This content is part of the Essential Guide: Best data storage products 2014: Products of the Year

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Storage system software: 2014 Products of the Year finalists

Vendors that describe their products as ‘software-defined storage’ dominated the 2014 Products of the Year storage system software category.

Seven of the 11 finalists in the storage system software category of the Storage magazine/'s 2014 Products of the Year competition used the catch-all phrase software-defined storage in their entry forms.

Some sell object storage, while others focus on storage virtualization. And one vendor claims to be the "first all-flash hyper-converged storage."

Another vendor, VMware, uses the description "hyper-converged software-defined storage" on its website to describe its Virtual SAN product, but didn't mention the oft-used phrase on its competition entry form. Neither did the remaining finalists, who touched on hot-button topics such as cloud, flash virtualization and highly scalable, high-performance file systems.

Products eligible for consideration in the competition's storage system software category included file systems, volume management, storage virtualization software, security software, storage optimization applications, solid-state caching software, cloud storage software, software-defined storage and object storage software. Finalists are listed below in alphabetical order by vendor.

Amplidata Inc. Himalaya

Amplidata's Himalaya object-based, software-defined storage software claims to store and manage up to zettabytes of data and trillions of objects under a single global namespace running on Intel-based commodity hardware. Amplidata renamed and redesigned its AmpliStor software to facilitate "elastic scalability," enabling users to independently scale performance, durability and the number of stored objects without service disruption. Features include multi-tenant support, metering capabilities and quality of service. Service provider/OEM and enterprise editions are available.

Atlantis Computing Inc. USX 2.0

Atlantis Computing's USX 2.0 software-defined storage claims to be the "first all-flash hyper-converged" system through the company's partnership with hardware vendors. The product aims to help customers reclaim underused capacity. USX 2.0 can pool local server flash and apply HyperDup Content-Aware Data Services that leverage real-time deduplication. Other new features include support for VMware VVOLs and Teleport data mobility, which enables virtualization administrators to quickly move virtual machines (VMs) among storage systems, data centers and the cloud.

Caringo Inc. Swarm

Caringo changed the name of its software-defined object storage from CAStor to Swarm, boosted the product's performance and optimized the architecture to increase single-cluster scalability to more than 100 PB. Product improvements include a dynamically distributed index in RAM to facilitate instant access to objects and reduce CPU load and multicasting needs; parallel uploading; and enhanced Hadoop support.

Cloudian Inc. HyperStore

Cloudian's object-based HyperStore 5.0 software enables customers to build on-premises, scale-out hybrid cloud storage that is compliant with Amazon Simple Storage Service. Cloudian offers new features such as data streaming to Amazon's cloud, virtual nodes for parallel availability, configurable erasure coding to enable space-saving data protection, data compression, data encryption and enterprise-grade management, monitoring and reporting capabilities. The HyperStore software is available as a standalone product or integrated with the company's hardware appliances.

DataCore Software Corp. SANsymphony-V10

A bronze winner in the 2013 Products of the Year competition, DataCore Software beefed up its SANsymphony-V10 software-defined storage virtualization product with features such as virtual SAN functionality and flash enhancements. DataCore's virtual SAN runs on x86 servers and creates a storage pool out of internal flash and disk storage resources. The company said SANsymphony-V10 can work with mixed combinations of virtual and physical SANs, and extend data services to cloud storage. Product improvements include self-tuning caching algorithms and optimizations for flash cards and solid-state drives (SSDs), doubled scalability from 16 to 32 nodes, and performance visualization/heat map tools to display information on system health and real-time I/O.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) StoreVirtual VSA 11.5

HP's StoreVirtual VSA 11.5 software can transform internal or direct-attached storage into a shared storage array. The hardware-agnostic, hypervisor-independent product is based on the 11.5 version of the LeftHand operating system. New features include granular "adaptive optimization" to move sub-volume data between SSD/hard disk drive tiers based on access patterns; increased scalability up to 50 TB per server; a new RESTful API for management and storage provisioning; the ability to quickly deploy, configure, cluster and manage up to 32 VSAs in HP Helion OpenStack, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere environments; multi-pathing improvements to increase throughput; and updated OpenStack Block Storage (known as Cinder) driver support.

PernixData Inc. FVP version 2.0

A silver medalist last year, PernixData's FVP pools server-side flash resources to accelerate file and block storage and speed VM performance. FVP version 2.0 added the ability to cluster RAM via distributed, fault-tolerant memory. The updated product also features support for file, block and local data stores, user-defined fault domains to enhance data protection, and adaptive network compression to reduce traffic. FVP installs inside the VMware hypervisor with public, VMware-certified APIs.

Quantum Corp. StorNext 5

Quantum's StorNext 5 file system features substantial improvements in performance and scalability thanks to a major re-architecture. Quantum said StorNext 5 can scale to petabytes of storage and support billions of files. The company redesigned the metadata layout and operations to reduce latency for file system operations and optimized the metadata environment for flash. Quantum also boosted the performance of workstation client software through expanded read/write cache, and added IP and HTTP/REST connectivity options. Other new features include non-disruptive updates, a multi-node monitoring and management service called StorNext Connect, and support for LTFS tape portability and protocols for direct access to public and private cloud services.

Scality Inc. Ring 5.0

Scality Ring 5.0's software-defined storage added Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS)-like VM storage to enable users to run multiple cloud storage workloads across file, object and VM applications in a single petabyte-scale storage environment. Scality said version 5.0 is up to 95% faster for file operations and random I/O than the prior model, and claimed that performance matches Amazon's EBS at 200 IOPS per VM, with bursts of 3,000 IOPS. The updated product also features a redesigned GUI, support for OpenStack Cinder and improved automation for deployment, installation and management. Ring runs on standard x86 servers.

SwiftStack Inc. SwiftStack 2.0

Startup SwiftStack's software-defined object storage software is based on open source OpenStack Swift technology and runs on commodity hardware. SwiftStack tacks on a proprietary management system and additional functionality. New features in SwiftStack 2.0 include the SwiftStack Filesystem Gateway to enable customers to integrate file-based application data; global data distribution across multiple regions in a single cluster; and flexible storage policies to give users options such as choosing the number of replicas or designating a subset of hardware to use.

VMware Inc. Virtual SAN 5.5

Still a young product, VMware's Virtual SAN (VSAN) became generally available in March 2014. The software can pool local flash and hard disk drives from standard x86 servers to create a distributed object store for VMs. VSAN is embedded in the VMware ESXi kernel and provides VM-centric policy management, built-in server-side read/write caching, and granular, non-disruptive scale-up and scale-out capabilities.

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