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The best enterprise storage systems and products of 2021

Thirty-nine finalists competed for top honors in the annual 'Storage' magazine and SearchStorage Products of the Year awards. Find out which won gold, silver and bronze.

It's a crucial time in the data storage industry.

Organizations are adjusting to work-from-anywhere setups brought on by the pandemic, exponentially increasing data volumes and rising security threats such as ransomware. Now, more than ever before, it's critical to make informed choices about the products that store, manage and protect the data that is the lifeblood of your company.

The 20th anniversary edition of the Storage magazine and SearchStorage Products of the Year recognizes the best in enterprise storage systems. As usual, the competition drew some of the biggest names in not only the storage industry, but the technology world. Several startups and rising newcomers also participated.

We 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. 21, 2020, and before Sept. 22, 2021.

Our panel of industry experts -- consultants, analysts, users and Storage magazine and SearchStorage editors -- then selected 39 finalists to compete for medals in each of five categories: 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.

Judges rated our finalists on several factors, including performance, ease of use and manageability, functionality and value. The results are an impressive collection of products that tackle trends such as protection from ransomware, container storage, unstructured data growth, cloud file storage and flash storage.

Explore all the gold, silver and bronze winners in our 2021 Storage magazine and SearchStorage Products of the Year below. Some have been on the podium before; for others, it's a well-deserved first medal. And in one category, we had a rare back-to-back gold winner.

Congratulations to all our winning enterprise storage systems.

Backup and DR hardware, software and services

Ransomware is a threat that just won't go away. In fact, in the last couple of years, as so many employees shifted to remote work and less secure connections, the threat seemed to gain in strength. Protection against ransomware in backup products is a must-have, and the winners in this category reflect that trend. The cloud and containers are two areas that also feature prominently in this category.

Druva Inc. landed gold for the first time with its Cloud Platform product, now called Druva Data Resiliency Cloud. The cloud data protection vendor previously won silver in 2011 and bronze in 2015 for its backup software. Judges liked Cloud Platform's simplicity and security features that guard against ransomware. Major features include anomaly detection, orchestrated cloud DR and edge application support.

backup and DR 2021 POY

Perennial Products of the Year podium placer Veeam Software garnered two medals this year -- silver for its own Backup & Replication v11 product and bronze for Kasten by Veeam's K10 v4.5. Veeam backup products have won medals as recently as 2017 and as far back as 2010. The winning update to Backup & Replication featured much-anticipated continuous data protection. Other key capabilities include immutability for ransomware protection and integrated native backup and recovery for cloud services.

Kasten, which was acquired by Veeam and won gold in this category last year, was an early leader in the Kubernetes data protection market. The bronze-winning update to its K10 product added immutability, and Kasten claims it now offers the first Kubernetes-native ransomware protection.

Learn more about our 2021 backup and DR hardware, software and services winners.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage use has soared during the pandemic. As a result, buying decisions for cloud-based enterprise storage systems have become even more important. Winners in our cloud storage category -- which features two first-time finishers -- include two cloud file storage offerings and a container-focused storage product.

MinIO Inc. took home gold in its first trip to our winner's circle. The vendor capitalizes on multiple trends in storage with Kubernetes-native object storage and persistent storage for containers that runs across public clouds, private clouds and the edge. Judges gave MinIO high praise, highlighting its speed, technology and flexibility. It may be the vendor's first Products of the Year medal, but it probably won't be the last.

cloud storage 2021 POY

Nasuni Corp. has been on the podium before, but it's been a while. The vendor earned gold in 2010 in the storage management tools category and this year won silver with Cloud File Storage 9.3. Key product features include immutable cloud storage to help protect against ransomware, faster file sync and simpler unstructured file data management.

Ctera Networks Ltd. is another Products of the Year first-time medalist, taking bronze for version 7.0 of its Ctera global file system. Judges liked the product's performance and migration tools. Major elements include a new security framework and a protocol that provides throughput of 30 TB to remote sites daily -- an important enhancement with so many employees working remotely.

Get more information about our 2021 cloud storage winners.

