maintain data placement policies.
Judges gave Hammerspace high marks for its functionality, performance, ease of integration, ease of use and manageability. One judge cited Hammerspace's "impressive innovation to accelerate data movement and orchestration across environments."
Silver winner: HPE GreenLake for Block Storage powered by HPE Alletra Storage MP
HPE's GreenLake is a cloud-based, pay-as-you-go service that provides high-end storage for data-intensive workloads. The latest offering adds block storage to the GreenLake mix based on HPE's Alletra Storage MP array. Users can choose from a number of parameters, opting for the availability, performance, reserve capacity and subscription terms that best suit the needs of their applications.
According to the vendor, this new offering delivers improved block storage performance more economically than alternative systems. AI improves performance and reliability by predicting or preventing disruptions and by offering prescriptive advice to system users. A 100% availability guarantee, based on a massively parallel design with no single point of failure, makes it possible to provide consistent, predictable service.
GreenLake for Block Storage registered the highest ratings from our judges for its performance, ease of integration and easy management. "I like the innovation that HPE is applying to optimize its GreenLake storage offering to ensure long-term effectiveness and efficiency," one judge said.
Bronze winner: Dell Technologies VxRail VD-4000
With the VD-4000, Dell extends its VxRail HCI line to the edge where much of the distributed and IoT action is happening. The new product fits neatly into the existing VxRail environment, ensuring consistent operations across data center, cloud and remote environments.
The VxRail VD-4000 is a small, ruggedly built device designed to work in inhospitable conditions. The shoebox-sized unit weighs approximately 20 pounds and can be racked, stacked or mounted on a wall. It operates in extreme temperatures and can handle shocks or vibrations, meeting Network Equipment Building System and Military Standard standards.
Our judges appreciated the VD-4000's innovations and value, as well as its ease of integration and use. "It's a nice play by Dell that fills a very real gap in the market," one judge noted.
We'd like to thank everyone who entered the TechTarget Storage Products of the Year competition and congratulate all our winning enterprise data storage systems.
Adam Armstrong is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering file and block storage hardware and private clouds. He previously worked at StorageReview.com.
Rich Castagna has been involved with high-tech journalism for more than 20 years. Rich worked at TechTarget for 15 years, overseeing technical coverage and content creation as vice president of editorial. During his TechTarget tenure, Rich primarily covered storage and related technologies. Previous roles include executive editor of ZDNet Tech Update and CNET Enterprise; and editor in chief of Windows Systems magazine.
Paul Crocetti is an executive editor in TechTarget's Networking, Security and Infrastructure group. He became editor of TechTarget's Storage site in January 2021 after serving as editor of the Backup and Disaster Recovery sites since June 2015.
Tim McCarthy is a journalist from the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.
Erin Sullivan is senior site editor for the data backup and disaster recovery sites. She has been a member of the TechTarget editorial team since 2014.