Disk and disk subsystems

Medalists in the disk and disk subsystems category showcase a range of vendors. One winner is one of the biggest names in tech. The other two are newer to the scene, but all three have made it to the Products of the Year podium before. Flash and AI are two standout trends among these winning products.

Tintri Inc., now a DataDirect Networks (DDN) company, took gold in this category for the first time, following a silver finish in 2015 in the all-flash storage systems category. DDN uses the Tintri VMstore T7000 Series to its advantage, integrating it with its Nexenta NexentaStor and IntelliFlash storage systems acquisitions. Judges liked the NVMe-based product's ease of use, features and innovation. For example, Tintri uses AI to automate storage tasks and features management autonomy.

disk and disk subsystems 2021 POY

Infinidat, which earned bronze in this category in 2017 and 2020, moves up to silver this year with its InfiniBox SSA all-flash model. Judges praised the product's improved performance, speed and reasonable price. Infinidat's Neural Cache algorithm is a major feature, as the smart storage software helps to predict data sets that users may request. In addition, the product requires no secondary flash cache.

After garnering silver last year, Dell EMC returns to the podium with a bronze for its PowerStore 500 entry-level model with PowerStoreOS 2.0. Top features include AI tuning, intelligent tiering and appliance clustering. Judges liked the product's increased performance, storage management simplicity and automation upgrades.

Discover more about our 2021 disk and disk subsystems category winners.

Hyper-converged and composable infrastructures

Hyper-converged products offer -- or claim to offer -- a lot of services, so it's crucial for buyers to know which of these enterprise storage systems can deliver on their promises. The hyper-converged and composable infrastructures category is one of our newer categories, but it often draws submissions from some of the most well-known companies in tech. This year, two of the biggest names in storage and a startup grace the podium.

The Dell EMC VxRail P Series was a clear gold pick by the judges. In the three years of this category's existence, Dell EMC has now won gold twice. This time, judges liked the comprehensive nature of VxRail and its hardware and software upgrades. Key features include improved management and increased security. With one judge stating that VxRail defines the hyper-converged infrastructure category, it's not a surprise it performed so well.

HCI and composable infrastructures 2021 POY

HPE's silver marks the vendor's first hyper-converged infrastructure win, though HPE Nimble Storage won gold in the storage arrays category in 2018. And before being acquired by HPE, Nimble Storage earned three previous Products of the Year medals. The HPE Nimble Storage dHCI entry added NVMe configuration support and enhanced networking. Judges praised the product's low latency, high availability and networking automation.

Lightbits Labs Ltd. makes its first appearance in the Products of the Year winners circle with its LightOS 2.1. The startup stands out with its NVMe/TCP networking, point-in-time snapshotting and multi-tenancy. Notably, customers can use the snapshots with containers. Judges were impressed with the vendor's technology, so expect to hear more from this innovative company.

Dive deeper into our 2021 hyper-converged and composable infrastructures category winners.

Storage system and application software

Container orchestrator Kubernetes continues to be an important platform for enterprise storage systems to support. Rising data volume is another major trend, and storage systems need to manage it all. Customers ask a lot of their tech, but winners in the storage system and application software category get the job done, in a variety of ways. This category offers a wide range of storage services for those top trends and beyond.

For a relative newcomer to the storage market, Portworx has made a strong impression already. The vendor, now owned by Pure Storage Inc., has won three previous Products of the Year medals and can now place a gold on its mantle. Portworx Enterprise 2.8 helps users run Kubernetes applications on a large scale, which is important as containers become even more popular. Key features include integrations with Pure products and, as a result, storage provisioning and predictive analysis.

Storage system and application software 2021 POY

Pavilion Data Systems Inc. wins its first Products of the Year medal with a silver for the HyperParallel Data Platform. The flash array provides high performance, data versioning, a native file system and container support, which received praise from our judges. The judges also liked the platform's innovation and ability to simultaneously handle block, file and object storage.

Komprise takes its second consecutive bronze in this category. One judge said it well: Good data management is "worth its weight in gold," and Komprise Intelligent Data Management delivers. Capabilities in version 4.0 include the ability to analyze, migrate and replicate data across different types of storage media, plus global search and analytics. The software also helps organizations deal with the rising issue of unstructured data growth.

Find out more about our 2021 storage system and application software winners.

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